Someone once said to me, in a very complimentary tone, “you’re beautiful.” I replied, “I would rather be smart, than beautiful. Anyone can be beautiful.” He then responded, “You are beautiful and smart.”
All my friends are beautiful and smart. Some are brilliant and all have skills that I learn from. I am surrounded by amazingly, beautiful and talented people. All of who have a place in helping inspire, inform and guide me thru life.
Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir left me feeling in awe of her determination and self-awareness. She is a force to be reckoned with and has overcome so much adversity. When I read her memoir, I can’t help but acknowledge some of the similarities and experiences. Is it because she also grew up in New York City or do all children who grew up in working class families have the same stories of ethics and values?
As a child, my grandmother brought us to the public library every week to get our free RIF (reading is fundamental) books. I loved going to the library, specifically on RIF days because you were allowed to pick up one book for free and bring it home. My grandmother is illiterate and does not speak English, but she always managed to pick us up on time after school and bring us to the library. Or instead of the library, she gave us money to buy ice cream from the ice cream truck when we asked. She gave us quarters to play arcade games using the slot machine at the corner store. Or she brought us to the park to run around, staying until the sun went down. I never wanted or needed as a child.
My dad, often waking up and leaving the house, hours before anyone else, has worked his entire life, earning a livelihood to support the family. He instilled the values of hard work, ethics, and community service in me. He only attended our high school and college graduations. It’s not that he didn’t want to attend any of our sporting events, or school productions, but he was busy working to help us live normal lives.
We did not have any rules in our household. Unlike other children, I never had a curfew, allowance, or requirements. I came home when I thought it was time to come home. I went to work as soon as I was old enough. I enrolled in internships, extracurricular activities and classes based on my interests. My parents informed some decisions but they always allowed me to make my own decisions.
In elementary school, teachers wondered if I spoke English. I was almost put into an ESL class because I didn’t like to speak. My mother transferred me to a private school, where in 3rd grade, I was assigned a special tutor, to help me with reading, writing and finding a voice. I often think back very fondly of this tutor.
As a senior in high school, when applying to college, I was told to apply to a city college, not to reach higher than that, because the guidance counselor didn’t think my portfolio would merit acceptance into a State college or private college.
In college, I found similar communities as Sonia Sotomayor describes in her book, communities to learn about my ancestors and explore other narratives. I had similar experiences of campus conditioning, learning words to voice ideas about feminism, prejudice, ideas about color, race, and other culturally constructed ideas.
In the workplace, I have always been lucky to have mentors, colleagues and peers to watch and learn from. They have instilled so much inspiration in me about how to work and grow.
Sonia Sotomayor writes a chapter about women in the workplace and women without children. She eloquently writes, a woman is no less a woman if she chooses to have a career and not a family. If she has a family, she is no less of a complete person than if she worked. She is not inadequate, lonely or unloved because she is not married. She has a family composed of many people who care and love her.
The tag line on my college’s recruitment advertisement read, “think one person can change the world, so do we.” I believe in that tag line, and still think I want to do great things to change the world. I like meeting new people all the time because how else will the next opportunity present itself if I am unknown to them. Continually, every day, although my path is not mapped out, I feel blessed in all the positivity and energy that has led me to today.