Listen To Jessica's Story

My mind works in such a way that I'll go to someone's house and I'll know exactly where to go and what I can do. It's weird. I just know. And the process of doing it, it's like a person who is going to paint, or a dancer. They think about it, they hem and haw, they kind of fiddle. And then, there's an unexplainable feeling of joy that comes out of it once you start actually doing the thing. For me it's cleaning.

I'm happy and sad. I feel that New York has changed in some ways for the better because you're able to walk down the street and not think you're gonna get mugged, which is how it was back when I was growing up. But at the same time, I feel sad because the people that live in the bad neighborhoods or impoverished neighborhoods –– those neighborhoods are becoming really nice but we don't reap the benefits of it. We're just getting pushed out. And there's nothing, there's no mark that's left that we were here. We can't say "We were here." Once a neighborhood has changed, it’s changed and gone forever. You can't go back and visit and say "This right here, this used to be my hangout spot." Unless you have pictures to prove otherwise, you can't really go back there.

It kills me how much money people spend on mops. They're so expensive. I'm like, dude, all you have to do is get a terry cloth and put that sucker on a broom. There's little tricks, man, little tricks of the trade.

The thing with a terry cloth mop for wooden floors is that you can put them in a washing machine and they'll last forever. But at the same time, like a toothbrush, you have to know when to say goodbye.

One of the best assets that has kept me afloat in both my cleaning business and in my position as a GED counselor is the gift of gab. I would say it's the gift of gab and my personality. I am 100% in whatever I do. It's not 50. It's not 90. It's 100. I'm there. I'm very present with somebody when they talk to me about their issues. It's nice to have people come to me. They call me Miss Jess.

I know all their names. I know the areas that they live. And I know their story.

Working with them and seeing their faces and talking with them and having a human touch –– it made me want to get into adult basic education. And being that I was one of them anyway, I can relate to it.

I have more empathy for people who are starting to get it at a later age.

Two nights ago I had this really vivid dream. I'm not sure what happened but I realized that I was dreaming. I flicked a light switch. The light was on so I flicked it off, but it didn't turn off. I said out loud "I'm dreaming" and a bolt of electricity came through my body and I suddenly woke up. And I thought "Wow, that was really intense". So I got up and stretched and went to get a glass of water. I flipped the light switch in my kitchen and a bolt of electricity came again! And I was like "Oh no, I'm dreaming" and I woke up again. And then I was like "I think I'm still dreaming" and I woke up again. So it kept going in a loop and I was really terrified, thinking "I hope I'm not dead –– is this what happens when you die?"

As soon as I stopped panicking, I just let go and proceeded with my dream. And I woke up with so much energy and positivity and was doing all the things I was meant to do a month ago, like cleaning my desktop and doing my taxes and calling up old friends. I don't know what it all means, but it means something.

Our mind is quite powerful. We can purposefully forget really traumatic experiences. Just like when you have a password for something and you forget that password –– it's a pain. Well, your mind can provide a new password for dealing with your experiences. But you have to be awake, figuratively, to receive it.

This is an old picture of me and my daughter, Myasia. I was twenty-two at the time and she was four years old. We were just sharing a simple, loving moment at a friend’s house in the Bronx. Now Myasia is seventeen, and she’ll be heading off to college next Fall. — Jessica