NO LATINA IS AN ISLAND.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that, whatever I do in life, everything I do, and am, is the result of the presence of others in my life. Which is to say, in the (adapted) words of John Donne, no woman is an island.
When I think back on my career, the choices I made for the university, the people I met there, my dalliances with graduate school, my entrepreneurial endeavors, my intellectual interests, everything, even down to the fashion choices I make, I realize that I am who I am because of those who have found their way into my life.
Because of my parents, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, influences and elders in my life, I am the way I am. My experiences with these people — whether a few moments or a few years‘ worth — and the way that I interpreted them have formed me into the person I am today.
This may be an obvious conclusion, but the reason I bring it up, is to emphasize what I’ve written about previously: the importance of being open to mentoring others at any time. If my father had not encouraged me to write, if my internship supervisors had not told me I was good at what I did, if people I admired had not told me they admired me, I might never have been able to do the same for young people I ran into in the past few years. These young people reached out to me on the Internet, looking for someone to talk to, someone to talk to them, just as I reached out to the people who mentored me.
Which is not to say that everyone who is older than myself has served as a mentor to me. Not at all. I have horror stories of Latinas I admired who did the opposite of mentor me. I remember meeting people I admired and being brushed off. You can get cut off, ignored, put down, shamed and otherwise in life, and I’m old enough not to take these incidents as insults — but of lost opportunities.
I try to be open, to be helpful and collaborative, because as Latinos I believe that the more we help each other, the more we help ourselves, our country. In my personal experience, helping someone out because it’s the right thing to do usually results in me learning more about myself and others. What’s more, it results in opportunities for further collaboration — something you cannot access if you shut someone down before you begin.
I always try to keep this in mind when, in the midst of being busy or stressed out, someone reaches out to me, asking for help or advice. I realize now that, just as I did, those experiences will result in important formation of future Latino writers, activists and thinkers, and if I take just but a few more minutes, perhaps they will realize as I did, that we are all connected.
Copyright 2012 Sara Inés Calderon