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10 First Gen Experiences That I Thought Were Setbacks But That Are Actually Superpowers

Last Updated:

November 8, 2023

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To all my fellow first-generation friends (those I’ve met and those I have yet to meet): Happy National First Generation College Celebration Day!

You’re making your community proud and showing the world that superheroes do exist.

Here are 10 first gen experiences that I thought were setbacks but that are actually superpowers:

1. Navigating the college admissions and job search processes by myself.

I felt alone at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about uncovering answers on my own.

2. Not receiving homework help at home beyond elementary school.

I felt disadvantaged at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about working hard and finding a way.

3. Surviving childhood without an allowance.

I thought it was unfair at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about making the most of every dollar.

4. Growing up quickly when my mom and dad separated.

I thought I was the problem. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about how to take care of myself.

5. Not having fancy vacations, playing expensive sports, or playing instruments growing up.

I felt poor at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about finding joy in the little things.

My mom and me at graduation.

6. Helping my mom write her first resume when she was laid off.

I felt lost at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about staying resilient in the face of rejection and uncertainty.

7. Being a constant “outsider” during small talk at work.

I felt left out at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about building relationships with people who are of diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.

8. Needing to translate—or help fill out entire forms—for my mom.

I felt exploited at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about how to do this adulting thing even before adulthood hit.

9. Not having an older sibling or parent whispering in my ear about how to navigate stressful professional situations.

I felt behind at the time. Now, I’m grateful for all that I learned about reading the room and deciphering the “unspoken rules” of professional settings.

10. Constantly feeling behind and having less compared to those around me.

I felt shortchanged at the time. Now, I’m grateful for having a mission and purpose to my life—to build a career where I can play at least a tiny part in leveling the playing field for those coming after me.