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What I Wish They Would Have Told Me

I'm the daughter of immigrant parents. They both came to this country as many immigrants do, in search of a better future for their family. My parents were and have always been worried about putting food on the table, keeping a roof over my head, learning a new language and dropping me off at school so giving me any career advice was a little difficult. I, along with my siblings, had to figure out how to achieve our goals. Mi Mama and older sister have always been my female figures on how to be a confident Latina and never be ashamed of who you are. Moving through high school and college, they were and still are my idols on how to be a powerful woman especially because they started their own families at a young age, I've heard and seen their own personal struggles. I began to get used to being the only "brownie" in the room or internship. As I got older and tried to reach out to professionals in an area that I was interested in, not surprisingly it was dominated by anglo men. I did not see women that looked like me in areas of interest that I wanted to be a part of. To be clear, I'm interested in politics and in dance. I've been a dancer for over 20 years and I remember in a class full of tall, beautiful and thin ballerinas, doing a mock audition that I would dance my heart out. I decided I would try harder than I have ever tried and I ended up standing alone on that stage with 5 other girls out of a class of 40 girls, winning that audition. Even if it was a mock audition, I finally had something inside me saying "I can do this". I later expressed that to the class and everyone was in tears because they saw how much it meant to me and it was a feeling I never wanted to let go.

Through college and after graduation I kept telling myself nothing could stop me and I never saw limits. I was never in a sorority, clubs, no scholarships and got used to being the darkest one around. I didn't have any mentors leading me through school or even in any of my internships. I was screaming inside to see someone like me, but I didn't. I've always stood out and that's OK. So putting myself in spaces that are not familiar has become a hobby of mine. Its challenging and I like making a memory out of it plus a few friends on the way isn't too bad. I decided early on that since I didn't get that type of figure for me professionally, that I would become the person I always wanted to look up to. If I could tell my younger self some piece of advice it would be a few things. Be patient, READ a lot more, speak up, explore your interests and never forgot where you came from.

Given those seem pretty broad, but there is a story behind each piece of advice. I could go on about ways that I could have done things better but I am still becoming the person I've always wanted to look up to and I probably wouldn't change much. I hope that through my career and accomplishments I'm able to inspire young women along the way to be bold and encourage them to never give up. I have 7 little nieces now that I get to influence as they grow up, good thing they have no choice.

Farah Melendez is the political manager for the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which provides political and policy support to Democratic state attorneys general.

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