I had the privilege of interviewing with a new friend I met at Global Women Oslo meetings. She also is one of the women who runs Business Women Oslo and has her own business, Casa Latina Språk og Kultur, teaching languages to people in Norway, including Spanish, Norwegian and French. She is originally from México, so we connected also on the Spanish speaking living in another country. In addition to that, she also recently founded an organization called Asociación De Mujeres Emprendedoras for women entrepreneurs in Norway who speak Spanish.
Now she has been living in Norway for over 25 years and has been settled and established in Norway. I admire that. After me living here for just two years, I still feel a bit lost and not myself sometimes. I never thought I’d feel so out of place, or even be an immigrant. I mean, I come from the United States, the land of the ‘free’ and opportunity. Who wants to leave there? I believe more people are trying to move to the United States than any other country in the world. I speak fluent Norwegian, but there are some advanced conversations where I understand most of it, but I get lost in translation. I work from home, writing for the most part, in English. My auditions are also in English. After talking to Antonieta for a while, I felt better about still feeling out of place and learning this culture. It took her a while too, as I’m sure it would take anyone who moves to another country that speaks another language after the age of 35.
Anyways, the point of this blog post is empowerment and entrepreneurship because that is the topic of Antonieta’s radio show. As she asked me questions in both English and Spanish about my journey to where I am now, it reminded me that I have actually done a lot, and all of it I’ve come to with hard work.
I’ll share with you a summary of what I’ve had to do to get to where I’m at. I’m not saying I’ve reached the top of the mountain yet, and I definitely have not accomplished everything I’ve set my mind to do, but I’ve had success with some things and most things have led me to discover something new about myself.
I grew up poor. When my parents were still married in the Bronx, New York, we were okay. My dad had a job as a bank teller and my mother was at home. When they separated and my mother and I moved to Puerto Rico, things changed drastically. Suddenly we were on food stamps, welfare, and I my mother had two babies with her new partner. Life as I knew it was just torn apart with no explanation. I know this is a common story, so I won’t dwell on it, but the point is that we were on government support. There was not enough income for anything else other than to eat and some clothes. At one point when I was about 13 years old, me and some other kids in the neighborhood sold bumper stickers at parking lots.
In high school we had the opportunity to take regular high school general classes, and there was this secretarial program where we could learn shorthand and typing. With that program, on the last year (12th grade), we could work as part of our graduating credit. I chose that program because I wanted to work, and I thought I could start there and maybe that will help me get into college. No one in my family had any university degrees at that point that I knew of.
In 11th and 12th grade I went to school from morning until 12, and then went to a secretarial practice job at a radiology medical center from 1 to 4pm. I then went home. I enjoyed not being home and preferred working. I did such a great job, the doctors wanted me to continue working there full-time. I thought about it. I thought maybe I could work there full time and go to school at nights. But I did not want to live at home for many reasons. So I started brainstorming as to how could I leave, go to college and support myself. The answer came when I had to walk part of the way to my job and every day I walked passed a U.S. Army recruiting office. I thought “that could be the way.” I walked in one day, took a test, and the rest was history. I knew I was joining the Army as soon as I graduated. I got to work, serve my country, earn money, food and lodging were taken care of, and in the end, I had some money to study at the university and earn my degree. That is what I did. I still took some student loans out that took me over fifteen years to pay off.
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree though, instead of continuing to work for the government like I had all of those years (I was considering applying at the Department of State), I moved to Hollywood, California to pursue a career in acting. It was a bold and crazy move to everyone, and I was full of fear, but it felt “right” in my gut. I drove cross country in my little Ford Mustang all alone and did it.
In Hollywood, I immediately signed up for acting classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and worked up to three jobs at one point just to survive, pay rent and eat. I got an agent and started working on small indie films, commercials, and eventually films and TV. I worked VERY hard and I do believe I accomplished a lot while I was there. I would have not accomplished much if things had been easy though, at least I don’t think so. I booked most acting work while I was working multiple jobs, and less acting work when I wasn’t. I felt overwhelmed at times, but I had to do what I had to do, which brings me to the point of this blog post.
If we want to accomplish things in life, we have to decide we are going to do it, dare to do it even when fear is pulling at us, and not give up. We have to be able to look at our strengths and weaknesses and then work on ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves with what we are capable of doing. That is how we empower ourselves. I am guilty of looking too much at my weaknesses, and struggle to empower myself sometimes, but I eventually get to it. I am not perfect and I still struggle to do my work, but I move on eventually.
It has been a bit of a challenging week and insomnia has gotten the best of me. When I can’t get creative, I have problems sleeping and functioning. But it’s life. Sometimes we have to deal with life and then get to our work when we can. Now I’m looking forward to seeing one of my dearest friends, talented photographer Rollence Patugan, who is visiting Norway with his wife Christine. I have been homesick, so seeing friends from California will be wonderful. I will try to get back to this blog after next week. Until then hang in there if you’re struggling too.
Keep in mind that life is ups and downs, and it doesn’t mean we have to stop doing what we love. We might need to take breaks from what we love to deal with ‘life’. We might need to do things we don’t want to do and put others first. Most importantly is to stay true to ourselves, be open, to dare even when we are fearful, and get back to what we love as soon as we can. Our inner happiness demands it.
Until next time, wishing you a great week.