Growing up in the Midwest, I never really had any exposure to the culture that has shaped me to be the person I am today. I grew up in a small town in Illinois and my exposure to the Filipino culture was little to none. I did not really know what it really meant to be Filipina-American. I assimilated to the social norms. I thought being Filipino meant having a great education which eventually leads to having a sustainable job. I saw so many Filipinos in my community venture into the medical field: some of them were doctors like my dad, some were nurses and others were physical therapists. So when I was younger, I thought that I had to go into the medical field. It provided good pay for a comfortable lifestyle–it was a safe choice. That was all I knew because it was ingrained in me, and I wanted to make my parents proud.
Making my parents proud has always been something that motivated me to do my best in school. I will strive to be the best in my class, but sometimes I felt as if was not living up to my fullest potential. With that, I did not know if my parents were disappointed or just confused of where I was. And we all know how Filipino parents are, right? My parents never would admit it, but they do discuss our accomplishments, and at the end of the day I wanted to make sure that what they were discussing with my titos and titas was something worthwhile. I did not want to be the one in our family to not have anything to offer. I knew there was something out there for me, but I did not know if it was medicine.
Discovering a career path is probably one of the most difficult things to do for anyone. I thought when I was younger I would be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Boy, I was so wrong! I liked science, but did not love it enough to pursue a career in it. I knew there was a field where I could follow my passions of developing others and myself and planning to use. That’s where college comes into play. I believed college was my gateway to figuring out my career path and who I was.
As I entered college, I was so excited for all the opportunities that were laid out before me. I saw this as my way to find out what interested me and what did not. I knew for a fact I wanted to connect with the Filipino side of me more, so I joined the Filipino Student Association on campus. I became super involved by doing all the major events, attending all the meetings, and learning cultural dances like Tinikling and Bangko. I knew something was missing. I wanted to do more. This led me to becoming more involved in MAFA and eventually applying for the EPYC Ambassador Program. I was so surprised when I was accepted as a Midwest Region Ambassador, but I was excited for what was to come. As I counted down the days until the EPYC Ambassador leadership retreat in Seattle, I wondered what it would be like and what I would take away from it. Will I become a stronger and more confident leader, or will I still be that soft-spoken and timid girl? When the day of the retreat finally came, my anxiety was off the charts. Once I entered the house, though, my anxiety slowly went away and everyone was so welcoming. There was so much warmth. The weekend really began the next day during our visit to Microsoft. Here, we were able to hear from various Filipinx-Americans and their experiences working there, and how they have helped develop their professional and personal lives. One topic that stood out to me the most was the idea of non-linear career paths and how that intertwined with having a growth mindset. According to the various people we listened to, they explained that a “growth mindset” is having the ability to continue learning and never to stop learning. In essence, they explained it as your mind “growing” with you.
With this in mind, I began to listen to their stories, take down notes, and most of all, hear about how they have struggled or are still struggling to find what they are passionate about. I learned about how having growth mindset helped them develop into the person they are. Each of them had a story to tell about a different career path and how it led them to work at Microsoft. They described their struggles with mental health and race, and the impact they had on them finding a career. This made me think about the various experiences I have had in my life–I could not believe that such successful people had grown up with similar beliefs to mine regarding career paths. Having a growth mindset helped motivate them to continue to learn and to never stop learning. These discussions made me look at where I am in my life.
And so here I am... at first I decided to pursue an International Business major and Entrepreneurship minor with the idea that one day I will travel the world and open my own business. Welp, that dream lasted about 1 and a half semesters before I realized the Psychology route was calling me. However, I did not know if majoring in Psychology was my calling because I still loved business, so I decided to pursue a major in Human Resources Management and minor in Psychology. Once again, that didn’t last very long because accounting was not for me. Finally, as a junior at Saint Louis University, I settled with a Psychology major with a minor in Change Management.
However, amongst all this chaos, I had a lot of support and help from my family, friends, the MAFAspehere, and the EPYC team, who really helped me solidify this decision. The EPYC Program has allowed me to look at my life not only realistically, but also not lose hope for the future. Learning to never give up and to always find a way to rise up has given me the opportunity to find so many paths for a career. There are so many paths I could take! I could go straight into graduate school. I could do service for a year. I could travel the world! I could do anything I want to do if I put my mind to it. For now, I am going to slow down and focus on what matters to me the most. I think I have an idea for what I want to do, but that could change in a heartbeat. I do think will never have a definite answer for my future, but I am excited to where it takes me.
I know for fact EPYC has brought back the reason why I am proud to be Filipina-American and why I am still trying to find my passions. I have so many dreams that I hope to implement in my future endeavors. Maraming salamat, EPYC, for understanding this little 4’10” and ¾ Filipina-American who was scared of the future. Now, she is ready to take on the world and isn’t afraid of what the future holds. What I learned from that weekend were lessons I will hold onto for the rest of my life, and nothing can stp me now. Not everything has to be set in stone, and that’s okay. So, here goes nothing...