How Being a First-Generation American Latina Challenges the Way I Define Myself

I notice my shared cultures the most when sitting at the kitchen table. I'm surrounded by women who put their families first, in a way that I genuinely do hope to channel one day, but I also have very little interest in cooking, cleaning, running errands, and more for a big family.

I'm in a relationship with a guy I love and would do anything for, who also happens to be as much of a feminist as I am. I'm building a career inside the walls of an apartment in a very different way than the women in my family have. I see the value in all they've done and that they've enjoyed every moment of it, but walking that line between two cultures (my family is from Ecuador, but I was born in the US) means that while I can understand and sympathize, it'd be close to impossible for them to do the same. Because to them, bucking tradition and doing what feels right to me as a person (versus what would make my entire family feel right) is wrong.

I am consistently teetering between wanting things in my personal life and reminding myself that I don't need to apologize just because it's different than what other women in my family have wanted. I'm different, and different isn't synonymous with wrong.

Growing up as a first-generation Ecuadorian-American means that I was an adult before I was of legal age. I had to take my grandmother to doctor's appointments because I needed to translate. I had to get myself through school applications because there was no point of reference. I'm a hodgepodge of firsts, and sometimes those firsts are an act of resistance.

I love the traditions I was raised in, that I can tell you which saint can help you find your keys, and that food is the pillar of any household. I know my way around how family is a loose term for anyone you love and feel protective over, not just actual blood relatives. But the truth is that I don't fit into the molds that are set before me — being first-generation American-Latina means learning to be OK with the fact that I'm creating my own path.

It's revolutionary and anxiety-inducing. It's knowing that I'm doing what's right and understanding that it may not be a popular opinion, sometimes with my family, sometimes with those around me. It's wanting my boyfriend to learn Spanish so he can appreciate songs that played as intros of novelas and it's also knowing that I'm going to live with him way before we get married.

Living between two cultures means that I know the nooks and crannies of traditions that I deeply appreciate, and it also means that I'm in this to create some new ones of my own.