In Competition with Myself


I heard the alarm go off at 5:00am from my mother’s room, and I knew that she would come to my room to wake me up.  The day had finally come for me to start my new life at college.  I was excited.  I wanted this new adventure.  Yet, I felt some anxiety because this was not only a new experience for me, but for my family as well—I am a first generation college student.

Here I was going to college—the first in my family to do so.  On top of that, I was going with low self-esteem. And on top of that, I was going from a small town to a campus with over 30,000 students. I was not comfortable at all with the thought of being around so many students.  Plus, being around so many confident, intelligent people made me feel uneasy.  But I wanted to be like them. The only support my family could provide me was a listening ear, not really how to navigate college or any tips.  So, I had to take a leap of faith and figure out everything on my own.

The thing about being brave in this experience is that I was taking on more tasks than one.  Yes, I was a first-generation college student, but I was also suffering from not truly loving myself.  So what did I do? I went to different events on campus that helped to welcome and orient first-year students. Different events included things like Salsa Night, comedy shows, talent shows, movie screenings, cultural festivals, and other events that helped me feel like I belonged. I also pushed myself. And it was hard sometimes.  I struggled with experiencing different events on campus because of my low self-esteem.  I had a hard time figuring out how to appear on campus. I fell in love and got my heart terribly broken.  I had some mental breakdowns.  I cried in front of the mirror when I was alone.  I truly felt like I hit rock-bottom at one point so I went to counseling sessions that my school offered. But from all of that struggle, came good. I figured out the ins and outs of classes.  I learned how to (eventually) make friends—because you will most likely not make actual, enduring friendships until your second semester.  I helped found a student organization on campus that focused on helping local foster children, and eventually became President.  I involved myself in undergraduate research, started presenting at conferences, and even won some awards.  Would you look at that?  I became somebody. I became a leader. I became a mentor.  I became someone that I actually liked.  It did not happen overnight, though.  It took persistence and determination and a desire to see myself succeed.  Crying in front of the mirror allowed me to see the person that I did not want to be.  It gave me the motivation to find help.

But what really helped me though?  I confided in friends, I allowed myself to feel whatever I was feeling, and, most importantly, I kept pushing.  I am not the most confident person in the world, but I am confident enough, and that is something that I could not say before. There is a quote that I live by, and it helps me get through the days when I feel low: The only person you are in competition with is yourself.  That is me.  I am not worried about others and what they are doing and comparing myself to them anymore.  I no longer feel out of place.  I feel like I am at the right place.  I am in competition with only myself, and I will succeed as well as I can with every challenge.

Jerica, Class of 2017

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