Paola from southern California first told us her story in 2018, and then again in 2019.  We have never shared it before now.  What follows is a compilation of her two essays:

“The world today gives you only one option:  it pushes you to determine how you will succeed in the challenges that it will throw at you carelessly.  No one really chooses to work in a place where the sun looks down at you as it burns your back.  [But] coming from my experience and my knowledge, there is so much to take from the fields.  The fields is what has proven [my family] to be strong, vivid people.

The agricultural industry has never been something to catch my attention until I found myself picking grapes in the fields.  Then I wondered how could such a job cause deep pain, from one day to the next.  I felt pain in my joints from the constant movement of my shoulders, at work my calves throbbed and my energy was completely drained.  It could have been because it was my first day the fact that I was absolutely clueless on how to use a wheelbarrow.  I could not begin to imagine what my parents felt having to work in the conditions of the fields to provide for my family, getting out of bed at dawn and pushing through the day.

Although I cannot complain about the job because it did provide for my family, and not all was bad, I was never left in need of anything.  I learned from the people around me and most importantly from the plants.  On my first day the grapes continuously slipped from my hands to the ground, probably because my hands were completely numb from the cold.  The wheelbarrow was killing my back.. little did I know I was in for a long day that would cause me tons of pain the next day.  I was literally crawling to get to the bathroom the very next day, my ankles were [in] tremendous pain and it’s a feeling I cannot forget.  Every day at work, despite the amount of dust in the eyes and the soreness of my body, I picture myself becoming a doctor, a cardiothoracic doctor to be exact.  The experience of working in the fields makes me dream bigger than big.  It put aside every other little thing so what is pain compared to my desire to reach my goal?

Then there came a time where my Mother was diagnosed with Valley Fever and I suddenly felt like my dreams were just dreams.  My mother put herself out there in the fields inhaling the same dust I would breathe in, [and she] was going through such a hard time because of the fungus inside of her.  She was in isolation for a long time and I began not to care about my dream.  The job as farm workers became my fear:  a place where I did not want to step foot because it could potentially ruin a person.  My mother is now well, but I began to think that any number of things could go wrong in the fields with [pesticides] and the amount of dust not to mention the heat etc.  When my mom got better she went back to work to keep providing for my sisters and I as well as my father did. 

I then got over whatever fear I had of the job; I then had more motivation to become the doctor I will become in order to provide aid to those like me who come from the background of farmworking and agriculture.  The pain of one day at work would soon become nothing to me because I truly have a desire to strive.”

Thank you, Paola, for sharing your story with us. You will surely succeed in everything you do!

We encourage farmworker children everywhere to continue telling their stories through our annual art & essay contest!