In less than a month I will be accomplishing a lifelong dream: graduating from college. I will walk across the M mound and hear my name called out, probably trying to choke back my tears, focusing on not tripping over my shoes, and looking for my family in the crowd. It’s been a long four years but they have also been fast.
I started this column in hopes of reaching out to other students who may have been feeling the same way I was, to provide a space for others to explore their identities more and to share my experiences here at Mills. There is one thing I can say for certain through this column: I haven’t found myself yet, but that’s okay.
I think the idea that people should know who they are by the time they graduate, that they should have figured out their place in the world in four years, is unfair. There is a lot of pressure on college graduates to find jobs right away and have a plan. Not everyone is as prepared and not everyone is ready to be that prepared. So it’s okay not to be sure.
The way you identify yourself can change over time for different reasons. Nothing is set in stone. The only thing that is certain is that you get to make these decisions. You are the only person who can say who you are. There will always be people who are going to challenge your identity, but it is your identity to claim and embrace. Whether people want to challenge your identity through religion, sexual orientation, gender, heritage, race, etc., you have the ultimate power and agency to be who you want to be.
Since being at Mills, the pull and tug of “I am Latina” and “I’m not Latina enough” have been an important part of finding myself. There was a lot of culture I learned from class and through my friends that helped me learn about myself. I even learned some history behind why I feel the way I do about myself in terms of being a white passing person of color. I learned to see myself through the eyes of society, my support systems and then myself.
From all the students of color, the affinity groups and the first generation students, I learned a lot about myself. I recognize I have a lot more to learn and a lot more to work on, but I am proud of what I have done and I’m excited to see what else I am capable of.
There are a few things I learned about myself in the past four years. I am Latina, even if I am white passing and third generation. I know that I am a first generation college student who succeeded in a higher education system that historically was never meant for me. I am privileged in different ways, like being white passing, straight and a cisgendered woman upon a number of things, and that means there are spaces I should give rather than take up.
I have a lot more to discover about myself but I’m not too worried about it anymore. Now I am excited to see were I’ll go in life and I hope that I can help other people who have been in my shoes.