I Hate Cooking

I had some time off in between jobs and decided that I should make the most of it. I cleaned out our closets and donated items to the Goodwill and our church. I also volunteered at our church by helping put together the certificates for sacraments. I spent some time with my nephews by taking them to Barnes and Noble to do some reading during their summer break and had time to do more of my own reading. I increased my exercise activity since I had more time on my hands. I accomplished a lot of the things I had been putting off because, well, work. I also had the opportunity to travel with my hubby to Alaska and we got to spend the 4th of July in Reno and Tahoe. We hiked a still snowy Tahoe Meadows in the warm weather! Needless to say, I enjoyed my time off, it went by very fast!

One of the things I was looking forward to was cooking and baking some of the recipes I had saved on to my Pinterest board. It was fun until it wasn’t. I have always enjoyed baking, but cooking not so much. As I tried new recipes I thought it was so cool how good my food was tasting (insert smiley showing teeth). My hubby certainly enjoyed it. You should know that I’ve never been one to like cooking, it’s like a chore for me. I was that daughter who often used homework as an excuse so that I didn’t have to help with that, sorry mom! It was bad enough that I had to do the dishes…and, you know, all those things that come with being female. Gender expectations annoy me.

With that said, this was something I wanted to do for myself and I learned a few things. First, I still hate cooking. I’m sure people wonder how I got through all those years of college living on my own. The thing is, I always tried to eat healthy and simple. Secondly, trying different recipes is too much work, there are often too many ingredients to worry about. Cooking can be fun, but only if done every now and then…lol. Lastly, I learned that it is best to find basic recipes that you can cook that will last you a few days. I found a few easy recipes, started making them to last a few days and started rotating them. This is as much as I could handle.

To some this might sound silly, but really, cooking is just not my thing. If you saw my vision board you’d see that I have a personal chef on there, that’s my goal. I want to get to that point where I can afford a personal chef, even if it’s a few days a week. Heck, even if its once a week! I HAVE GOALS PEOPLE!

I know, I’m quite passionate about this, but don’t we all have that one thing we feel passionate about? I am fortunate to be able to put food on my table, and I know cooking is something I shouldn’t take for granted. I cook, I just don’t like doing it very often. That said, I’ll continue to try new recipes, just not all at once!

Discovering Potential

I ran up that hill like I had never before, I likely broke a record.

During High school I was in the varsity cross country team. I loved running and miss it dearly. I would show up to weekend practice often times being the only female runner. I was very motivated to improve and break my own records and I had earned the most dedicated runner trophy several times. At that time, however, I didn’t think that I deserved any special recognition. I was simply showing up. I was naïve to the fact that I was putting effort beyond the expectation and beyond that of what some of my own teammates were putting forth.

There was one Saturday practice that I remember clearly, or at least one portion of the practice. We were heading out for our usual 5-7 mile practice run. The route took us up a long hill that we sometimes used for hill-repeats when we were gearing up for hilly course races. On this day, there were two other female runners with me, although I don’t recall where they were when this occurred. The boys x-country team started after us, coming up closely behind.

There are a few houses along the way, but mostly the route is on the mountains with a few scattered homes and orchards of orange trees. Below the long uphill there are a few old homes with scattered brush leading towards a levy. As I ran up this long hill I could hear the boys team getting closer behind me. Suddenly I hear the bushes moving along the side of this hill. The side of the hill is so steep I don’t think anyone could walk up it without having to use your hands to climb. And then a dog jumped out of nowhere barking and running towards me, at that moment all I could do was increase my speed. I’ve heard you’re not supposed to run when you see a dog, but what do you do when you’re already running? I ran up that hill like I had never before, I didn’t know what else to do.

All I can think was thank God for the boys on the team running behind me. When they saw what was happening they started trying to get the dog’s attention and trying to scare it away. I remember reaching the half way point and some of them asking if I was okay. That’s about all I remember…oh yeah, and the run back. I was worried about the downhill on the way back so I ran with a couple people just in case. I never saw that dog again.

What occurred that day was a discovery of potential. If I did not have the ability to run up that hill as fast as I had, that dog would have caught up to me. For this to happen I had to first show up that day. Looking back of course, I understand the recognition for dedicated runner. We all have potential yet to be discovered but sometimes it doesn’t happen until we have no choice and it begins with us first showing up.

I have been fortunate to have inspiring mentors throughout my educational and professional career. There have been several individuals who have influenced my level of motivation and self-belief. These were folks who believed in me more than I believed in myself throughout significant moments in my life. In truth, these have been moments of professional development that at that time I could not name as such. Running up that hill while being chased helped me discover potential I did not realize I had. The truth is, many of us have undiscovered potential and sometimes it takes an extra push by someone who believes in us to discover we’ve had the ability all along.

I recently started reading “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg and it has made me think about some of my own habits and the things that have become routine for me. I highly recommend it by the way, and no, I have not been paid to say this…hehe. I’d like to think I’m an avid reader, however, truth be told, I don’t have as much time in my days as I would like to just sit and read. Anyhow, I try to make the most out of my days and there are certain things that are not negotiable for me.

Here are a few things that have become habit for me and help me stay focused throughout the work-week.

  1. Making the bed in the morning – This helps me start my day feeling accomplished. I like to come home to a clean and organized space. This is also true for the living room and kitchen. If the spaces around me remain clutter free then there’s less cleaning to do. Clutter gets in the way of my productivity.
  2. Exercise- exercising is something I learned from watching my mother. I was involved in youth track and started running at a young age. I was in sports throughout high school and have continued to exercise since then. My weekly goal is to exercise 4-5 times a week, it has become a part of my weekly routine.
  3. Food- taking a lunch break and removing myself from the office is essential for my health, not only because taking a break is healthy, but because nutrition is also important.
  4. To do lists – I’m a box person, in other words I use boxes when I create my to-do lists. Checking off that box helps me feel accomplished. Taking the time to write my to-do list at the end of my work day keeps my mind free from trying to remember what it is that I need to do next.
  5. Planning ahead – I plan my days out but leave room for flexibility. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. I plan out the things that I need to do throughout my week but remind myself to leave room for flexibility if something unplanned should happen to come up.
  6. Me time – Sometimes being flexible means being okay with giving myself the time I need to rest. I have RA and with that come days where the pain is too tiring. Yes, exercising helps, but my body also needs rest.

We all have our own routines. Mine revolves around my health and well-being and throughout the years I’ve learned to prioritize.

What’s in a Name

What is my blog about? This is one of the questions I often get when I share that I decided to start a blog. Essentially, it is about my life. I decided it would be best to address the question via my blog. When I say that it is about my life, I mean that my blog is based on my own experiences. What I share are opinions and perspectives from my personal life.

Naming my blog was one of the decisions I had to make. The main question for me was, what do I really want to say with this blog? What do I want to convey and what will I focus on? Then there was the fear of putting my writing “out there” for people to read. I feared being judged for my writing. However, if I continued to fear I would never share. My goals are to reflect and learn from these experiences through my writing and to share in hopes that what I write will mean something to someone.

The reality is that the experiences I have lived are what have shaped who I am as a person and how I identify myself. I am Mexican American and Latina. I am female. I am a woman who believes in gender equality. I am a Feminist. I am a higher education professional. My experiences have shaped my own personal social justice perspective. Therefore, I decided that using Latina and Feminist in my blog is important to me. Not because I would focus on Latina and Feminist issues, but because I identify as such and my experiences are what have shaped my identity. These experiences are what have led me to who I am today.

My blog is about my life from my point of view.

Retired Runner…

I recently saw the film “McFarland, USA.” It is based on the true story of the McFarland high school cross country team. Watching the film reminded me of how much I loved running. I felt like I should have been running while watching the film honestly. It’s an inspirational story. I was a dedicated runner in high school and was awarded for that dedication at the End-of-year banquet after every season.

When I got to college, I would wake up bright an early and take a run towards the beach. I took yoga to help me with my running. When I went through my master’s degree program I also ran. I ran around Balboa park and often squeezed in my runs in between my internship and class. I was such a dedicated runner I lost count of how many times I went to physical therapy for injury’s. I let nothing stop me. If I couldn’t run on asphalt, I’d run on the treadmill, but only if the physical therapist gave me the green light.

Running was my stress release and I continued to run until I couldn’t.

It was during my doctoral journey that I realized I had to stop running. When I see people jogging or running, I reminisce. I have great memories of my times on the cross country and track teams in high school. I also ran in youth track. At the same time, when I hear people talk about running marathons or running despite their injuries, I cringe. Stomping on ground can do a lot of harm to your body. There’s a reason most professional athletes have short professional careers. There’s also a reason why some athletes sit in tubs of ice after an intense competition. These athletes, however, often get all the professional help they need.

The thing is, there is a lot going on with our bodies that we can’t see.

It took an MRI for me to find out what was causing my pain. I found out I have a couple issues with my back. Some of it is hereditary, so I was told. If I really wanted to, I could run, but…I know I be in a lot of pain after. It was not worth it for me anymore. It became more important for me to prioritize my health over the sport. After all, running was a hobby for me, not my career. I have had the luxury and the ability to make the decision to retire from running.

There are other forms of exercise I have explored and adopted that I probably would have never done if I had not stopped running. I’ve done Pilates, HIIT, spinning and road biking. I even walk for exercise now. If I had known earlier what I know now, I would have left running a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I miss running at times, however, I’ve learned that taking care of my body is more important to me.

Lets be Human

As an Introvert, I know very well many of the assumptions and judgements that people have made about me. Too often we confuse quiet with shy and sometimes even with weakness. If we see that a child is quiet we often think something is wrong. On the other hand, if we see that a child is extremely active, we also tend to think something must be wrong. Really, the list goes on.

We are too good at judging others when they live outside of what society considers “normal” or maybe even “acceptable.” I often feel that we do not know how to respect others simply for being human. We are people with different identities, but we all share this commonality, we’re all human. We make assumptions when we have no idea what it’s like to be in other’s shoes and when we do not know what battles they’ve fought and overcome.

Some people have more privilege than others and often do not even know it. We would learn more from each other if we let the walls between our differences crumble. We would be better if we learned to accept our differences and helped each other simply for our commonality (human). In a world that has been plagued by far too much hate and violence, we need to embrace our differences and respect each other.

We need to learn to be human.

I Cried the First Day…

Many that know me might be surprised to learn this, but I cried my first day of kindergarten. I didn’t want to go to school. I remember my mom promising me a pair of those dress up high heels, but only if I didn’t cry. Well, I guess I didn’t care much for them because I cried.

I started that first day of school with my aunt. She, unlike myself however, was very happy to be at school. I remember her trying to calm me down, and then I remember that eventually I made her cry. You might be thinking, “her aunt?” Yep, I have an aunt who is my age. We were born the same year. From what I recall, she was much happier to be in that classroom than I was. I don’t quite remember what it was or why I cried.

Little did I know at that time that I would end up in school for much longer than I or my parents would ever dream of. After high school graduation, I spent four years in undergrad, two years earning my master’s degree and then three more years at the doctoral level. That’s nine more years of school! Phew! It’s funny to think that I cried that first day after all that. I got over it after that first day…obviously! (insert happy face emoji with wide smile).

I guess if I have any point here it’s that it’s okay to cry on your first day of school. Those might be tears of knowing there’s a long journey ahead of you…hehehehe. It has been one heck of a journey, but it has been so worth it. I would not change anything for the opportunities that I have been blessed with.

It’s okay to cry, let them.

P.S.- My mom gave me that pair of heels anyways, my aunt got a pair as well.

That One Teacher…

I remember it clearly, her smile so wide and her eyes with that glitter that tells you just how happy someone is for you. This was the smile of my 8th grade middle school English teacher when she told me I had scored high on the proficiency exam and that she had recommended me for freshman honors English. I knew she believed in me and in my ability to succeed in school but I did not understand what that meant.

What I did not realize? That one class would set me up into a college prep honors track that would make me eligible to apply for college. I did not know yet that there were certain classes I needed take in order to be able to apply to four year colleges. I would not have been the first or the last student to want to go to college and not fully understand what I would need to do to prepare.

The memory of that teacher’s glittery smile and joy continuously reminds me of the important role we all have as educators, whether you are a 2nd grade teacher, a high school teacher, or a counselor. Success has different paths, we should not expect everyone to follow the same trail, but it is those around us that can make a difference and have an impact on the route we choose to take. That teacher was one of many educators that encouraged me, believed in me and inspired me. As I have gone on through higher education I’ve observed and experienced how much one person can make a difference in the life of others.

I only hope that in my journey to give back as others have given to me, that I too make a positive difference in someone’s life and a presence in someone’s story.

I’ve Never Stopped Being First Gen.

What does it mean to be first gen? Understanding how to help first generation college students has been a prevalent topic within higher education. I’m not sure I quite understood what this meant for me when I began my undergraduate journey. I don’t believe I knew what being a first gen college student even meant at that time. What I am choosing to focus on here, however, is beyond the first gen college experience. Today, I remind myself that I continue to be first gen. You see, to me, being first gen goes beyond graduating from college.

What I realized and strive to remind others of, is that being first gen comes with a huge responsibility. It goes beyond college and into your personal and professional life.

I found that what I am doing is changing the socio-economic status and the expectations to come for the future generations within my family.

It is no secret that the expectation for college graduates is to gain higher paying employment. However, it is also no secret that it takes time and hard work.

That hard work goes well beyond college, and it is hard work to be first gen. If you just sit and think for a minute, there is work and responsibility that comes with being the first college degree holder within your family. This is a tremendous accomplishment, it is a big deal! We should be celebrating beyond graduation day. For many of us, we move forward with thoughts of how to give back and help those that have helped us. There’s friends, family, loved ones that look to us as role models and for help with how they can do what we did. Our friends and family members have dreams of their own whether it is for themselves, their children or their own family members.

I’ve never stopped being first gen.

I also cannot speak of being first gen without talking about my identity as a Latina. As a woman, there have been further barriers to break through, such as the expectation of marriage and having children. It has baffled me how much society expects of women to take the traditional route. There are so many assumptions that come with this expectation.

I took the route that is still less traveled, traveled by many other Latinas, but still too few of us take this route. I decided to complete my education and work on my career before anything else. The thing is, if I had not, then I’d be less able to help others. I see it as my role and as the plan that was set for me. I am a person of faith and feel strongly that everything happens for a reason. Had I not taken this route, I wonder, who else would have. The reality is that its’ up to us. Whatever route we take, as we go further in life and as we accomplish, I see it as our responsibility to take others with us and help along the way.

Being first gen is no joke, we are making a generational change, think about that. It is hard work. 


By Rocio H. Fajardo, Ed.D.