From the moment I snuck into the library in grade school, begged to borrow books from classmates and used them to escape my troubles, I knew even when I didn’t. When I grew older and started to understand the writer in me, I always thought myself lucky that I found something that I truly loved and wanted to pursue at a young age.
So, when I set off to get an English degree, I understood that it was not neuroscience, although sometimes people do not understand the challenges a writer faces. Writing takes a lot of practice and skill to accomplish being, at most, a decent writer. My love of reading turned into a love for writing, creativity, ideas and grammar. Unfortunately, when I first arrived at college my writing, English and literature skills backed me down, and as someone who wanted to pursue a career in writing, it made my heart sink sickeningly. But writing drives my whole life; I came to college to boost my knowledge and skills, so I set out a goal: to learn and improve.
Then, my mom died.
I still try to make sense of it.
The last time I saw her I graduated with my associate’s degree from Santa Fe College. She drove up with my grandparents, who warned me she did not look well. My mother, an alcoholic, paid the consequences for destroying her liver. After growing up around her consistent alcoholism and abuse, I did not want to get involved anymore with her behavior and its consequences.
As a first-gen student, the first to graduate high school, go to college and get a degree in my family, I wanted to focus on my education, my betterment and my difference from the rest of them. I lived with this woman all my life, and our relationship was complicated, to say the least. Even at the beginning of college, the issues of home sucked me back knowing that I couldn’t do anything to fix them. I thought I could escape from that life through College, though I knew one day she would push it too far; and it happened.
When she passed, my mind just shut off. See, I use writing as my outlet for emotions, to describe, share or figure out the way I feel. I remember standing in her hospital room and staring at her hooked up to all these tubes and monitors. I thought I should write about it. I grew angry with myself for that, for wanting to write about how it felt to be in this scenario. I instead ignored my instinct and feelings because it all felt unreal. My mom is not dying, I thought, she always got sick, and I don’t need to write about this.
I think I unintentionally shut that part of myself off that day.
For the next months, while grieving and learning the ropes of this massive university, I felt like I did not belong. UF seemed remarkably different from the community college I attended before: so many people, so many buildings and so many things I did not know. I felt stupid because I did not do as well as the other students. I felt unwanted because as a transfer, I didn’t know anything, and nobody put as much interest in a transfer as they do with freshmen. Worst of all, when I tried to write, I could not remember how. I found myself pursuing the degree I wanted in the school I worked so hard to get into, and I felt alone. I started to feel like I couldn’t understand my academics anymore. I started taking advanced classes when I couldn’t even remember what I learned in the basic ones.
I did not feel like myself anymore.
The cause of my mother’s death made me suppress a lot of my ambitions for writing, and it shut off that part of me that I loved. In the year, since she passed, I learned a lot about myself, like what my mother meant to me, how her behavior impacted me, and how even after everything, I still want to write. I still want to turn out better than her and I know she wants that too. So, I fought to get the spark back.
I refreshed my mind with lower-division classes, therapy and reading and I reminded myself why I wanted to do this. Though I still don’t understand a lot of things, I am slowly recovering. Death takes time. Emotions take time. I am not ashamed, nor anybody should feel ashamed for our emotions. I came to college to learn how a writer is made, and now that I know that life consists of a rollercoaster of emotions, I feel ready to get through the hardships of college, through the hardships of my own life. The best part, I know I’m not the only one.