They Paved My Way

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

| This the 44th story on Our Life Logs |

I grew up in the southern part of Spain in a beautiful city called Cordoba in the 1980s and 1990s. I had a great upbringing. I was raised by my parents and nurtured by travel. These were the building blocks that paved the road I have walked, the same road that has led me to the success I have today. I hope to lay down my own path as I walk towards the future.

Cordoba is an agricultural village with no large factories or rapidly expanding technology development. Though large in land, Cordoba had a relatively small population. It was safe to walk and catch a bus as a small child. My parents had moved there after they graduated college.

Roman bridge in Cordoba, Spain.

My parents were the first people in both of their families to graduate college. None of my grandparents were able to go to school or read as children. They were made to stay home and work on their family farms, given the nature of the agricultural communities. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were poor as children, but very driven. They remained frugal into their and steadfast into their adulthood so that they could accumulate enough money to send their children to any college they wanted to attend. Consequently, my father became an agricultural engineer, and my mother became a dermatologist with her own practice. My parents continued this philosophy of education, as they were immensely frugal in order to send me to the college of my choice.

When I was two years old, my maternal grandmother passed away, and my maternal grandfather came to live with my family. Although he did not attend school, or even learn to read as a child, he taught himself how to read by the time he turned 24, and briefly wrote for the local paper. Later he joined the army and became a telecommunications officer.

I don’t think it was on purpose, but I was influenced by my grandfather in many aspects of my adult life. My grandfather read a lot and loved classic literature. He would push me to read the newspaper, and showed me books about Greece, and Italy, and other places, developing my desire to travel and absorb the culture of other countries.

My parents had a hand in my interests as well. They sent me to an English academy from ages 7-8, and at age 12, where I could learn the language. Between the ages of 13 and 15, one month out of the year, my parents would send me to Dublin or London to study language. We often took family vacations and trips to other countries, and I learned so much of the cultures of others.

I was travelling at an early age, but not always with my family. I started playing basketball at age five and bloomed very quickly. By the time I was 10, I was taller than my father, standing at about 6’4”. My height and my skill were promising, and so I was picked to go to one of the top academies in my country at the age of 10 to train for a professional basketball league. During this time, I travelled a lot with the teammates and coaches for games and tournaments. It was a growing period to have to adapt to new situations and new cultures without having your parents guide you.

I continued to play basketball throughout high school but decided I wouldn’t sign to play for a college. I stopped growing at 6’6” and knew I wasn’t quick enough to play at the professional level, so I resolved to enjoy playing when I could, and focus on my studies.

I went to college in my home country, in a city called Seville.  The engineering school I attended is infamous for its rigorous and old school approach. I was always intelligent and tested well in primary school. I would play basketball for the national team, and study very little because my grades were always good. I used to be able to get away with not giving it a lot of effort. But this school was different. It was more of a lifestyle than a school, with instruction from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday through Sunday. After struggling for two years, I decided to put my head down, and work hard to excel. After all, I attended the school for a reason. Of the 600 people that started with me as freshmen, only 50 graduated, and I was one of them.

I left Spain and did graduate work in Sweden first to learn more about what I was interested in, and eventually received a Master’s in Telecommunications Engineering. Here I was able to apply concepts I learned in Seville, but with a more practical approach. I knew I liked computer coding and designing network connections, but I knew I couldn’t do it my whole life. I wanted customer to customer interaction, so I studied business. After Sweden, I did more graduate work in the United States, and found my passion while studying at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. I got my MBA from Xavier in 2011.

By the time I finished all my schooling, I was in my mid-20s and eager to join the workforce. I interviewed at a multitude of places but had terrible luck at first. Since I was from Spain in the US without a green card, some corporations had no interest in hiring me even if I got a work visa.

One place did finally give me a chance, and it’s where I’ve been working ever since. I started as an intern and worked my way up to a full-time employee. From there, I transitioned to be a manager of one of its sister companies and now oversee all its employees.

As I settled into a career, I began taking time to spend with my family. My parents and brother would come to visit me when they could. It was thanks to my brother that I met my wife. My brother and I are opposites. He loves to go out to the clubs and go dancing, while I prefer to go to low-key functions. While he was visiting, he insisted that I take him out to the clubs in Cincinnati. I agreed and gathered friends, so we could plan a night out. We were in a club downtown playing human-sized Jenga. I went to pull a block near the bottom and fell over pulling it out. When I fell backward, I fell right into the woman I’m now lucky to call my wife.

We started talking and getting to know each other and exchanged numbers. She was my dream girl. Being 6’7”, I usually tower over women, but she was also over six feet tall. I learned she had also played basketball and had set a couple of records in her high school. She was my perfect match.

We dated for a few years before we decided to settle down and get married. She was from the west side of Cincinnati, so I moved there with her and we settled in her parents’ old house. This made my commute to work much longer, but I was willing to make that sacrifice for her. We now have our nine-month-old son to raise together, and I couldn’t be happier.

I look back at my life with awe and gratitude. My family encouraged me to purse my interests and fostered an adaptability within me. I was able to search the world to find education, understanding, and the woman I love. I hope to pave the way for my children, as did those who raised me.

This is the story of Gerardo Calvo

Originally from Spain, Gerardo now lives in Cincinnati with his wife and son. He grew up with a supportive family and was encouraged to travel and pursue his passions. He is grateful his early life and is now creating his own life where he can continue the legacy of love and strength. He is pursuing a professional career as a manager of a mid-sized technology company. In his spare time, Gerardo plays basketball, hunts, and enjoys spending time with his family.

Gerardo holding his son.

This story first touched our hearts on June 9, 2017.

| Writer: Colleen Walker | Editor: Manqing Jin; Kristen Petronio |

#Spain #privilege #education #travel #pavingtheway #passion #career

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