Saturday, December 21, 2013

Me, myself, and I

I am struggling. 
I am really honestly struggling most of the time. 

When I say that I'm struggling, I don't mean that I'm failing. I mean that I have kept myself just above water all on my own with no fall back plan.

I am going to MIT on scholarships and my part time work. I don't have a fall back. I couldn't transfer out of an engineering degree without losing my scholarships. I can't get a lower GPA or I will lose my scholarship. There is no one to pay my student contribution. If I lose my job, I don't have a relative to give me one. If I don't pay my bills, it's my credit on the line not a family member's. I don't have any such family members. Even my FAFSA recognizes - I am an independent; it's just me.

There is really just me. 

I am doing the best I can with the resources I have.

I have by all accounts done exceptionally well. Something like 50% of foster care alumni haven't completed a high school education and something like 15% end up in prison. 66% will be homeless, go to jail, or die within a year of leaving the foster care system at 18. Foster care alumni have higher rates of depressive episodes than the general population. Suicide rates for teens is about 7%.

I have completed high school and am working towards a degree at MIT. I haven't self harmed in almost a year. I have a plan of action for my depressive episodes that involves a stable clinician.
But when I look to other students at MIT, I see kids with very different resources. A lot of kids here have parents with PhDs. Some of the parents can help their kids with their work. Most of the kids here are not first generation; a good college has been expected of them since always. They go home to their mother and father knowing that they are safe and loved, unconditionally. They can email their psets to their parents and expect the questions to be understood and maybe even some guidance in answering them.

I don't have any of that. I don't have the financial security of college educated family. I don't have the educational support of STEM educated parents. I don't have the emotional security of being able to go home to my bio family.

This isn't meant to be a source of pity. I don't spend my time sitting around feeling sorry for myself. If I did I wouldn't be where I am. But I do need to deal with this reality. Because of the tendency to 'curve' class grades,
I simply mean to acknowledge that this responsibility is on my shoulders.

This is the reality I have been dealing with since I was 14.

I have learned how to deal with things to keep myself safe and head above water.

But I would like to have my grades from MIT show my skill. Not just my managing to survive skill. But my actual skill, when I am at the same place of safety as the other students.