For a resilient warrior, failures and obstacles are nothing more that an opportunity to express the qualities that define them. My mother, Ana Reyes is the person in my life who demonstrates resilience when times are rough, and inspires resilience in others in her life.
With every delicate stroke of her scissors across a new canvas, she perfects her craft and paints a smile on the faces of her customers as they walk out of the shop with a fresh haircut.
My mother came to this country as an immigrant more than 27 years ago, searching for the so-called “American Dream.” At an early age, she felt obligated to be the guardian of various of her younger siblings, as her parents had 10 children to take care of.
“I was only a teen when I started caring for two of my sisters to help out my parents,” she explained. “I left every morning to work, selling fruit and working at a restaurant in order to raise my siblings, pay for my License of Cosmetology and raise money for when it was time to go to ‘el norte’.”
In her head, coming to the United States meant a better life. Her American Dream meant more opportunities, a stable home, and the chance to realize her dream of starting her own cosmetology business. For many years, however, she faced the rough reality that meets immigrants coming to the States.
She thought the License of Cosmetology she received in Mexico would translate into a quick job when she came to California. But employers in many beauty salons asked for an American License of Cosmetology, and she had to continue her studies here. My mother ended up with two cosmetology licenses by 1990, and soon raised enough money to start her first business.
On the bright Saturday morning of February 2nd, 1993 “Reyes Beauty Salon” was the new kid on the block. Her dream of opening up her own beauty salon was realized; she was an official entrepreneur and business woman. Her resilience was inspiring and soon enough, she paved the road for three of her sisters who are also cosmetologists and business owners of their own salons. My mother has even taken her passion a generation forward by teaching her daughter the trade’s skills, and hopes to see her daughter open up her own beauty salon one day.
The determination seen in my mother’s story has strengthened her to become the successful entrepreneur and self reliant woman she is today. She shared with me that her resilience is drawn from all of the struggles that she faced along the way. For her, there was no other option; she knew that in order to achieve her dreams, or even continue growing in life, she had to get up from stumbles and setbacks.
The courage to step up for herself and overcome obstacles has been part of her identity and she has passed it down to her two college-bound children. She shares her spirit with us and you can see us looking up to her whenever we face obstacles as entrepreneurs, students, and simply just humans. This only makes her glad that she was resilient through so many years. She knows it was worth the struggle.
Without the initiative to step up from her comfort zone, she may have still been in Mexico working in someone else’s business, or perhaps she would have just quit cosmetology when she came to the United States. She knew that was the case for many people who gave up early. The tides were high, but she knew it would be possible; all it takes is a vision and hard work.
For the past 25 years, she has been an inspiration to the community she has served in East Oakland and will continue to leave a legacy of resilience through her daughter and son.
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