Chapter 3: Making Yourself Proud

As a first generation student, it can be easy to get caught up in making everyone proud. The
parent(s) who made endless sacrifices, the family back home who didn’t have the opportunity to
come to the U.S, the teachers and counselors who advocated for you and believed in your
abilities, etc. There are so many people who ultimately contribute to the professional you end up
becoming. After all, the quote “it takes a village” isn’t famous for nothing. However, after
countless years of doing everything in my power to not let anyone down, I wish someone
would’ve reminded me that making everyone proud at the expense of your happiness,
authenticity, and integrity is way too big of a price to pay. While it’s important to honor your
“village”, you must not lose sight of your wants and needs in the process.

Close your eyes and think about the last time you did something for yourself. How long ago
was this? What did you do? How did you feel during that experience? If you’re anything like me,
then it probably happened a long time ago. More often than not, I’ve found myself prioritizing the
“successful” and “well rounded” image I felt I had to uphold, and completely neglecting the
person I am when no one is watching. It wasn’t until this year that I had a bit of an identity crisis,
and I stopped to ask myself who I really am. Honestly speaking, the scariest part of it all is that I
had no idea. Usually when people asked me this question, I’d use my academic achievements
as an armor that spoke for me. But for the first time ever I forced myself to dig deeper, and what
I discovered was pretty surprising.

You see, the thing people don’t tell you is that the one of the most rigorous academic journeys
you’ll ever embark on, is the one in which you choose to discover yourself. It’s easy to put this
one on the back burner while you focus on other, seemingly more important, things. But there
will come a point where all your big goals get crossed off your “To-Do” list, and then what? Sure
you can always dream a little bigger and make room for more, but for the most part you’ll
eventually have to face yourself. While it can be scary to think of yourself after being so
accustomed to considering others before you, I want to emphasize how important it is.
Wherever you are in your journey, here are some questions that will guide you through the
process.

1. What would you be doing if you took the pressure to perform out of your life?
2. What kind of friend are you to yourself?
3. Outside of academics, when was the last time you completed something you felt proud
of?
4. Who are you when no one is watching?
5. If you had to describe yourself to an absolute stranger, how would you do it? What words
would you use?

If you find that you don’t have an answer for some or even all of these questions, I want you to
know that that’s totally ok. The point isn’t to have all the answers, but to highlight that we all
have room to get to know ourselves a bit better. While uncovering who you are won't happen
overnight, guess what will? Growth. And rest assured that the growth that comes from knowing
yourself outside of the many molds you’ve inhabited, will set you up for a level of success where
you can feel as proud of yourself as other people do.

Meet the Author
Emely Rodriguez is a first-generation Afro-Latina who was born and raised in New York City. She is currently in her final year of undergrad at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. She has obtained a minor in African American Studies and is expected to complete her degree in Biomedical Sciences this upcoming spring. Read more about Emely >