When I was a little girl all I ever wanted was to make my father proud. I was daddy’s little girl. He already had three boys by the time I was born, and he was busy as an entrepreneur when they were young. Ten years later I was born. By the time I was in elementary school he had a secure state job, but he had very big dreams for me. He saw me as a college graduate. He saw me as an accomplished professional. He saw me as an artist.
I can see him on the front porch, shooting the breeze with some neighbor. I was so proud of him because he had gone to college as an adult to get a business degree. You see when he was coming up he did not get to go to college. He was the only son of immigrant parents and he was needed in the family business as a translator.
My Mom-mom was the oldest of eight. She fled her homeland and led her siblings to the US after seeing her father murdered in the living room. She was all of 18.
I went to Mom-mom’s house every day after elementary school. Mom-mom had exceptional business skills. She ran a dog sitting business and taught developmentally challenged women life skills. Mom-mom was driven and as sharp as a tack.
I fulfilled my father’s dream, but it was not easy. I remember sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation with my dad about how we were going to afford college. I wanted my parents to stop claiming me as a dependent so that I could tell financial aid that I was on my own. He said no. It was my job to get good grades and it was his job to pay for school.
Freshman year I almost failed out of school. As a first-generation college student, I did not know how to be successful. I figured out how to study and worked very hard. I learned to think critically. I wanted my dad to be proud of me.
Everything changed in September of my sophomore year. There was a note on my door at the dorm. I needed to call home right away. My father had a heart attack at the kitchen table. He was 58 years old. We were poor enough when he was alive that I got grants, but after he was gone my mom got the insurance money and I could only get student loans.
I became a college graduate and went on to get an MBA.
I became an accomplished professional.
I became an artist.
Paying it forward is my mission. I write and teach business classes about leadership, budgeting, credit, investing and management. Empowering others is my goal.