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Respira -

Have you seen the musical-turned-movie In the Heights?

The song “Breathe” (respira in Spanish) sung by the main character, Stanford college student Nina, speaks to the experience of so many Latina and first generation college students and professionals.

For context, Nina feels out of place as a Latina at Stanford and returns home after her first year wanting to drop out.

She doesn’t want to disappoint her family and community, singing: “I’m the one who made it out. They’re all counting on me to succeed.”

The lyrics and Nina’s entire story line about her identity and direction brought me back to my college years and after, and all that pressure I felt to BE SOMEBODY my parents and community would be proud of.

I was always afraid to disappoint.

I felt the need to prove I deserved to be there ….

To help prove that someone like me deserved to be there.

I always called it a blessing and a burden.

It’s the feeling that you’re expected to achieve the traditional notions of success (i.e., financial and job security and stability) to make good on our immigrant parents’ sacrifices and to be an example to your community of what’s possible.

My parents worked multiple jobs to give us the best education they could, food, clothing, and a home.

So yes, I felt I had a responsibility to succeed.

No one told me that.

But it’s a message I received as a child.

On the other hand, I understood how blessed I was and am to be given the opportunity to show others coming after me that they too can do this.

We can shatter stereotypes and create a new narrative.

We can rewrite the stories we tell ourselves and the stories others tell about us.

We can be what we cannot see.

I’m on a mission to help uplift and empower other Latinas, women of color and first generation women professionals like me,

With burdens and blessings that often cannot be understood unless they’re lived.

We can honor our family and parents’ legacy and create our own.

We can thank them for giving us the freedom to decide what success looks like for us.

We get to define it.

We get the opportunity to live it.

We’re blessed to have that privilege.


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