I came to the United States, at the age of 9, with my mom and 2 sisters from Panama. Leaving home, leaving that beautiful country, leaving behind my family, friends, and way of life was such a difficult journey. In the United States, there was so much new to get used to, so much I had to learn and endure – I didn’t speak any English, and kids and teachers ridiculed me. Therefore, I retreated within myself, and became a loner. In doing so, I delved into my academics, full-force, turned into Honor Roll student, graduated top 10% of my high-school class – the 1st out of the only 2 people of color in that ranking, and ultimately, received my Bachelor in Business Management Information Systems. The strategy was simple- the books didn’t poke fun at me, they did not talk about me.
Upon graduation from college, I could not get a job. I was a hot commodity- I had amazing grades, I was Hispanic, I was Black, a Female – and I could code. Numerous companies recruited me, but there was just one problem! – I was not legal. From the very moment we stepped on American soil, my mom fought hard with money, lawyers, and patience for us to become legalized. Yet, by the time I graduated, it did not happen for me. There was constant setbacks and denials from the American government. And at the age of 21, I aged out of the process- I had to start all over again. Worse, by the time of graduation, instead of facing a bright future in the working world, I was faced with a petition for deportation.
What was I to do? I cried, all of the time. I was extremely furious with my mom for bringing me here and putting me in this position. Definitely, angry at God for allowing this to happen. I just could not understand. I mean, I worked vigorously for years on my academics to make outstanding grades just so I could position myself for a high-paying corporate job upon graduation. Even delaying graduation, in the hopes that the government will finally grant me legal status. To me, getting a job in my degree was the reward for the sacrifices I made in coming here and not growing up among aunties, cousins, and the friends that I left in Panama. And now, that hard work, seemed to have vanished into thin air. I felt hopeless – life was not fair.
In the midst of my tears, anger, disappointment and uncertainty, I still managed to pray fervently to God, believing that HE will not leave me – not right now. I did not know what else to do. Where do I go from here? How is my life going to turn out? Will I be deported back to Panama, and be torn away from my mom and sisters? The questions came but yet no answers.
Soon, God answered my prayers. HE provided me a way out- a way to sustain myself as I awaited my fate from the United States government. He sent me an angel in the midst of my storm. Through my CPA, I was connected with a guy that was running a small business and was in dire need of an administrative assistant. He met with me and agreed to pay me “under the table.” I worked alongside him, soaked up every nugget of knowledge and experience in running a successful small business, and I matured as a business woman. I learned so much from him from getting clients, building referrals, pricing, customer experience, vendor relations, credit management, and so on and so on. My experience working with him was invaluable and just what I needed to groom me into the remarkable business owner I am today. Moreover, in the meantime, God not only canceled the deportation notice but granted me legal residency.
After leaving his company, I found employment in Corporate America. I took an Administrative Assistant position, that I was beyond qualified for, just so I could steady myself. See, I could not get a job in my degree because by this time, it has been 3 years since graduation, and I lacked the professional experience in the field of Computer Science. I was “damaged goods” at this point. So, while working my corporate gig, it came to me, that this was not it – there is something way more out there for me – I am way too intelligent and brilliant to be tied to this desk and this life. I wanted OUT!!!
Therefore, I prayed and as I prayed, visions started appearing. I started to seek and find exactly my inner passions. The visions led me to rediscover my love for architecture, the built-environment, and how we are humans move within the interiors. My visions coupled with curiosity landed me in the Master Fine Arts graduate program specializing in Interior Architecture and Design. As a gained the expertise and technical skillset through this program, I gladly quit my job to pursue professional experience in the interior architecture industry. Upon quitting my job, I sought numerous opportunities for an internship or employment –something that will give me the experience in this industry. But no one hired me; all of these various opportunities – were just “shut doors.” So, after exhaustingly running after interior designers, begging for a slither of chance, and receiving NO after NO after NO, I decided to carve out my own destiny and create my own iconic business. From there, I opened the doors of K Lilia Interior Design- and it has turned into a remarkably miraculous enterprise – I owe it all to GOD, and to my “illegal” status.
Until next time,