WHAT’S MY NAME? Kristyan Kimberly Cortez-Sanchez
As many immigrant children, I was raised with the ideology that pursuing higher education was the only option. My mother worked in the fields, then at the Mervyn's warehouse (when that was a thing), and currently as a custodial at a university, which has enamored her more with the idea of UNIVERSITIES. My dad was a HUSTLER, that man had no boundaries when it came to providing for his family. He worked in the fields, sold oranges on street corners, held odd jobs, and finally became a semi-truck driver a few years before he died at the age of 35. I say all this because their story, their struggle, their dreams, their back breaking work, is intertwined with my story.
I was raised with the belief that the only way to succeed was to pursue higher education, there was no other choice or way out of hardship. My mother always said, “You need to get and education, no matter the cost, because no one can take away what is in your brain, no one can make you feel less, no 'cabron' (motherfucker) will ever be able to hold power over you.” Those words carved into my very soul.
I’ve always been a great student, I’ve always followed the rules, I’ve always tried to be the most perfect daughter to make my mom proud and to honor my the life of my father. Because of this very foundation I followed the pre-med path for years and I was just plain MISERABLE.
It wasn’t until my fourth year of college when I obtained an internship at the UC Davis Alzheimer Disease Center and was supervised by their Social Worker when I discovered a different path.
I was mortified with the idea of “giving up." I felt like I was disappointing everyone and dishonoring my family for giving up on their dream - but that’s just it...it was never my dream. It was an idea that was planted in the head of a child that was rooted in deep throughout the years. When I finally built up the courage to tell people that I had switched paths, everyone who mattered embraced my decision as my own and supported me. It was very anti-climatic to say the least…
As I reflect 5 years later I realize that all the pressure that was holding me underwater was all just in my head. We are all our biggest critics and are so easy to believe horrible things about ourselves. I struggle with my confidence and constantly have to give myself pep-talks, because I feel like people dismiss me due to my age. Sometimes it’s my own perception and sometimes it’s reality. It’s occurred various times where professionals, patients, and families won’t pay much attention to me until I make my knowledge on the subject known and then they’ll say “oh… she does know what she is talking about” if not with their words, with their facial expression.
I imagine that my experience isn’t unique and that many young professionals must fight against other’s assumptions regarding their competence and even their own imposter syndrome, but I’m here to say that as long as you’re following a path that is true to yourself and don’t seek approval from anyone outside of yourself… it will all fall into place.