The Toy Car that Made Me, and the Real One that Broke Me

When I turned five, my parents gifted me the most sought-after birthday gift for any five-year-old in the 90s in 

America: A hot pink Barbie Corvette. Every single ride I took with that Barbie Corvette was pure bliss, but more importantly, this toy car was a symbol of pride for my parents. It was a symbol that they had made it. That all their hard work made it. That all those late nights my dad spent in the office inventing the next technology of the world – made it. 

In that moment, watching me drive my Barbie Corvette, my dad felt like a superhero. Little did I know that my dad would take that confidence and turn it into leaving his stable career and starting his own tech startup – like many others in the Silicon Valley at the time. At the height of the 90s dotcom bubble – investors and money and Barbie Corvettes galore – no one would have imagined that one day the bubble would burst. 

It did. 

The market crashed. And, like many others, my dad’s company crashed, too. Being the superhero my dad was, he tried hard to ensure we felt no instability or change. But I knew at that moment, my superhero needed a sidekick. Because I saw my superhero struggle to pay for my first car – not a hot pink Barbie Corvette, but a real car. 

And that profoundly changed my life. I saw the mental pressure of not knowing when the next round of funding would come in – thus, how he would pay for our home mortgage, our electricity bills, and for that damn car he wanted so badly to gift me. That is a wound that until today has not healed into a scar. 

The wound wasn’t about the money or the income instability. The wound was that as a young teen, I learned my superhero was not invincible after all. 

From that day on, my older brother and I vowed to step up for our family. I wanted to support my superhero, be his sidekick, and alleviate as much of his pressure as I could. That was the only way I thought I could heal that wound. 

That wound pushed me to get my first job at 15, working as an elf on the Santa photo set in the local mall. That taught me how to solve problems and think quickly. And I was just as quickly promoted to Mrs. Claus, mind you! 

That wound drove me to move out for college and relieve my family of the pressure of one more dependent – funded by loans that I pay back until today – and work full time while in college. That taught me how to manage my time and get the best education possible. That wound humbled me to choose the less prestigious internship in the field, not the city, because it was cheaper to get there; and, ever thankful I did, because that is where I learned how much harder others have it. That wound allowed me to turn my internship into a job, into a career, into a passion – working almost 18 hours a day for nearly two decades now. To enjoy the success I have achieved professionally, financially, and personally. That wound taught me to hustle. To succeed. 

And just as much as this was a wound, I realize now – as I write this – that this was the very wound that made me who I am and always will be. 

My father’s daughter.

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