27 Jun How Did I Get Here?
On the cusp of hitting the mid-thirties mark, I’ve been asking myself, “How did I get here?”
Whether its a euphoric pinch-yourself moment, or it’s more like “How the F*#@! Did I Get Here?” during moments of frustration, at some point we’ve all asked ourselves this question.
Over the last year I’ve said this more and more, sometimes several times in a day depending on the situation. Adulting is crazy and being an entrepreneur either adds magic, or fuel to my fire on a daily basis.
Let me get real for a hot minute. Life is definitely not what I thought it was going to be, so this one is going to be a little long – I have some things to get off my chest. And I have a feeling you might be able to relate.
I believe we all grow up with an idea of who we want to be by the time we hit our mid-thirties. I wanted to go to NYU to study journalism and my dream was to either work in television, with a goal of hosting my own show, or be a hot topic writer for a women’s magazine – – – in New York. I had images of New York all over my bedroom when I was in high school, dream boards, NYC fashion, magazine cut outs covering every wall and thousands of journal entries talking about my future life in the big apple. Because #90sLife was made up of real walls, not digital ones – Amirite?
Needless to say that never happened (like most people’s childhood dreams), especially after my mom said she would pay for school if I stayed in San Antonio. After weighing all of my options I stayed in San Antonio with the caveat that I would study abroad at some point in my college career. After graduating early from East Central High School (Go Hornets!) I told my mother I would stay in San Antonio, but I was getting my own place as soon as possible AND I would get a Monday thru Friday job. She laughed and said, “Good Luck! But I’m glad you’re staying in San Antonio.” Because I’m hard headed and a bit defiant, I shocked my mother and by the end of December (the month I graduated early) I had found an apartment and a job… working Monday through Friday! Looking back I could’ve made smarter decisions, but like every 90’s kid I thought I was a shot caller rapping to Ludicris, it was time for me to “Roll Out!”
I took on three jobs at the Northeast YMCA, picked up odd jobs here and there and started my freshman year at San Antonio College. I busted my buns, dealt with insanity of working with school-age children (by the way, God bless teachers – you’re all saints who deserve millions of dollars – that job made me despise children for a VERY long time) and before I knew it, I was attending the University of the Incarnate Word with a focus in journalism/communications and was on my way to London for my internship.
I requested a coveted internship at the BBC, because this would’ve been epic and possibly launch my career into television! But as life (or destiny) would have it, UIW secured an internship at the Royal Academy of Arts where I didn’t use any of my journalism skills. I did, however, learn about art, marketing, event coordination and designing unique event experiences. While I had grown up watching my mom hustle in the marketing and advertising world, I told myself (and her on several occasions) that I would NEVER work in that industry. Well that’s exactly what happened.
I was fascinated by creating unique experiences and how marketing connected people on a variety of levels. Without even realizing it I threw myself into the industry. The experience in London changed my life – forever.
I came back home and worked for my mom and local business/arts czar, Henry Munoz III at The Alameda. It was a very “Devil Wears Prada” experience that shaped me with fire and fury, but I learned so much, the good-bad-crazy-fabulous-scandalous and every other over-the-top adjective you can think of would describe my very young professional experience (and that’s a story I’m legally bound not to tell… but if the walls of the Alameda could talk, let’s just say they would be the most popular chismosas on Houston Street.).
I fell in love with event coordination and marketing and I loved learning how to make strategic connections to make it all happen. That early twenties experience stayed with me, some haunting (maybe I still have an Alameda ghost following me?), but mostly amazing. I learned from the best and fiercest leaders in San Antonio, at that time. But it led me farther from dream.
After my fiery position at the Alameda came to a close, A.J. Rodriguez took a chance on me, even after he received an anonymous call not to hire me, but in his infinite wisdom and foresight, he hired me anyway, as the Special Events Coordinator at the Hispanic Chamber. (A.J., thank you for believing in me…)
I still consider him the best boss I ever had (sorry mom). He taught me so much and gave me the opportunity to breathe life into my potential. He believed in me and allowed me to take the SAHCC events to a whole new level. I designed the first official gala after party and coordinated first-ever sponsorships which led the SAHCC to host what is now one of the hottest post gala after parties in the city… you’re welcome San Antonio! 😉
[A.J. Rodriguez, San Antonio Business Leader and Accomplished Artist]
A.J. also taught me the importance of moving forward, because my previous professional experience left a HUGE chip on my shoulder. All I had left was a defiant attitude, an incredibly tempestuous personality and a ton of untapped potential that prevented me from pushing forward. He recognized this in me and mentored me because he knew I could be a better version of myself.
I don’t know if he knows this, but he said something to me that I still say to myself today, “You can’t go back. You can only go forward. That’s it. If you stay in the past it will define you and you will never be able to be a better person, or professional. So move forward, Danielle.”
Life is made of moments that shape you. This was one of them. It took time for my tempestuous personality to take a back seat, and it still flares up from time to time (because being hot blooded is apparently genetic – you can thank my Grami for this and if you need a better definition you can play one of Foreigner’s top hits – check it and see!), but I’ve replaced it with taking deep breaths and thinking positive (and maybe a few glasses of prosecco) because happiness is a better space to live in.
After A.J. left I worked with a new boss, my title changed and my talents were no longer being utilized at their full potential. I wanted out as soon as possible and found myself on the steps of Palo Alto College as the new Alumni and Scholarship Coordinator working for Rosie Castro (our future president’s mother) and Dr. Mike Flores, who is now the first Latino Chancellor at Alamo Colleges – congrats Mike!!!
I was so far removed from literally every dream I ever had – BUT – this decision and opportunity led me to my current life. I learned so much at PAC, went back to school for my masters at Our Lady of the Lake University and met incredible people along the way. And finally as destiny would have it, I received a unique opportunity to work with Henry Cisneros on his non-profit, American Sunrise. And just like that I joined forces with my amazing entrepreneur mother and became a legit entrepreneur at the age of hot age of twenty-six!
I found myself thrust back into the industry I grew to love and working with my mom, again. At this point the dream of NYC was long gone and pretty much a childhood fantasy. My entire focus was making this business work! From epic “pinch myself” out of sheer happiness contracts to smack-my-head moments with everyone from non-profits and businesses like the Fiesta Commission, Red Mcombs, closing Brooks Air Force Base, designing some of San Antonio’s first-ever events and programs for the City of San Antonio at Travis Park, collaborating with local mastermind Ernest Bromley, Oaxaca fashion designer Fabiola Calvo, making amazing connections with local entrepreneurs and re-defining what marketing is in a constantly changing digital world.
It’s been a wild ride. I might have failed reaching a few of my dreams, and to be honest I fail and make mistakes often, but I’m not a failure. The good, the bad and the fabulous – I’m doing it my way, like old blue eyes, but with more curves, fake eye lashes, a ridiculous amount of bling and a sassy attitude! Yaaas!
And while I am so far removed from my original career dreams, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. So when I ask myself, “How did I get here?” My mind rapidly rewinds the last fourteen years of my career, my growth and how much more unlocked potential I still have!
So every now and then I might look back, but I’m still twirling forward into whatever the future holds with a lot of glitter, red lipstick and a good attitude because Dani girl, you need to be bold… and who knows… maybe I will get to have my own show one day – you just never know.
For now I’m enjoying my extraordinary life as entrepreneur, wife and mama.