It seemed so easily achievable from in front of my television set in Brazil. All I had to do was set foot in America, find a nice job and that would be it: I would be happy, with a huge two-story house and a picture-perfect American husband.
The reality of my immigrant life in America, especially as a woman, is not that simple. I have lived in the USA for 13 years, and I am still in search of this so-called American Dream.
I arrived as a young woman, and here I became a wife, mother, college student and a “blue-collar worker” for most of those years. This is my perspective as a Latina immigrant who is studying, working and caring for a family in America.
First, I can guarantee it is not easy to be a working mother in a country that’s far from home and family members. When I left Brazil, I left behind my mother, siblings and all my relatives, my safe-haven. Why? I wanted to pursue a better life – like so many others who come to America.
I didn’t come here to work for a few years, save all the money I could and then go back to my homeland. I came to stay. I also didn’t come here with the intent to become a burden under America’s welfare system as immigrants are often depicted. I wanted to study, work, pay taxes, buy a house, help my community and have a beautiful family.
I dreamed that as soon as I arrived, I could start college and also work in an office job. One day, I could become a powerful, successful woman who would change people’s lives for the better.
Life doesn’t always happen the way we plan, and the American Dream can be elusive.
As an administrative assistant at Genentech, this is my first real job. I don’t mean to belittle my many past experiences, like being a nanny, a house cleaner and a caregiver. They helped me get to where I am.
But for me, this is the first job my mom can feel proud of when she tells her friends what I do. It’s the first job where I had to present a resume and my college degree.
I am transitioning to a new chapter of my life, beyond the stereotype of the immigrant woman of color who is “stuck” in the labor force. I was given a chance to know that women can work in an American corporation regardless of race, age, ethnicity and social background – being able to learn and contribute with unique and important skills.
Sometimes I worry that beginning a career at an older age, as a non-native speaker, might put me at a disadvantage against younger employees. At the same time, I know I can learn fast, and my life experience brings new perspectives to the workplace that others might not have. I sometimes also worry I am not spending enough time with my toddler, but I learned it is possible to work, study and still have quality time with my child.
What have I learned so far? The American Dream is not what you see on TV. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write my own real-life version.