Every Tuesday we #PasstheMic to those with enriching perspectives to share their views and goals. Today, Jorge Viramontes - Software Developer at Kin + Carta Create shares his lived experiences and learnings with us.
Bursting your bubble
Being the son of Mexican immigrants, my experience growing up as an American has been interesting. I was an only child, and I spoke Spanish to both of my parents. As a child, my dad would ask me to translate complicated documents we would receive in the mail. In elementary school, most of my peers were also bilingual children of Mexican immigrants.
Being the first generation to be born in the United States, the expectations were set high. My routine as a child consisted of school, homework, and video games. No girls, no parties, no hanging out with the wrong crowd outside. I would occasionally play outside with the neighbourhood kids, but my parents made sure to keep me at a distance from the gang activity that would go on around my neighbourhood in the Southside of Chicago.
All of the sacrifices my parents and I had made would soon become worth it. During my years at the University of Michigan, I traveled to New York City to visit startups, I attended a tech conference in Washington, D.C., I facilitated a leadership retreat for my peers, and I learned about data structures and algorithms from one of the most prestigious institutions in the United States. I connected with other students from around the country, and even the world, but I was able to start understanding the disparities that exist in this world.
Growing up in a city with others that had similar background as I did, I didn’t really understand just how different other people’s living conditions could be. But when I attended a prestigious university, and I was now the minority in this situation, I really started to understand how the world can function outside of my bubble.
I know this may sound strange, but I had never really taken into consideration that students at universities might have parents that attended that same university years before. This hadn’t really crossed my mind, since I was the first generation in my family to attend college, let alone be in this country. The same goes for students that didn’t qualify for financial aid, had parents who were top executives at corporations, or could travel to Europe for their winter vacation. I had none of that— my father worked at a meat packing company, we lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and I was happy to go back home to Chicago for winter vacation and spend it with family.
That’s not to say I want you to have pity on my situation or my upbringing— I have two parents that love me deeply, a wonderful culture of food, dance, and music I inherited from my parents, and an incredible work ethic to study so I wouldn’t have to work as hard as they had to. I love my family and I love my culture. But just because I was a first generation Mexican-American didn't mean I would end up in debt and unsuccessful. With the guidance from my parents and my studious drive to succeed, I was able to become a productive member of society and start a career I am deeply proud of.
I think we need to start having conversations outside of our bubble. We need to make an active effort to connect with those outside of our comfort zone and make ourselves vulnerable to learn something new and have our previous worldview become invalidated. Don’t come with your assumptions, but rather with an open mind ready to learn. You might learn something new and become a richer person with a full heart on the other side.
Since graduating and working as a technical consultant, I’ve had the opportunity to explore numerous cities across the country, make a trip out to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and even plan a trip to Italy and Spain with an old college buddy. I’m able to care for my parents and save for my future as I continue building my career and building up those around me.
With so many things going on in our world today, I wish we could have more empathy for others. Look past our differences, our upbringing, our living situation, and have a mindset to understand and love one another. I lean into this life with curiosity and try to share as much as I can with others. I invite you to reflect with gratitude every day, even if it’s just for waking up today and this breath you are taking, and wonder: how can I leverage the privilege I have today to make a positive impact for myself? For those I love? For my community? For the world?