Vivian Nunez is a writer and the founder of Too Damn Young.
I grew up surrounded by a family of men who were led and united by the two key women I looked up to growing up: my mom and my grandmother. Where my grandmother, Blanca, was the voice of reason and the matriarch of the family as a whole, my mother, Delia, was the glue that brought family moments together. I learned from both of them that paying it forward isn't a choice - it's a responsibility - and as individuals, they showed me how to put that choice into action.
In July, I made a trip down to DC from my home in New York City and I had the good fortune to sit on top of a desk in front of 28 Latinx college students and tell them my story. I spoke to them about my choice to be self-employed and how being the founder of a website that speaks to young adult grief is what sparked my journey as an entrepreneur. I outlined my internship history, the realities of growing up first-generation in a Latinx family, and how even four years after starting my career, I still get a tug of guilt when I'm made to feel like I put my own needs above my family's.
As I've grown up, while staring out at the range of Latinx stories before me, I started redefining paying it forward and making it less synonymous with self-sacrifice and more in line with building on the good heart and good values my mom and abuela instilled in me.
I get the opportunity to speak in front of crowds often, but something about this trip to DC was particularly special for me. Maybe it was because I had my best friend in the back row listening to me speak or maybe it was because I was in a room full of Latinxs who were set to become the people in the rooms other generations of Latinxs will be able to look up to.
I didn't have someone to look up to in my space who I felt I identified with, and not everyone will identify with me now, but if I can move the needle for even one Latinx, then I'll be doing my mom and my grandma proud.
I admired my grandma for her dedication to her family and my mom for how she balanced being a single parent of two while working six days a week, but I didn't have the chance to see in them a vision of who I wanted to be in my career. Up until I started my own podcast, I was having a hard time finding any Latinas who fit the mold - and not because they didn't exist, but because they were rarely asked to share their stories.
I wanted to know how these women navigated their careers, felt about money, or held onto their Latinx identity even in the hardest of rooms. I wanted their stories for the same reasons that the class of students in DC wanted mine - we wanted to see what we could become and how to navigate certain spaces once we got there.
Our families do so much in teaching us how to be the people we want to be in the world. My character, compassion, and good heart may be innate in me, but they are what they are now because my family encouraged their presence in my life. As I continue to grow in my own career I choose to do the same for the generations that are right behind me.
I didn't have someone to look up to in my space who I felt I identified with, and not everyone will identify with me now, but if I can move the needle for even one Latinx in the creative space, then I'll be doing my mom, Delia, and my grandma, Blanca, pretty proud.