On a warm Sunday, my family and I celebrate my birthday. The day with my family is going great. Everyone is gathered around the decorated table in my backyard. As we all connect, the “college talk” pops up.
As soon as I hear the words “college” my stomach cramps and I know what is coming. I have heard it over and over again for three years. Each member of my family has something to say about college.
I will have my dad saying, “I already told her that if she doesn’t go to college, then she can’t have all the luxuries that she wants.”
My Aunt Noelia saying, “You have to go to college; getting an education is one of the most important things.”
Then my Aunt Myra, “You have to do something that you like because you are going to be doing it for the rest of your life.”
My Aunt Noelia again, “You should know what you want to do before you go into college. It is not that hard to know what to do.”
My cousin Josi jumps in, “You have to go to college because none of us did. You’re an only child, you have to go.”
Then my cousin Jackie, “You should go into business. It opens up a lot of doors.”
And my Dad replies, “She can do whatever, but she has to do something.”
Aunt Noelia, “Yes, you have to do something; so you don’t end up like your cousins.”
Once all of the comments are done and all life lessons are over, they keep talking about the topic, just not towards me anymore. I head inside and I lay on my bed; I don’t go back out for a while.
Being the first to go to a four-year college out of all your immediate family is not bad, it is great. It means new experiences and knowing I will be able to help my future family members go to college.
The hard part of being the first one to go to college is all the pressure.
It is so much weight on my shoulders, so much trust, hope in me, and so much pressure on a 17-year-old, telling her she needs to know what she wants to do with the rest of her life before she goes into college, and then make a life out of it. My family feels like I am the one who needs to break the cycle of dropping out of college or not going at all. What they don’t realize is the more they tell me, talk to me, and lecture me, the more they make me feel pressured when what I should be feeling is excitement.
My Aunt Myra, for example, is constantly pressuring me about college. She has five children, three girls and two boys. Four out of her five children have graduated high school, but none have completed college. Her eldest attempted and then dropped out. Now, she works two jobs and is always talking about going back to college, but no actions are taken.
Her second eldest was going to college classes and living in a dorm, but she too dropped out. Now she is expecting a baby at age 21. My aunt’s youngest daughter attended fall classes right after high school before dropping out because she was expecting a child at the age of 18. Her oldest son recently graduated and has no plans or intentions of going to college. My aunt’s youngest son is going into his first year of middle school, and he says he is going to drop out of high school.
My Aunt Noelia has three children. Her eldest child did not go to college and had a baby when she was 19. And her two youngest children show no interest in school.
That leaves me, the one and only child who is on the verge of leaving for college. And with a lot of pressure from all of my disappointed aunts, who want to see someone succeed and graduate college.
Carrying the trust, hopes, and dreams of all the people you love is difficult. My parents want to be proud of their daughter, and my aunts want to see their daughters in me. I have a great deal of eyes looking my way as my final years of high school approach, and those eyes only want to see the best; they don’t want failure. They want to see me do well and achieve the impossible, and that scares me. It has been drilled into my head that I need to go to college, I need to graduate with a major, and I need to be perfect in all aspects of what I do with my life. All of this is expected of me because my cousins before me all “messed” up, according to my family.
My story differs from the ones you usually hear. The stereotypical stories about the first generation to go to college are full of joy, excitement, a feeling of relief; their parents are proud and support them in whatever they choose to do. Those are heartwarming stories, but mine is a little different.
I am the girl who needs to break the cycle; I am the girl who needs to be successful in life. I can’t make mistakes. They want to see me do good and great things in my lifetime, and with all the pressure that I have, I cannot disappoint them.