– Alyssa Martinez

What is happiness? What is success? These are terms for me that are completely subjective and reflective of my own identity.  You see I grew up in a single parent home with a spirited and loving mother.  It was hard growing up without my dad around, it was even harder growing up without money because that meant at times that my siblings and I went without things.  Me being the eldest, I had not only a responsibility to my siblings but to my mother who needed me to help her out when necessary.  Over time I learned self-sacrifice in order to be the leader and example to my siblings.  I had to care for them when mom had to work three jobs in order to put food on the table and pay rent. It was a daily struggle to get through life, however, despite my care for my siblings my mother gave us so much love and taught us so many things that my siblings and I honestly never really know the stress and fears my mother faced everyday.


[…] I can say that she was more than just an exceptional mother she was an exceptional teacher and woman who I look to for inspiration in my daily life.


Of course, looking back on all of that now, I see her for the champion that she is and the heroic things she did in my life.  I know till this day my mother doesn’t feel like she was an exceptional mother or gave us a life that she can say she was proud of.  However, I can say that she was more than just an exceptional mother she was an exceptional teacher and woman who I look to for inspiration in my daily life.  Despite our struggles, my mom taught us the value of hard work, family, education and responsibility.  No one was ever supposed to be mistreated and everyone was accepted for who they were.  On top of that, as an adult I can look back and see just how brave and a successful woman my mother was because she raised three children on her own, not only in a time when having children without a husband was looked down upon but at an age where having children got in the way of seeking experiences and finding yourself.  My mother had to be an adult when she wasn’t ready to do it, put us before herself, took care of three children on her own, managed to run our home and teach us morals and values.  My mom doesn’t know it but she is an example to me of an independent woman that is not only a champion of adversity but also a person that taught me that I could overcome anything as long as I work hard and have faith that I can.

So, this May of 2015 when I was getting ready to walk into my graduation ceremony I remembered my mother and realized that this day was not only my day but hers as well.  I had many tears and let downs during my college years, but I also had many experiences and met so many people in my life that I wouldn’t have if I never went.  I have traveled to England (which had been a dream of mine since my childhood obsession with Harry Potter), made amazing friends, got my license, got many miraculous jobs, found incredible novels that changed my life and my view of myself, got accepted into graduate school and finally become the first person in my family to graduate with a degree from a university.  In this world, these are successes that are deemed the norm or rites of passage.  To me, however, they are symbolic of my ability to dream and achieve anything that I set my mind to and work hard for, just like my mom taught me.  I am able to make friends with so many different kinds of people because my mom taught me to love and accept everyone because she knew the pain that comes from exclusion and prejudice.  Reviewing my life and discussing it with those in my family, they say that I should be proud that I have accomplished so much not only as a woman but also as a child of a single parent.  To me, in contrast, it is not a surprise because I was able to be who I am today, achieve what I did, and will do more because I was raised by a woman that never let her circumstance dictate her happiness.  She was successful in her attempts to raise me, and she was happy to do it.  This perspective, attitude and model of success to me have always been with me and I know that it will never leave me.


My mother was my idea of what it means to be successful and happy and as long as I do what I love, work hard and never compromise.


My mother was my idea of what it means to be successful and happy and as long as I do what I love, work hard and never compromise.  As long as I hold her in my heart and keep her spirit alive within me, I can only say that I will be happy and excel in all that I attempt.  In this day in age, feminism is important.  This is why I wanted to tell my story and my mothers to embrace the idea that all women can learn from one another.  We also need to recognize and celebrate the women in our lives that made our achievements and our glory possible; these women set us up for success without even realizing it.  Thank you mom and to all other women out there who were and will continue to be bold and fight for whatever you love.  With passionate, dedicated, and hard-working women in the world, the best versions of our world will be a reality.

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