To those who feel pressure from society,
All the time, society tries to pressure me.
People constantly ask me, “When are you going to get married?” or “When are you going to have kids?”
I know it is easy to feel trapped in society’s expectations for women, but I want you to know it is not real. There are no handcuffs on you, and there is nothing tangible about these social pressures. They’re just ideas.
And failing to live up to them doesn’t mean you’re not succeeding in life.
I, like many others, thought by age 21, I would be married with kids. My parents married young, so I figured I would follow suit. But that’s not what happened. I am 36 now, and I am not married, nor do I have kids.
As a young girl and then as a teenager, I was always trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career, but I had no clue. Nothing stuck.
I loved animals, so for a moment, I wanted to be a vet. Constantly, I watched police shows like Law and Order and NYPD, so there was a time I wanted to be a detective. Then, I wanted to be a firefighter or an FBI agent, but my parents thought those professions were too dangerous. Fashion was also a passion of mine. So, in high school, I wanted to become a buyer for a major department store.
Ultimately, I didn’t go into any of those fields.
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My parents wanted me to go to college, and I didn’t want to go. So when my acceptance letters began piling in, I picked a school at random, St. Thomas Aquinas, which happened to be a top school for education. I love children, so I thought it could work, and I went for it.
After graduating from school, I taught one year in New Jersey before getting a job in New York City, where I flourished. I taught in several schools in the South Bronx, and I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing the children grow.
When I was teaching a fourth-grade ESL class, I met a very introverted, quiet, and timid child. She would sit in her chair with her shoulders hunched over and turned inward. She wouldn’t socialize with other children. First, I initiated small conversations with her. Then, she started to come to eat lunch with me. Once I earned her trust, she shared her story with me.
She came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic to live with her father. She had no mother around. Then, once her father got a girlfriend, she started to feel pushed aside. For a while, she came to school every day wearing a jacket that she refused to take off. I sat her down and asked her why she wouldn’t take off her coat, and she told me she was wearing the same outfit each day.
I bought her clothes and told her father he didn’t have to pay me back. I put her in spelling bee contests and after-school programs. With the help of a guidance counselor, we created a boys club and a girls club, where children could share their experiences. Despite her situation at home, this child became more confident, more outgoing, and happier as the year progressed. Soon, she will graduate high school. To see the impact I had on her has been very rewarding for me. And she is just one of many children who I have been able to help.
After teaching every grade from first to fifth and special education and getting two master’s degrees (Early Childhood Education and Administrator and School building Leadership), I am now a universal literacy coach. With the pandemic, I am also a part of the Let’s Learn NYC team. I am what is considered an instructional coach and reading specialist. In addition to working with 20 teachers, I also work with school leaders. See, if I had one class, I could only help 25 children. But if I can empower and inspire 20 teachers, then my work can impact 500 students.
Next, I want to become either a director of curriculum or a superintendent of a district.
My desire to make a difference in these children’s lives and my confidence in my ability to make change have made me very career-driven. I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything in life.
I’m happy, and I am in a good place. I would love to have children. However, I’m not going to do that with just anybody, and certainly not until I am ready.
I hope, like me, you don’t let other people’s questions answer how you live your life.
If you have a passion or a lifestyle that doesn’t perfectly align with other people’s expectations, I hope you stay focused and work hard. Because success doesn’t come from fulfilling other people’s expectations, it comes from courageously giving yourself the freedom to pursue your own.
Never be afraid to stand in your truth. Keep all movements rooted in love and always follow your heart.