"This is who I am"
College Writing 1, Dr. Jennifer Fife
I am a first-generation woman of color and I am extremely proud of myself and the accomplishments I have achieved. I have fought so many battles to get to where I am today. I have heard and experienced experiences that I would not wish upon anybody. Who I am and where I came from impacted my motivations and my way of seeing this world.
Growing up, I begged God to change my appearance because I was not what others liked, I wasn’t the perfect girl that people hoped I became. I hated the way I looked and the way I spoke. I suffered as a little girl with the expectations that society and family had thrown at me. I must study hard but not too hard to ignore my family. I must participate in school, but not so much to forget about my responsibilities back at home. I must graduate and find a good job for my parents. I must have friends, but remember that I am a girl and boys can do anything. I must not dress a certain way because boys might get the wrong idea. I must remember to be careful with what I say or else boys might think I am leading them on. Everything revolved around what society thought and what others might think of me. For years, I've carried this weight on my shoulders to be perfect to the world and to my parents. Everyday I stare into my mirror and I tell myself that the color of my skin is there to stay, my accent is what makes me special, and my family are the ones who push me everyday to be the best I can be. I can not change the dark path that I was placed during those years, and I can not change the stabbing words people have thrown at me for being different. Having to deal with criticism, sexism and mental abuse for years took a big toll in my life. Although I suffered, I grew to change my mentality for the better. The excruciating pain showed me the way I did not want to live life.
There are things that I can change about who I am and where I go now. I believe that I can change what path I take now. I did not want to go to college. My parents had no money for me to go and they did not save a penny. They didn’t believe in me or maybe they didn’t want me to go to college, because I would be a burden to them. My parents never talked to me about college or a future after high school. I heard all my friends talk about how their parents were so supportive and held a college fund for them. Towards the end of my senior year, I took control of my future. I signed up for many scholarships. If I were able to obtain one, I could start somewhere. Every scholarship caused butterflies in my stomach, but not the good ones that fill you with joy and excitement. I felt the ones that didn’t let me sleep at night, the ones that fought and filled me with fear and anxiety. As days passed the thumping in my heart rose and rose. The pain came to an end when I received a scholarship that would pay for my whole tuition. Those endless nights of worry paid off at the end. My education was mine and only mine. The voices in my head who kept yelling at me to stay back finally got quiet. I wanted a better future, a better path, a better way of thinking. I changed my education and I proved to my family that I am not some worthless girl with no future. The day I told my parents about my scholarship, I saw their eyes fill up with tinkling tears. I saw them be happy and proud because it is something we didn’t think we could do being who we are.
My parents are immigrants and the things I’ve seen and heard are horrifying. The nightmares, words and strangers have said and done haunted me for so long. Strangers that don’t know who I am or who my parents are, think they have a privilege to say whatever they want or do whatever they want. It has created a rage that burns all over my body. I had to see these people treat my parents like scum and not even people. Not only do I see strangers treat my parents badly for being people of color, but all over the world there is somebody dying because we are not being treated like human beings. I never understood why our skin color was such a threat to others. Our language has caused a dilemma that when we speak it publicly it’s also a threat. The way the world has treated people like me, human beings with a good heart, made me think that kindness is rare and so is happiness. My mother always said “ensename a tus amigos y te dire la clase de persona que serás”, show me your friends and I will tell you the type of person you will be. I used to think she was just judging them, but in reality she had a point. If I were to hang out with the wrong people, I would walk away from my own beliefs. Who I decide to be around, I decide the type of person I want to become. If I want to be successful, I need to put myself in the position where I will accomplish that.
There are days where I don’t feel confident, brave, or happy. There are days when I think being a girl of color is bad. Now let me tell you when I feel on top of the world. I am a girl, a first generation student and I am going to graduate from college. I will drag myself to the finish line because that is my goal. I now believe that my privilege is being able to tell others that I am a person of color in college and making it happen. My privilege is being able to prove to others what I can do. I have a huge family, maybe not the best but definitely a family that will one day look up to me and see that someone that looks like me and someone who talks like me can make it through. I speak two languages which is a huge advantage. I have younger siblings who I can help when my parents can no longer help. I have dreams and goals that I am willing to do everything for. I have grown stronger as a person. I have learned to use my disadvantages as advantages.