My mother was the first born of thirty-five grandchildren and much is expected of a first born in my family. She was cooking at the age of seven and had to abandon her dreams of a college degree in order to help out with family responsibilities. I always say that my mother gave up her academic dreams and professional aspiration, so that her children, my brother and I could realize ours. In my family, each generation is tasked with becoming more, contributing more, giving more than the generation that came before us. My family relocated to New York in the early 1990’s to a post-crown-heights riots Brooklyn from the West Indies. Everything was big, busy and new. My mom took a job as a nanny for a family on the Upper East Side and would stay with that same family for 23 years.
After high school I took some time off, I wanted to work and be independent. I got a job at the Museum of Natural History, helping to usher guests into the new planetarium. Next, I landed a job at McCann Erickson working in the finance department. While at that job I met an older gentleman who was from India, his name was Raj and we got to know one another. Once day he asked to take me out to lunch, he walked to grand central station and ate at the food court. He asked me what I planned to do with my life. We talked about many things, but Raj recited one message over and over to me – make sure you get an education and find something that you love and never settle. We never know when we will encounter people in life, placed there for a purpose and carrying an important message. One week later, McCann Erickson went through a downsizing and Raj was let go, he had two kids in college and simply because he was the senior accountant and made the most money, it meant they could let him go and keep two others. That summer, I submitted my CUNY college application – all the while in the back of my mind – get an education, find something that you love and never settle.
Nearly fifteen years later, my mom had to have a conversation about how she would no longer be needed, as the last child in the household was going off to college. In the service/care industry there is often no retirement plans or health care coverage. She has no choice but to re-enter the workforce and hopes that social security will be enough. During the near two-year search of unemployment, she was discriminated against because of her age in a field that deals with the care of young children.
I have continued my pursuit of education. However, I constantly question if I am doing what I love, rather than a means to provide for my family. As I continue in my career, it has become less about money and more about doing work that is rewarding and unnecessarily stressful. I crave work that I can striking a more balanced work/life ratio. As I get older, I find myself on more committees, community organizations and projects that speak to causes that I find to be of importance and enjoy.