“What kind of phone did you get?”
“It’s just an iPhone S,” I said, as I passed over my phone to the senior class’s cool girl.
The entire classroom fell silent. Once again, the scholarship girl (me) was up for scrutiny. Was I going to pass the test of validation or fail it for the millionth time?
“Why does your phone case look like a slice of cheese?” she asked. The entire class erupted in laughter. To play it cool, I joined them.
“Shut up,” I laughed, taking the hit of yet another popularity contest loss. This was just another day as a scholarship student in a small, all-girls Catholic school in New Jersey.
After three years of being made fun of for being poor and having an Android, my parents had finally given in to my pleas and gave me the oldest generation of the iPhone with a bright, yellow phone case, hence the cheese joke. It didn’t matter, all I needed was a device on which I could Google “how to go to college for free.” At least I could struggle on the go instead of having to wait until I got home to spend hours scrolling on my highly compromised school laptop. The one that would abnormally heat up and make concerning noises after an hour of usage.
It’s funny how life works out because now, seven years later, I’m writing this article on a fancy Mac OS, sponsored by my employer, Google. So, today, instead of giving you super-niche advice on how to go from high school loser to cool account manager corporate girl at THE biggest supplier of online ads, I thought it’d be more helpful to share the tips that got me through the entire journey. They all fall under the theme of resiliency.
Resiliency is the most important aspect of not only my trajectory, but all of those who come from a first-gen background. As a first-gen Latina, college graduate, and white collar professional in my family, I had to figure most of everything out on my own. I spent hours investing in my education, health, and peace to be able to get over twice the number of hurdles than my non-first-gen counterparts. And guess what? It doesn’t stop here. The first-gen story only continues.
So, resilience is the key factor that will determine if you’ll make it or break it.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset
To have a growth mindset is to be determined to grow from all obstacles and negative circumstances that come your way. Visualize yourself as something powerful and decide to be just as powerful as that visualization. Decide that you will let nothing engulf on your personal mission to be great.
However, when the time comes and someone or something does engulf you, which will happen because you’re human, be determined to grow from it and bounce back in a reasonable amount of time. The key here is to keep moving forward, whether you are winning or failing forward. Don’t lose momentum. Being the scholarship girl did not stop me from getting a full ride to college. I failed the high school popularity contest but I won at my own long-term play. In essence, my growth mindset was at 100. Yours should be, too.
Establish a Rhythm and Routine
Find a rhythm and routine that works for you and stick to it militantly.
Bake in time for breaks, decompression, and vacation. Once you find a good rhythm between regulating your sleeping pattern, your work/study schedule, and time for body, mind, and soul maintenance, stick to it.
Based on your circumstances, dedicate at least an hour a day and time during the weekend to decompress. Finding rhythm in quotidian duties brings consistency, and consistency develops into resiliency. Period.
Don’t just do what you need to do. In fact, that’s only the bare minimum. Make the sacrifices that are necessary to make your dedication to resiliency a lifestyle. Do you have to cut your Starbucks intake and purchases to just once a week? Or how about putting space between you and a friend who doesn’t support your vision? Whatever you must do to stay disciplined and focused, do it without remorse. It will help your relationship with yourself because your subconscious will learn that “I can count on me,” which will ultimately build confidence, which equals resiliency.
Prioritize your Health
This one is the one I’m still struggling with seven years later. Taking care of your health, going to the gym, having a workout routine, and knowing how to nourish your body are all time-consuming and high-effort commitments. However, this investment is the worthiest of them all. Health really does equal wealth. And without health, resiliency becomes harder to cultivate.
Once we first-gens cultivate resilience, we can do anything and be anything. Whether you want to be a Big Tech corporate girl, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, etc., resiliency is the first step. ¡En serio!
Andrea Lopez is an account manager associate at Google.