55 – You Wanna Do What?! with Monica Rivera (Part 2)

Following up from the last episode about how Monica Rivera became her own best friend, this time Monica tells us how her inner critic inspired her to start her own business coaching enterprise for women of color aptly named YOU WANNA DO WHAT?!

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There’s also the question many childfree Latinas grapple with—thanks to the toxic cultural habit that allows too many people to feel comfortably asking: what’s your legacy if you aren’t having children? First of all, that’s a bingo AND a really narrow view of what legacy means. 

Because of her early life experiences, Monica knows she’ll never have children. But she will still leave a legacy that’s equally as important to her, her chosen family, and her clients.

If you’re interested in business coaching with Monica, she invites you to book a free 45-minute clarity call to see if coaching is a fit.

About Monica:
Monica Rivera (she/her) is a speaker, a reformed self-doubter, and a business coach with a passion for building empowering communities. With over two decades worth of marketing experience, Monica has climbed the corporate ladder working in various Fortune 500 companies.

Drawing on her own challenging experiences, Monica founded YOU WANNA DO WHAT?!, a coaching practice dedicated to helping women of color build personal brands and businesses around their passions. Monica is a TEDx speaker and has been featured in Business Insider, O Magazine, NPR, Ladies Get Paid, The Huffington Post, and more.

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Transcript

[00:00] Paulette: Buen dia, mi gente, and welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the only Spanglish podcast for child free Latinas y Latinas trying to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up in so that we can live our best lives instead. I’m your resident child free Latina and host, Paulette Erato. This is part two of the interview with business coach Monica Rivera that started with last week’s episode.

[00:26] I broke this into two episodes because, well, that first one was a little bit heavy, but like I mentioned, we also moved again. Anyway, in the first part of the episode, Monica took us through her painful childhood, its impact on her launch into adulthood, and how she flipped her grief and loneliness into the ability to become her own best friend. And how a lot of that came from curiosity and exploring who she could be in places outside of where she grew up.

[00:58] She is a strong, resilient, passionate, intelligent Latina who also happens to be child free. Did I mention I’m a huge fan of hers? She’s my people. And that’s just one of the toxic cultural norms we’re going to tackle today. The pushback against being child free. Not in an aggressive kind of way. This isn’t Twitter or X or whatever we’re calling it.

[01:20] We don’t argue with trolls here. But in the way that we just live our lives as examples of how your best life can look. Also, Monica helps women of color design their best lives by going after what they want so they can have the lives that they’ve been dreaming of. You can see why I love her! But first she’s going to walk us through the leap she made into coaching.

[01:41] You’ll notice how she had to examine the stories she told herself about what she was allowed to do. And how she was able to discard that when the stories stopped being true. I have an episode about that very thing, which I’ll link you in the show notes. In this episode, though, Monica talks about how she used her inner critic and naming her company and podcast.

[02:03] And how she tapped into her curiosity to see if she liked something, and wasn’t afraid to make mistakes in exploring her desires. Plus, we’re going to cover her legacy. Don’t forget that Monica is also offering listeners interested in designing their best lives a free 45 minute clarity call to see if coaching is a fit for you.

[02:24] To kick this off, here’s how she answered the question I posed to her at the end of last episode, which was:

[02:31] so how did it move from Corporate Monica to Coach Monica.

[02:37] Monica: Yeah, so it really was, I think, an accumulation of feeling really fed up with wanting to just be more and do more with myself. And there was this moment where I remember I had started interviewing at other companies and I thought, well, it must be the company.

[02:51] And so I’m, I’m sitting in this woman’s office and she has this beautiful view behind her. And it was an interview for marketing speakerphones. And she was so excited about marketing speakerphones. And I remember thinking, I don’t give a shit about marketing speakerphones right now. And I can never be as excited as this woman is in this moment.

[03:13] And I keep looking over her shoulder because I’m thinking, wow, it is a beautiful day in Manhattan right now. I want to be out there. And I realized it didn’t have anything to do with her or her company or my current company at the time. It was just, I was ready to do something else. And I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

[03:32] I remember having stories of when I was little, I loved words. I wanted to open a Hallmark shop because I loved words. And I love the feeling that a good card could give someone else. And that was like one of my first ideas. And I wanted to be a writer and I had all of these big dreams. And so I said, well, I think it’s time to do this.

[03:52] And I realized that I had been in survival mode for such a long time that it didn’t even dawn on me that there was an opportunity to do something else professionally. Other than what I had been doing. But not only that, but almost programmed to think that I had to do because I didn’t have a safety net, right?

[04:11] And so I thought, well, I just have to make money and that’s, that’s what I do. And all these other dreams, like those are nonsense and that’s silly. And that was for another Monica in another lifetime. And I realized that I was still operating my back against the wall. And the funny thing about it is when your back is literally against the wall, you only have that 180 degree view.

[04:32] But if you take just two steps forward, it gives yourself the ability to turn around, you have a 360 degree view, and now you have options. And so this whole time I had spent really just limiting the options that were available to me. And once I took a couple of steps up, I said, Oh, I can play and try these other things.

[04:51] Like I’m not quitting my job. I’m going to just see what sticks and see what I like to do. And I loved marketing. I just wanted to do it for myself and for the people that I wanted to help. And that’s really what happened. I just started that way.

[05:07] Paulette: And it’s called, you want to do what?

[05:09] Monica: Yeah, because that’s, that’s exactly what I told myself when I thought, why are you going to rock the boat?

[05:15] Why are you going to start a podcast? Why are you going to start doing these other things? It was my inner monologue saying, you want to do what? No one’s going to listen to this. No one’s going to want to buy this. I kept doubting myself and I thought I can’t be the only person that thinks you want to do what when you have a big idea.

[05:32] Paulette: So what were the steps then that got you from that day when you had the conversation with yourself to today?

[05:40] Monica: I started podcasting. So I listened to podcasts for so total now present day for about 15 years. And I listened to a podcast by Bill Simmons, because as I mentioned, I really do love sports. And he was someone who basically he didn’t go to journalism school, but he knew he loved sports.

[05:58] He wanted to write about sport and by hook or by crook, he was going to get there. And so he has a very long story that is worth reading. But I will say listening to his podcast, it’s very conversational. He brought on his dad who was in, I think his late sixties at the time when he started and he had a college buddies on and they talk about sports and reality TV.

[06:18] And I felt like, honestly, I was eavesdropping on a conversation. And I remember thinking, not only can I do that, but also like, this is really cool. Like having this connection in someone’s ears to have this real intimate conversation with them about anything you want. And that’s what I’ve loved about podcasting is that there’s really an audience for everyone. And every topic you want to talk about, you can find someone who also wants to listen to you.

[06:45] You just have to dig a little deeper in certain niches, but it’s all available to you. And so I started the podcast and from there, I just really kept going for these wonderful opportunities. So the next year I was named a fellow by NPR. And it was part of their NPR Next Gen radio program, which felt very strange because Next Gen applies that you’re young.

[07:07] And I wasn’t young at the time because I had this corporate career. And so that was a very interesting moment of imposter syndrome. I’ll say that when I was first in the room selected to do that, but I kept taking the shot. I said, I’m going to take the shots. I’m going to have the big swing. Because why not?

[07:25] Like this is, it feels like I’m playing with house money at this point. Why not go for these things? And from there, other things started to open up and I just got these amazing experiences. One that I went for and two, because I was always putting myself out there, people would start to remember me and then invite me into spaces with these other opportunities.

[07:47] And I realized like, okay, I’ve done this now myself, I’ve created an opportunity I’m laying for myself outside of my nine to five. I want to help other people do the same. And then I just, from the podcast started to open it up to people that I met that were like, Hey, you know, can you coach me? Can you help me understand how to do this?

[08:05] And so I did that very quietly and privately for a few years. And then I opened up my business more publicly.

[08:12] Paulette: Are you still working in corporate or is it just, oh, okay. That’s cool. I like that you’re doing both.

[08:19] Monica: Yeah.

[08:20] Paulette: You said something earlier about how you didn’t feel like you had your own opinions or your own hobbies. When did that change? Because just now you talked about how you broadened your lane. And so there was clearly an evolution that happened on top of everything else, on top of the growing up and everything else. So when did you realize that now you were your own person and you could have these hobbies and desires that were fully yours?

[08:46] Monica: I think I always had my own opinion, that’s for sure. I definitely had my own point of view from like a very early, early little person. I remember being three or four years old and having very strong opinions because I would recognize the looks that people would give me when I would say my opinion.

[09:02] But I would say when I started to flex more of what I wanted to do for myself creatively, probably started to happen kind of a little bit in my twenties in the sense of I would, I started to write again. So I used to write when I was a kid. And then in my twenties, I would say probably late twenties, I started to pick up writing again. But again, just for myself, it wasn’t a blog, it wasn’t for public consumption, it was just to awaken those parts of myself again.

[09:29] And then I think the interesting thing about the curiosity and exploration is I did a lot of things that I really didn’t like. Like I gave it a try and found myself in circumstances that this is ridiculous, this is not for me, which is really fun because it helps you understand the things that you really do like to do.

[09:47] And so, I just leaned into more of those things, and so the podcasting, for example, was one of them. Also, exercise. I started to really kind of connect again with my body. I think I was disconnected from myself for a really long time, and people can psychoanalyze all of that, because sure, I’ve done it to myself, psychoanalyze it.

[10:07] But I started to do things like Spartan races and Tough Mudders, which are like these intense obstacle course races. And I would train for that. And I just, sometimes I would do them on my own, which is kind of wild because people usually do them as, as part of a team.

[10:21] But those were the things that I just experimented with and realized, now I have a set of things that I really love to do, but I’m also really curious. So if someone invites me to do something, or there’s a book that seems even tangentially interesting, I’m going to read it. If I have a question that pops in my mind, I don’t let the question go. I figure out what the answer is.

[10:43] And then sometimes that sends me down a rabbit hole, but I just continue to follow the curiosity. And it leads me to extraordinary places.

[10:50] Paulette: You follow the curiosity. And it takes you to extraordinary places. That is a powerful statement.

[11:00] Monica: Yes, I mean, I, I fully believe it. I think that if more of us allowed ourselves to do that, we’ll be so surprised at where it leads us.

[11:09] But so often we think that there’s more to lose than there is to gain. And it’s tiny experiments. If you need to gamify it for yourself, that this is an experiment, this is not a leap, then call it an experiment. But just try, every once in a while, to pull the thread on the sweater and see if you end up with a sleeveless dress.

[11:29] Right? Okay, I had a sweater, now I have a sleeveless dress. But it’s, it’s going to lead you to something, whether you’re going to find out you really don’t like it, or you’re going to fall in love with something new, but there’s nothing lost in like really following that curiosity.

[11:42] And I have to say, I never would have thought listening to a podcast that when my friend first recommended, my question was, what’s a podcast? Would lead me to all of the places that I’ve gone to today because I follow that curiosity.

[11:56] Paulette: And the places that you’ve been just looking at your website. Oprah, NPR, Time Magazine. Those aren’t small corners of the internet. Those are huge multimedia conglomerates. That’s a big deal.

[12:07] Monica: Thank you.

[12:08] Paulette: How did it feel attaining each of those?

[12:11] Monica: It’s interesting that you asked that. So I had an opportunity to speak at the New York Times recently.

[12:18] And that’s when I was like, wow, I just spoke at the New York Times. And I say that not to like name drop a place, but only because I’ve had such a hard time congratulating myself or celebrating things that I’ve done. It’s felt like, unless it’s curing the world of a disease, it doesn’t deserve to be celebrated.

[12:41] Which is so wild because I am, oftentimes, someone else is cheerleader. But for myself, I have such high standards or it’s so hard for me to celebrate certain things. So there have been moments in there where I’m like, wow, that was really great. I’m really proud of myself for doing that. And then there’s other times where I almost feel almost heads down.

[13:03] Just keep going, just try to get to the next thing. And so I often try to figure out what’s happening inside me when I’m not celebrating enough or where I’m, I’m not taking the opportunity to enjoy. But it’s an interesting ride that I’ve been on for sure of where I can have moments where I celebrate and other times, I don’t know if I appreciate it as much.

[13:25] Paulette: Isn’t that something?

[13:26] Monica: Yeah, it is.

[13:27] Paulette: So in all of this, you talked about a chosen family because you have no more biological family and yet you’re child free. Do you think that the loss of biological family informed that?

[13:39] Monica: Absolutely. 100 percent. Absolutely.

[13:43] Paulette: Tell me more.

[13:44] Monica: It’s been interesting because not everyone will understand this. And I think in anything, when something cataclysmic happens, you can usually go one of two ways. I’m sure there’s more paths, but it’s typically one or two. And it’s either I’m going to create this really large family to replace the family that I lost, or I’m going to make the choice to not have any children, and that is the choice that I made for myself.

[14:09] The feeling of losing my family, it was so devastating and so strong that I could never imagine doing that to my child. And the thought of if that could even happen is too overwhelming. And because of that, I made the decision to not have children.

[14:30] Paulette: That was a very deliberate, conscious decision. So before all of that happened, before your grandmother died and the domino effect, did you think you might want children?

[14:42] Monica: I did. I think I had this very idyllic view of after I turned 21, I graduate from college, my boyfriend, who was yet to be determined, and I are going to get married and then we’re going to have our first kid at 24. And I remember having these conversations as a kid with my childhood best friend, where it was all very planned, like we had the entire timeline of our future planned. And it’s so funny when you think back of what you thought life was going to be and where you are.

[15:11] And you contrast those two things, sometimes it’s like a wonderful surprise, and other times you think like, wow, that is so different than what I imagined for myself. And in this instance, it is very different than what I imagined for myself. Because I did think that, but I think more so because that is just the way it works.

[15:30] Right? And it was like, that’s how society works. And that’s how being Latina and that external thought of like, of course, you’re going to be a mom and that feeling. But I will say this. I’ve never had that pull that some women feel of I’m meant to be a mother. Like I never had that feeling. And for a while, I actually considered adoption and I thought, well, adoption would be great because I know what a gift it could be to adopt a child and give them a home.

[15:58] Because for years, I remember being in my mid to late 20s thinking, like, I just wish somebody would adopt me. Because I really missed, I missed having a mom, I missed being parented, right? That that’s not really kind of talked about really. But what that feels like to just have someone make you soup when you feel sick or just any of those things.

[16:22] And I just thought about what that was going to be like. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself. I thought so deeply about this future child that didn’t exist. And I knew that I loved them enough to not want them to experience the pain that I felt.

[16:40] Paulette: You’re just dropping all the gems. The future child that you loved so much that you couldn’t put them through the pain.

[16:49] I don’t think anyone, I’ve ever heard anyone talk about being child free in that way. And so that’s really remarkable. Thank you.

[16:58] Monica: Of course. Yeah, absolutely.

[17:00] Paulette: So how does the chosen family play into that? You mentioned a niece.

[17:05] Monica: Yeah. I have a five year old niece who is incredible. And so my chosen family are friends that I’ve had for 20 plus years.

[17:13] And they had a daughter, and from the moment I was there, throughout the delivery process, and I think stepped out right before she came into the world, but I was there during the labor process, I should say, and I love her to pieces. There’s not a day that’s gone by that I haven’t FaceTimed her in the morning to say good morning.

[17:32] Even as a newborn, when she can’t see three feet past her face, I was just there to say hello and to say good morning. And she is such a joy. But I do have to say as much as I love her, it also reinforces my decision to not have kids. Because there are moments where I see her experience loss in her life, where it might be a friend that she’s best friends with moves to another school.

[17:58] Just even that pain of seeing her feel sad is a reminder of why I chose not to do that. There’s no way I could protect anybody from anything. But that desire to want to protect someone from the pain is still so strong that I have to remind myself that I can’t control all of these things. But I, I love her to pieces and she is such a gift and it has been able to satisfy any part of me that may have had a lingering feeling.

[18:31] It is completely okay because I channel those things into her. I’m still able to share experiences of her. I’ve passed traditions onto her. She asked me recently, Titi, where are your parents? Right. And it was like such an interesting way to have a conversation with someone who’s five about that. And then she asked like, Oh, what do they look like?

[18:52] I want to see them. And it was just this really special moment of being able to share them with her in this way that wasn’t heavy, but just answering her questions. And she got to see them and then that was the end of the conversation because she’s five and her mind went off to something else. But it was also really beautiful to be able to have that with her.

[19:10] Paulette: Yeah. Oh, I can imagine. She calls you Titi.

[19:14] Monica: Yeah, she does.

[19:15] Paulette: Is she also of Puerto Rican and Cuban background?

[19:18] Monica: She is Puerto Rican and Peruvian.

[19:20] Paulette: So for those of you watching who speak Spanish and have never heard the term Titi, that is what us Caribbean people say. Mostly Puerto Ricans, sometimes Cubans, but always Puerto Ricans, like listen to a Bad Bunny song.

[19:32] Titi me pregunto. So, we are titis. I love being a titi. My brothers both having children has been really fun from the sidelines. There has been heartbreak, of course, because as we grow up, of course, the friends move away and we, we watch them experience loss. And I did a whole episode on how child free people do not hate children.

[19:57] Especially when there are important ones in our lives. There are people who hate children.

[20:02] Monica: Yes, that’s true.

[20:03] Paulette: Some of those are parents. Clearly, you don’t hate kids. You talked about the love you have for a child that is so deep that you couldn’t bear one.

[20:12] Monica: Yeah, I love kids. I really do. I love kids.

[20:15] Paulette: Mm hmm. I think all kids have great potential.

[20:18] And what I want for more than anything is for all kids to grow up to be happy, fulfilled, and, and doing good in this world.

[20:26] Monica: Absolutely. I agree.

[20:28] Paulette: So I’m putting that out there. Universe should have heard that one. The thing I talk about a lot with child free people is legacy because this concept of having one is, is, is important.

[20:40] It’s an important social tradition. And I question a lot of social traditions because I think a lot of them are toxic and you wanted to talk about legacy. So what does that look like for you?

[20:50] Monica: It’s interesting, yes, and thanks for allowing me to do that. So, legacy is so interesting because, especially as Latinas, it’s often thought about your children, right?

[21:02] And so, for me, I’ve had to really grapple with that, and I’ve thought about it for a really long time of what will my legacy be? I think we all want to feel as if we’ve left footsteps behind us, that we actually were here. And, I’ve thought about like, well, what is that going to look like for me? Will anyone remember that I was here?

[21:22] And so I think that the work that we’re doing now with our podcast, that is part of leaving a legacy. With the clients that hopefully I’m helping as much as they helped me create businesses and create experiences and have more money for either themselves or for their children or for whoever they are saving it for.

[21:41] Like, those are the ways that I believe that I’m leaving legacy. But I knew, that when I was working just in corporate, that I wasn’t going to be leaving my legacy that way. And it’s not to say that someone else can’t create a path forward. But for me, I felt as long as there was someone else’s name on the masthead and there was nothing that just was by Monica, it just felt as if that wasn’t going to be sufficient for me.

[22:09] And so it’s really in the lives that I touch. And in the words that I leave in the archives of the podcast episode, in the things that I’ve written, in the clients that I’ve coached, in the material that I’ve put out into the world, that’s what I hope will be the lasting legacy. And I hope that people remember. The best compliment I can get from someone is when they say, you’ve made me feel seen.

[22:32] And so if I can continue to help other people feel seen, that is a legacy worth leaving.

[22:39] Paulette: That’s beautiful. Thank you for, thank you for sharing everything that you shared today. I think the way that we make people feel and, and making someone feel seen is very valuable.

[22:52] Monica: Yes.

[22:53] Paulette: Monica, thank you so much. Like I said, you dropped all sorts of gems, so thank you for all of that.

[22:58] I will have links to everywhere to find you and book a call and all of these things in the show notes and in the description. Is there anything else you’d like to say? Anything else you want to impart to the audience?

[23:10] Monica: Well, really, I just want to thank you again for just creating this space that exists that people need and to have these conversations. And even the podcast can serve as a conversation starter for other people that might want to talk about this but don’t feel like they have a natural entry point to do that.

[23:26] And you are creating spaces every single time you release an episode for people to be able to have the hard conversations. So, mostly I just want to thank you really for holding space for me and also for thinking about your audience as well.

[23:37] Paulette: Thank you so much. So we’ve reached the end of the time here.

[23:41] Monica: That’s a burrito.

[23:43] Paulette: Do you got something to say about this week’s episode? DM me on Instagram, at Paulette Erato. And, if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website, at pauletteerato. com. All of these links are in the show notes. While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast, so could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend?[24:06] New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos. Muchísimas gracias for your support, y hasta la próxima vez, cuídate bien.

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