I am starting a new series on this blog called “Inside the Junk Drawer,” in which I will explore certain experiences (mainly old works of writing) that I have shut away for a while, and reflect on how I feel now. Let me know what you think!
I wrote an article with the same title (What It’s Really Like…) almost exactly two years ago, after finishing my first fall quarter at UCSB. I remember listening to the opinions editor of The Bottom Line (where I have worked for almost three years) pitch an article about what it is like to be the first person in your family to attend university. I remember looking around and not seeing any writers raising their hands to write the story. And I remember volunteering to be the one to do it.
I had never written an op-ed in college before, and so I didn’t know what to expect. The editor seemed like she wanted a story with a lot of bite, one that would give the readers the inside scoop about “what it’s really like” to be one of “us,” one of the kids whose parents did not attend college. She seemed really excited to be publishing an article like this, but I wasn’t so sure.
Today, while listening to a podcast about college experiences, I remembered the article I wrote back then. To be honest I don’t know why I forgot about it. I take pride in all of my work, but soon after this piece was published, I shoved it aside, stuck it in my mental junk drawer, and never paid any mind to it again. Sure, I knew my name would always be attached to it, but it wasn’t something that I thought was extraordinary or worthy of recognition. The article, as it still exists today, is a simple story of my experiences and how I felt after my first quarter. No angst, no deep regrets or resentment, just a reflection and an honest opinion. That’s what I intended.
But looking back on these past two, almost three years since beginning school at UCSB, I am wondering if anything has changed. Do I still feel this way? “College is hard but I am doing it for myself and it doesn’t matter what happens or how many other people have their lives figured out because I am trying my best and this is a big deal in my family…” ?
Since writing the article, I have definitely moved forward in my college career. I have realized which friends really are lasting, advanced in my roles at the paper, happened upon love, maintained a stable on campus job, realized what I really want to study…I feel comfortable. I feel happy. I have always craved more and wanted more for myself, but after coming here and learning and growing, I feel good. I feel right.
When I wrote the op-ed two years ago, I thought that is is okay to struggle if I know I am trying my best, and that life is hard but I am living for myself and nobody else. Sure, these are truths that still hold, but I think my outlook is more than that. I have accomplished a sort of self reflection and realized that it is okay to be doing something for other people. And it is okay to not have it together all the time. And sometimes, comparing my personal goals and life’s path to others’ is healthy, if it motivates me to try harder and be a better version of myself. I am going to college for myself, yes. But I am also going to make my family proud, and my future family proud. And at the end of the day, if I am happy with this, if this motivates me, well…then that is exactly how it should be.
… Still reading? Here’s some photos through the years.