“Good life is expensive. There is a cheaper one, but it’s not life,” my parents used to say. It might not sound literally correct, but that stood for everything they did for the family: to make a living and create a better life for us. I carried that spirit on into my adult life.
I was born in Cali, Colombia in the late 1960’s, and lived there till I was 25. When I was little, we didn’t have much. My parents struggled financially, but they made sure we had enough to fulfill our basic needs. They tried on different jobs in pursuit of prosperity for the family. Later, my mother, being a strong and driven woman, initiated a family business selling handmade draperies to households. My father, while he had another job at the time, helped her on the side. That business marked a finite turning point in our family history.
It didn’t bring us wealth all at once, but it did take off gradually. I was about eight to nine years old when the business was first started, and it ran through my entire teenage and college years. I remember my sisters and I used to work a lot in the store; whenever there was no school, we would be there helping out our parents.
The startup of a new business was never without sweats or risks, but the hope, the prospect of a better future, made it all attractive. We fought tirelessly over the years and were able to bring our family from lower class to middle-upper class.
I graduated high school in 1985 and continued to attend college in Colombia, but at the same time I had a clear goal that I would one day move to the United States. Living in Colombia during the 1980’s was rough. There was a lot of violence due to the fights against the drug cartels. My mother had always been the visionary of the family. She saw clearly that things were going downhill and was adamant that we should stay away from the brutal situations and go to the US to make a better and safer living.
There was some back and forth in dealing with my visa and immigration status. I eventually moved here in 1993. Cincinnati in Ohio was my destination. By that time, my mother and three sisters were already here. My father had been divorced from my mother by then and didn’t come; he didn’t like the idea of moving here either. He continued with the family business back in Colombia.
Leaving everything behind, I started a new chapter of my life.
The excitement was soon drowned in the hard reality of fitting into a brand-new environment and looking for ways to make a sustainable living. Having family support close by made things a little easier, but for the larger part, I was still on my own.
Living in the US I quickly learnt that in order to find a good job, I needed to have more work experience. That realization pushed me back to school. I attended a local technical college for an associate’s degree to take advantage of their co-op program that could potentially give me the work experience I was seeking. It was a two-year program, but I managed to graduate in one year. With no exaggeration that was a rough year, as I was working full time at my co-op job while being a full-time student at the same time.
The hardship paid off. It helped me set on the right career path. I was able to find a job after graduation and make a living the way I intended to. From there on, I worked through several jobs for different companies before I landed on my current position as VP of Sales at a leading technology company five years ago. The position also gives me opportunities to go back and visit Colombia once in a while.
My early experience with the family business taught me to be strong and diligent. I know very well that money doesn’t grow on trees and that success only comes after hard work. It also made me a responsible person. I learnt to look at any job not just as an employee, but also from the employer’s perspective. These are valuable lessons that I inherited from my parents and my early life, and for that, I’m forever grateful.
It has been 24 years since I moved to Cincinnati. Looking back, I see a trail of hope and courage that constantly pushed me towards a greater, higher point. Life is not easy and may not even be fair sometimes, but we should not stop pursuing what’s better, whether it’s material possessions or moral strengths. And along the way, family is number one. For me it is.
This is the story of Gonzalo Herrera:
After spending the first 25 years of his life in Cali, Colombia, Gonzalo followed his mother and sisters’ footsteps and migrated to the United States. He found his love of life two years after he landed here, and it has since been an incredible ride. They brought in two beautiful kids, a boy and a girl, who are now eager to be who they want to be. The family loves gathering together, bringing the Colombian partying spirit into the US culture.
The Pursuit of the Better
"Good life is expensive. There is a cheaper one, but it's not life," my parents used to say. It might not sound…
Life Log #18