By Danika Dellor, Executive Director of WANDA
Recently, I had the honor of being recognized as a Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, culminating at a lovely celebratory dinner in San José. It was an evening filled with powerful and thoughtful statements as each of us was asked to summarize our bio in just six words. “Raised by latchkey, powered by sarcasm,” my six-word bio, perfectly captures the essence of my journey. It succinctly represents the challenges I faced growing up as an urban latchkey child of a single mother, while also highlighting the transformative power of sarcasm as a coping mechanism. My alternative could have been, “never let them see you sweat,” but alas, it was taken.
As a Gen X’er, I understand the inclination to adopt a quasi-indifferent demeanor, using irony and sarcasm as shields for our deeper emotions. Although we may appear ironic, juvenile, and casually indifferent, underneath the surface, we do take everything seriously. My cohort growing up was amongst other latchkeys, many raised by single mothers, and I have come to appreciate the strength and resilience that emerged from our shared experiences.
Poverty is traumatic, shaping our worldview and leaving lasting imprints on our lives. Being raised in such circumstances, I faced financial struggles and uncertainty. Sarcasm became my coping mechanism, offering a shield against the hardships and instability of life. I learned to view the underlying trauma with sardonic humor, transforming it into a source of strength. My superpower, Sarcasm, enabled me to navigate challenges and redefine myself as a victor rather than a victim.
My mother, despite her own financial challenges, demonstrated a steadfast commitment to my well-being. She made immense sacrifices as a single mother, ensuring that the time we spent together, although at times limited, was light, fun, and joyful, even if not an “experience,” expensive, or remotely epic. I have read many articles disparaging latchkeys as neglected, insecure, and doomed for chronic anxiety. Well, we were also responsible, independent, creative, and frankly, well-equipped to navigate uncertainty, isolation, and remain resilient in the unknown. It’s a strength that has proven invaluable, particularly in times like the pandemic.
Mom helped me gain invaluable financial knowledge and independence. She prioritized education, helping me attend a school that was within our means, and encouraged me to pursue financial aid and scholarships. She played a pivotal role in building my financial foundation, teaching me how to build credit responsibly and how to avoid falling into debt traps. As a result, I graduated debt-free with a Master’s degree and established a stellar credit score, opening doors of opportunity for my future. My mother, having faced crippling debt herself, was committed to ensuring I wouldn’t confront the same financial pitfalls.
The sarcasm and irony often associated with Generation X can be misunderstood as defense mechanisms or signs of apathy. However, they signify our strength and resilience in the face of adversity. My journey as a latchkey child, empowered by sarcasm, has shaped me into an individual who confronts life’s challenges with humor, determination, and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices my mother made and prioritize the things that truly matter. Her guidance has instilled in me a sense of initiative, independence, and overall self-efficacy that extends far beyond financial matters. In the midst of difficulties, I maintain an outward pessimism while nurturing an inner optimism, finding a way to laugh and navigate life with grit, exasperation, and determination.