It’s hard to encapsulate the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that occur during your first year of college. I’m not eager to answer the question “how was college?” because at that moment I know my mind will be completely blank. So, I’ve actually started to think about it more often, choosing which highs and lows to share with everyone back home who is soooo interested in hearing about it.
I was on the T heading back to Boston College, it got noisy enough for me to want to plug my Airpods in and cancel out the noise. So I did. J. Cole’s “Before I’m Gone” blasted through my ears. A theme that comes up a lot in rap songs is how unfair our institutions are to minorities and how these institutions limit our decisions. The lyrics that perfectly capture this in J. Cole’s song are:
“One day you tryna make rent, next day you in jail / Lord knows he meant well”
What led me to my polite “f—k you” to all of the institutions in our society that have let us down at one point or another was this reminder of home. Home as in my neighborhood where the sunset was an unspoken curfew. Home where it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see people sleeping outside convenience stores. Home where my peers and I had to work or take care of siblings to make our parents’ lives easier. Home where students gave up on their education because the thought of college was so out of reach. Home where our mental health wasn’t addressed. Where no one talked to us about college applications. Where our parents didn’t understand “the systems” working against us, so they ingrained in us the idea that if you work hard enough, if you are smart enough, and you are determined enough, you’ll make it—and if you don’t, it’s your individual fault. Honestly, it’s infuriating to think about how many odds are stacked against us.
There is no shortage of disappointment in any institution whether it be educational systems, health care systems, city governments, etc. Contrary to where you think this might be going, I’m not about to go on a long tangent about all the ways minorities have been failed by the institutions of our government and society. I’m not going to go into detail about how we continue to be disappointed by BC’s shortage of counselors at University Counseling Services or the way AHANA being dropped from the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center is more than just about a name.
How was college?
It was exhausting.
Looking back at the year, depending on my mood, I could be on the verge of tears. Maybe some of you identify with being low-income, first-generation, or Hispanic like I do. Often we’re too hard on ourselves, thinking “we should’ve applied for this,” “we could’ve done better” or “if I hadn’t … I would’ve.” Criticism only goes so far—there’s a need to appreciate our accomplishments.
Making it through the first year is our biggest “f—k you.”
F—k the institutions, because regardless of how hard the system’s made it for you, you:
- Got through work-study picking up 9 a.m. shifts, weekend shifts, or shifts after class.
- Joined clubs that piqued your interest.
- Dropped classes to prioritize yourself and your interests aside from the pride you’ve been taught to carry about having to finish what you started.
- Passed your classes (even if it meant passing that C.S. course you took to cover your math core with a C).
- Raised your hand in class even when you thought you were the least capable person in the room.
- Made friends and had conversations even when your bed seemed like the most comfortable place.
F—k the institutions. We’ll be back next year.