Most of us, at some point in our lives, have played the game “If I could, what superpower would I have?” Now I have a new challenge—What is a superpower you already possess?
Mine is the power to adapt to change. I think it's a pretty cool power in today's world. Self-reflecting, I pondered how I could do this when others seem to struggle in this area. Was this something I was born with, or did I develop it over the years? The “Nature vs Nurture” discussion came to mind. For me, it’s simple: it's both—my superpower results from how my brain is wired and my life experiences.
Who I Am
I will always call Mexico City my hometown, although I was born in New York City. Yes, I put hot sauce on everything. I usually carry three passports when traveling internationally. I happen to have an interesting family tree. I am the granddaughter of immigrants and refugees, the daughter of two world travelers, and the eldest of four siblings. English is not my first language, even though it is my mother's native tongue. Some are probably rusty, but I speak or understand five languages. However, it has been a while since I’ve spoken anything other than English or Spanish. I am just short of hitting the 100th marker in the countries I have visited. I am also Neurodivergent.
This is the root of my superpower.
I’ll start with the nature side. Looking back, I can say I'm very fortunate to have been different from my peers. But as a child, being different is not always a good thing. My father got transferred a lot. I was often the new kid at school, sometimes from a different country, not speaking the local language, and neurodivergent. It wasn’t called that then; it was labeled as “learning disabilities.”
I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. Unfortunately, not everyone believed it was real. My brain is wired differently than most people; I learn and look at things from a different perspective. Instead of having the curriculum adapt to me, I had to adapt to the curriculum. This probably led to some interesting parent/teacher conferences. My parents did an outstanding job of removing the word “disability” from my vocabulary. They called it a gift, and even though I probably rolled my eyes at the time, I consider it a gift today.
Nurture—My Cultural Mix
Now let's talk about the nurture side. Most people have a one- or two-word answer to the question, where are you from? Mine is a little more convoluted. Is the person asking genuinely curious, or do they need the one-minute recap? I don't fit in those little boxes. I am thankful for that.
On my mother's side, my grandparents immigrated from Ireland and the U.K. to the U.S.; as my grandfather liked to put it, "they ran away" to a new world for love and adventure. My father’s parents left Spain behind for two very different reasons. My grandfather wanted to make a name for himself, independent from his family. My grandmother left Barcelona to survive. It seems my great-grandfather had made an enemy of General Franco, and to avoid death or prison; he had to run away with his wife and three young daughters in the middle of the night. They both chose Mexico as their haven. My parents met in Boulder, Colorado, while attending grad school. They became friends fast but didn't fall in love until a few years later in New York. Two years later, I was born, but my father was transferred to Mexico City when I was four months old. My mother, who did not speak Spanish then, called it the craziest thing she had ever agreed to, besides marrying my father.
Growing up, we moved a lot, and Mexico City was always our hub. I grew up being able to take the best of all these places and make them a part of who I am. You can see it in the way we celebrate. We were the family that year-round had decorations, whether it was for the Fourth of July, El día de la Independencia, Thanksgiving, etc. We celebrated with Santa Claus in December and the Three Kings in January. We had roscas and tamales, but we also had s'mores. One of the most important lessons my parents instilled in us was to look at the beauty of the new city or country we lived in, the traditions and culture around us, and take them in by celebrating similarities, embracing differences, always being curious and open to learning. But most importantly, never judge someone based on someone else's opinions.
Growing up this way wasn't easy; I was never "enough" to some people. I accepted two things: 1) change is always on the horizon – I embrace this superpower in me, and 2) I only need to be "enough" for my loved ones and me. The fact that I can say I am Mexican and American fills me with joy. I am privileged to claim the two countries that took in my grandparents and allowed them to make a home in their unique way. I am proud to be Latina and not fit in a small, curated box.
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