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The story of an immigrant’s daughter: the apple falls far from the tree

Hi there! My name is Melanie and I’m currently an Ericsson intern. On May 19, 2018, I will be walking the stage for the third time as a graduate. I do not say this boastfully, but with slight disbelief. Even though my mother was not able to attend school beyond the 9th grade, she was always eager for me to pursue more opportunities academically and professionally.

In her eyes, I had already gone beyond her wildest dreams by graduating high school and college. After high school, all we knew was I was supposed to go to college, but we had no idea how to decide on a university, what I should study, or how we would pay for it. We had absolutely no idea. Due to my need for asking questions, gathering resources, and willingness to see beyond the status quo and my mother’s unwavering support, we were able to discover and grasp all the possibilities that she never experienced. My apple had fallen far from her tree, and she couldn’t wait to see how much further it would go.


The Tree’s Roots

My mom was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. She is one of eight children and the 3rd in line, from oldest to youngest. She’s a beautiful, strong, and hardworking woman, and I am proud to call her my mother, or “mami” as we do in my family. As a child, she was able to learn many things from her mother (my abuela) including cooking delicious Mexican recipes, maintaining a home, and caring for others. In school she reached the 9th grade, but unfortunately was not able to move further in her education. One of her biggest regrets is not having the ability to pursue a formal education or career. She raised me on her own by cleaning houses since she arrived in the United States. Despite being faced with and overcoming major challenges and limitations in her life, such as living with epilepsy for 30 years, my mami has always been a force of nature and has always encouraged me to be fearless.


The Apple’s Fall

I’ve always been a nerd. It’s a fact, and I’m proud of it. After working in the engineering and consulting fields for five years, I decided to go back to school and pursue my MBA. Everyone (and I mean everyone) kept asking “Why?” or said, “I would never do that to myself again.” You see, I didn’t pay attention to those who questioned my reasoning because I knew the vision I had for myself was bigger than they could even imagine. I admit, I didn’t quite know what that vision truly looked like, but I knew I wanted more for myself. I honestly don’t know where that unwillingness-to-settle attitude came from, since I had no idea what I was doing.

Although I didn’t have anyone in the family to turn to and ask, “How should I decide on a master’s degree?” or “What is an MBA?” (yes, real question at the beginning of my journey), I was fortunate enough to have a solid professional network to reach out to. I did my homework and educated myself on the top business schools, concentrations to pursue, and careers to pivot into post graduate school. My network was helpful, to say the least, and instrumental in getting me further and further away from my Tree (professionally speaking).


Breaking Patterns

At the time, I didn’t understand the source of the “Why?” question, at least from my family. After many discussions with my mom, I was finally able comprehend the disconnect. Our family, immediate and extended, had generally followed a specific path. I was not following that pattern whatsoever. Instead of staying in my job long-term, I was pivoting by going back to school. Instead of saving money for a house or a family, I was “spending money on loans” by pursuing my MBA. At first, I judged and doubted myself for these “inadequacies” since I wasn’t completely sure what direction to take, so how could I blame my family if they questioned my decisions as well? What I didn’t understand was that my family was not judging me for my decisions, they honestly were inquiring “Why?” because our family had not made those decisions before. I selfishly didn’t allow my family to support me at first because I foolishly didn’t realize that I hadn’t taken the time to explain this new path. A new trail was being blazed and they were earnestly wanting to know why and how I was going to do it. Their inquiries came from a place of love and curiosity, since none of our family’s apples had strayed that far before. Once I shared with them what doors an MBA degree could possibly open and explained that I was investing in myself, not necessarily “spending money on school”, they fully supported and encouraged me and joined my mami as my biggest cheerleaders.


Adjusting the Idiom

While we gain so many qualities from our parents and families, there is so much we can continue to strive for and learn as a family. My mami always wanted me to do better than she did, to be something more than she was. Every time I walk across a new stage, she tells me that I have achieved this, but what she doesn’t realize (and I must sappily remind her of) is that the only reason I’m collecting an unnecessary number of caps and gowns is because of her traits and her principles, ones I try so hard to absorb and preserve for myself. I encourage everyone reading to learn more about your family tree, your parents, and your culture. Don’t forget to share with them as well. Always keep in mind that the apple can fall far from the tree (sometimes very far), and that’s perfectly okay.

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