It’s hard to fathom that after three years, I’ve finally earned my Associate’s Degree.
It was never handed to me on a silver platter nor was it a walk in the park (then again, nothing worth it is) but looking back, I realized every disappointment was a turning point and every obstacle was a blessing in disguise. You see, it was also 3 years ago that I packed up and left behind the country I grew up in, the life I’ve always known. But it was also 3 years ago that my life changed. The kind of change that allowed me to pursue opportunities I was not comfortable in; the kind of change you take a leap of faith for.
I had times I would slow down, times I thought that if I didn’t leave the Philippines, life would have been simpler, less chaotic. And it’s true. Growing up, I’m accustomed to doing laundry through manual labor, a bed out of handwoven palm leaves and having fish paksiw for breakfast. Now I not only have a mattress for my bed but my own room too!
Life back home was simple but despite having almost next to nothing, I can attest one thing my grandparents always supported me with, and it’s my education. They have inculcated in me the value of hard work, dedication and compassion, that up to this day, I still live by.
I used to get trapped in this cycle of beating myself up when things don’t go the way I want it to be and constantly being my own worst critic. It was mentally exhausting listening to the monster inside you eating away on your insides and preying on the things that make you happy. It kept me in a dark place for a long time but I remembered why I was fighting so hard in the first place – because I have dreams to pursue, dreams that my grandparents would want me to achieve.
Coming to America changed my perspective in life but it didn’t change my values. I’m still that little girl with stars in her eyes despite having scars from life’s constant beating, still that dreamer who feeds her passion with faith despite discouragements.
Graduating means so much to me than just receiving my diploma. That piece of paper is a testament to the hair-pulling sleepless nights where the only thing holding down my sanity is coffee. It’s the highlight reel of all those years of not knowing what the future holds.
Truly grateful for the presence and support of my colleagues, clubmates, friends, professors, advisers and the Alumni Foundation at Bergen Community College who has helped me in this journey; for my family and friends for always encouraging me and for Iggy, the love of my life, for seeing this through with me.
About to open a new chapter and fulfill the plans the 16-year old me was tirelessly working towards. I knew in my heart that all the hard work I’ve invested all these years will manifest itself in time.
I can’t wait to unfold what my big guy up there has in store for me for I know His plans are always greater than what I have for myself.
This is just the beginning…