As the semester comes to an end, my final projects are getting close to being done and little by little the many stresses are lifted off my shoulders. I can’t help but think about the pressures I have felt. Not just the pressures of classes and schoolwork I have felt this semester, but pressures I have felt for as long as I can remember.
Then there is the pressure of being a first-generation student. Sometimes I feel like I have to prove this to myself. Throughout my time at Mills, I have sat in class or discussion spaces where I shrink as much as I can,
feeling like I don’t belong with the people who use huge words and talk about theories and concepts that I have only heard once or twice.
As a low-income student, the pressure of financing myself is a daily anxiety. I am fortunate to have a family
who would drop everything in order to help me, yet I don’t want them to make more sacrifices after all they have done for me. I’d rather they focus on my younger siblings or themselves. I don’t ask for help unless I need it, and even then I feel disappointed with myself. On top of all of this is the pressure to be successful. I’ve always planned my life with the idea that I would be successful . These are the constant pressures, in addition to smaller ones that I have everyday.
So what do I do? Do I just keep dragging myself as slowly as I can? Do I just start dropping everything and not caring? No. I deal with
these pressures head on.
I’ve learned to start saying no to certain activities and responsibilities – my classes and education are priority number one, along with my health. So as long as I stay focused and organized, it’s possible to be both a book worm and a social butterfly. I remind myself everyday that even though I am a first-gen student who doesn’t know big words, I know a lot more than I think I do. I have my critical thinking skills so that I can learn from the words and ideas that intimidate me. When it comes to finances, there is really no easy way to handle that pressure, but tell myself: “You have worked far too long and far too hard to stop now. You’ll find a way like you always do. You may not like it, but you’ll find a way.” In terms of success… I’m still figuring that one out. Until I do though, my siblings are enough motivation for me. Even if college isn’t for them, I want them to know they can go. Anything is possible. Success is possible no matter what it looks like.
As a low-income first-generation college woman of color who is still learning her identity, these pressures have shaped who I am today. It’s an everyday struggle both internally and externally, but support systems at Mills make these pressures seem less daunting.