It’s Gen here! Hope you are all doing well in the blogosphere. I decided to write a blog post about my experiences as an undergrad and graduation. Given that my words are not always clear, I wanted to see if I could describe the feeling I felt not so long ago.
Some of you may know that I graduated 2 weeks ago and some may not. I now understand when people say that “time flies” because these past 4 years flew in lightning speed. I can say that I took advantage of all the opportunities with my university and what I so proudly call my home. I was able to have 4 jobs, studied in D.C., had an internship at Justice, and was a chancellor honors student for 4 years! Through this course of my undergraduate career, I met people that have changed my life in the best way possible. I thought coming from high school I was knowledgeable and mature, but coming to college was a different story…
I am a first-generation, Mexican-American, and a bilingual student. I am the first one in my family to graduate from a university. As the oldest of 10, there is a sense of responsibility and determination because my hard work is reflected among my whole family. My values have always been family and my faith. In college, I was truly tested by external pressures, but I never once did anything I regretted or was unsure of. I left home feeling excited, but some of the days I called my mother crying asking “if it will be better?” She would respond va haber sacrificios que tendrás que tomar. Estás aquí por una razón. Sigue adelante. To translate she said in life there will be sacrifices and you are here for a reason. Keep moving forward. Those words have stayed with me for the past 4 years to keep moving forward even through the challenges that life gives you. Normally, I am quite extroverted and take the initiative to start a conversation with the potential stranger, but I didn’t that very first semester. Here comes the sob story during my first-semester I attended classes and would head straight to my residence hall. I would eat in my room and would hardly socialize. My time consisted sleep, studying, reading for classes, and eating. I knew many felt the way I had been feeling and after my 2nd semester I was determined to be involved. I was going through stage of culture shock and I finally realized that being isolated wasn’t helping me grow or feel connected to my school.
No one ever prepares you for the unforeseen circumstances such as loss. I lost one of my close friends. He and I connected with some hall-mates in the residence halls in my first year. My roommate and I had an open door policy where we would leave the door open and people could come into our room and hang out. Most of the students back in 2013 did that; I have no idea if they still do it today. He knocked on the door and just introduced himself. He had a tendency to have his shirt off and my friend and I had commented about it. All 3 of us started a conversation in the hallway another friend we had meet in the dorms also joined in. An hour passed, and we were still talking by the doorway the two gentleman had not come into our room until my roommate invited them in. That night we stayed up talking until 4 a.m. Even though it was 4 years ago, I still remember a lot of that night. We then made it a tradition on Fridays to have game night in one of the lounges. He taught me a lesson that I still have trouble following “to not take life too seriously and to smile more often.” I guess he noticed my stressed nights, bags under my eyes, and hesitating whether I should study more or grab a bite to eat with the group. Most of the invitations were yes because I wanted friends who accepted me the way I was all sheltered and naive and thats what they did. Accepted me for who I am and not trying to change who I was becoming.
These people came into my life when I needed them the most. I came to college to gain an education and to become a well-rounded person, but what I gained went far beyond my expectations. In November 2014, we lost HIM I remember that day vividly well. I don’t really like to talk about it because I want to remember him as that happy, goofy, game loving amigo. I know he touched a lot of people in the year and a half he was there. The grief was cyclical and it came with stages. I felt selfish trying to concentrate on my studies and knowing that he would never be able to study for a midterm, hug his mom, or marry his fiancé ever again. I fell in a state of not caring and it became harder for me to study or read for classes. I was thinking of taking a break, but I knew that Evan would not have wanted that. Yes, his name was Evan. He was a dreamer talked about becoming a veterinarian, marrying his girlfriend, and having children. He loved children and had a younger brother; he was not only pursuing education for his future, but also to help his little brother.
Those late night talks we all had were silly, but also deep and meaningful. We got to know each other as friends and I finally had a little family to call my own in a place that I had seen foreign my first semester.
I decided to continue my undergraduate journey this was not only for me, but also for my friend because he would never be able to cross the stage and even though it brings chills to this day I was able to move on with time. He will always remain in my heart and somehow I felt that he gave us something. To me– SPIRIT. A spirit to seize the day and be grateful of every encompassing moment. I only wish that we had taken pictures because he wasn’t one that liked that at all.
I wish I could write everything that I experienced these past 4 years, but a 3 page blog post would turn into a full book. I am published, so who knows I might dabble in writing something in the future :).
I learned so much about myself like I have said in the beginning of the blog post. I think some advice that I would give past me would be to enjoy every moment even if its studying or taking that difficult game theory class. Enjoy every moment because our future is uncertain. Step out of your comfort zone because that is how you grow by making mistakes and learning from those failures. Be willing to be okay with being uncomfortable certain situations may not always be sparkly and that’s okay. Maintain a positive outlook and try to be open minded. The most difficult advice to follow has been to accept failure. A wise person once told me that we fail a lot more than we succeed. What I interpret from this is our failures shape who we become and allows us to grow strong if we are willing to climb that rock, wall, or tree. Know your values and who you are. This could be difficult because college at times challenges this notion, but at the end of the day remind yourself WHY you are here and the goals you want to accomplish.
I planned my future, but unexpected things have occurred and know I am in the process of self-discovery. Even though I am creating my own path I am leaving a trail so I do not get lost. I hope I ignite that passion and to keep my spirit high even with the upcoming challenges I will inevitably face.
The feeling was like nothing I ever experienced or truly imagined. I still couldn’t fathom that I was going to be a soon to be graduate. Everyone was asking me in the past week “how I was feeling?” My answer “nothing.” In reality, I was pleading that time would just stop and wishing for a teleport machine, so that I could look back at the moments that have meant so much to me. Graduation meant more to me because I was finally going to be able to graduate from the same school all 4 years. This was something I was unable to do in high school. Merced had become home, a safe haven– my overall stability.
As I was putting my cap and gown, it became very real that I would never be an undergraduate student again. Each stole symbolized what I ended up contributing to my school. As I was zipping my gown, all I could recollect were the memories that my university symbolized. My cap was not decorated it was an empty canvas filled with possibility sort of a parallel to the mindset I had as a first-year. That morning I woke up with a smile and my heart began to race. My close friends who have become sisters and who I feel blessed to have met we all got ready together. We wore cake faced makeup and did our hair which most of the time is unbrushed and messy. I remember eating 2 donuts because I was not willing to be in a 3 hour ceremony with only water in my stomach. I do-nut wanted that to happen. That morning I didn’t know what to expect. All I saw was a sea of blue in every corner. Every student that I saw sported a different facial expression and I was curious to know what they were thinking.
We started walking with my class I couldn’t help, but smile and look forward. I was ascending to adulthood not the real world because I believe that the real world is college. I sat next to my best friends and we could not be happier. We were all feeling different emotions and we tried our best to understand each other. As my name was being called, I heard cheers and applause I couldn’t help, but just put my hands up and smile. On stage, everything sort of stood still as if someone paused this moment for me to recollect every movement and instant in the future. I am a public person and I shared everything through Instagram and Snapchat the power of technology is pretty mind boggling.
This has been an amazing experience and I feel grateful to have gone through this journey that many aren’t able to pursue because they reach the top of a ceiling. I hope to give back to all those young people who may not have the resources to pursue what they desperately want. Even though, I have finished my undergrad learning never stops. I feel confident in the woman I have become and will live my life the way I want to live it.
To all the people who are graduating it’s okay to not know where you are going. Everything happens for a reason. Watch USC’s Commencement Speech with Will Ferrell if I have not convinced you.
Thank you for reading!