“Jeez Jason,” I exclaim rather enviously, “you must be 10 pounds heavier with all those medals hanging around your neck!” But what else can I say? My childhood friend, who just spent an entire year in Germany, graduates Summa Cum Laude—an unblemished 4.0. He distinguishes himself among what seems like millions of black tasseled caps with his bright crimson one. Adorned with countless cords, striking stoles, and a full ride to one of the nation’s best PhD programs, he literally is “the best of the best.” I think I should be allowed one sulking moment.
I’m not dumb—this I can promise you. But it’s a bit difficult to feel spectacular when I know that in less than a year I will be less accessorized as I accept my own diploma. Will everyone cheer just as loud for me despite my shortcomings? Are my parents less proud, or dare I ask, embarrassed, that they invested more money in my education but will never yield as great a return? In my head, I know it’s pretty bad when I tell people I’m an Economics and English Literature double major with a minor in Women & Gender Studies, but have no clear indication of what I want to do with such a specific and odd (yes, I have encountered the eyebrow raise several times) combination. I literally squirm when someone asks, “What are you plans after college?” Depending on how pretentious the inquirer may seem, I might rattle off some plans for graduate school, but most of the time I’ll try to be witty and jokingly say, “Aye, there’s the rub!” Generally I’ll receive a second eyebrow raise, while some are nice enough to humor me and comment on my extensive knowledge in Shakespearean literature.
But let’s be honest here: I have no idea what my plans are. I’m not even sure what my plans for Friday night are yet! So how could I possibly be sure that I will go to a prestigious graduate school without an acceptance letter, or prematurely promise that I will land a glorious job on Wall Street? The answer is, “I don’t know, but I’m fine with that.” Sometimes.
“Hello! My name is Samantha Chan and I’m a first generation student!” I’m still trying to live day by day remembering that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. But because I am human, I’m my own worst enemy and judge myself constantly. I must remind myself that I am a first-generation college student—I don’t have the advantage of parents who know the ins and outs of college and therefore must test the waters for myself. I must remind myself to give myself a pat on the back every now and then because I’m blessed to have the opportunity to attend Franklin & Marshall College, an amazing liberal arts school. I must remind myself that I’m lucky to even have the opportunity to intern with Center for Student Opportunity while many of my other peers don’t even hear back from the numerous places they’ve applied to. I must remind myself that at the end of the day, it’s my accomplishments, and not anybody else’s, that I make me who I am today.