Aug 22, 2019

When all is said and done

I wanted to write a story that would leave readers pondering life.

I wanted to convey a message that would give you a sense of hope — something you can grasp and hold on to. Something solid and nonmalleable to take with you, as if I understand anything that happens, ever.

After two hours of typing and deleting and changing points and punctuation, I gave up on forcing it. And this is what you’re reading instead — the sincere rambling of a chronically worried, insecure, underachieving, wannabe perfectionist who has recently realized that the world isn’t such a bad place.

The most important lesson I’m taking from my college experience is that, in the end, we are all the same, and humanity always prevails.

I saw the world differently when I first set out what feels like a hundred years ago to conquer the beast that is higher education. I was without ammo; without the necessary weapons — confidence, hopefulness, self-resilience — to slay the insecurity and hesitance within myself and ultimately, within humanity — all of you.

For semesters, I slunk into classrooms doubtingly, with my defenses high and very little room for social connections involving more than a “hello” and “see ya.”

I was, after all, the only person in the world with problems.

And I thrived on those problems, never looking for a solution, only more problems. It defined me because I let it. I happily played the role of the down-and-out victim.

Maybe I was this way because I could not see past the tip of my own nose. I didn’t see the struggle on the faces of my classmates, faces I saw every day.

I didn’t consider that somebody else was just as poor as I and entangled in bouts of bad luck — being without a car, moneyless, overwhelmed and without family or genuine friends.

Slowly, by chance and with resistance, I met people who were biting bullets of their own. Some were my age, others a few years younger. Some were professors.

They have been there all along, sitting under my egotistical umbrella, seeking the same assurance.

Within the past six months alone, I’ve met students and professors who have opened up about their issues with depression, money, family, love and death — every taboo subject in the book.

Last week, 10 minutes before I was due on stage for a presentation, I received a disheartening phone call. In a moment of weakness, I thought, “Why me?”

My professor, who could tell that I was shaken, took me out of class, held my hand and shared her own discouraging experiences.

I was floored. A grown woman with a job and family and income was telling me that she understood me, a 25-year-old student who had no idea where she was heading.

A few days ago, a newly found friend told me that I was “living the dream” — going to school, working for the newspaper, gaining experience and moments in the spotlight. And this came from a single mother who would give anything to go to college.

I never considered this as the dream and maybe that’s the problem. I dwelled on the “where and when” instead of the why.

Another student, with whom I’ve recently become close, is living the life I’ve lived for the past four years.

She is submerged in hopelessness, sadness and it’s affecting her education. When she describes her life and the way she feels, it’s as if I’m staring into a mirror. When did my experiences become relatable?

I started to see the world from the very edge of my own nose, and I have to say, the view from here is spectacular.

Once I stepped out of my self-loathing box and opened my eyes, it’s actually a wonderful place to be.

For years, I have walked around in this selfish haze, thinking, “I’ve got to get out of this place,” and “If only I would have made this choice and that choice.”

Instead, I should have made the best of a discouraging and seemingly impossible situation because, one day, I was going to see that it was worth it.

And it totally was.

Today, as I prepare for graduation with a fresh outlook, I am surrounded by new friends, outstanding coworkers and unpredictably nurturing teachers.

I was once told by another insightful professor that each student should want to leave his or her own mark on this campus — a legacy, something of which to be proud.

I struggled with this idea for three years.

What does one have to do to “leave a mark?” Does it have to be extravagant? Does it need to be revolutionary or deserving of a bronze statue bust?

What could I possibly do to leave my mark on Fresno State?

And now I know.

I have triumphed against the odds. Despite trials and tribulations, I am alive, healthy and according to a piece of paper, educated. I beat friendlessness, near homelessness, depression, critics and criticism.

I learned the importance of compassion and kindness, openness and honesty.

I am hopeful that my legacy is one of friendship, support and consideration for others, even if it’s recognized only by those who knew me.

Above all, my college experience taught me that, when you need it most, humanity does indeed prevail.

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