Worlds Colliding

So far, this blog has consisted of music playlists and museum pictures. I love music and art, but I really want to give people a glimpse into my life, especially as a Georgetown student. This personal post is just the beginning!

As I make my way back to the Hilltop, I have taken time to reflect back on my first year at Georgetown. I have realized that it has, in a way, come full circle. In my English class first semester, Professor Shinn (I definitely recommend him, he is one of the best professors I have had!) assigned a passage from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World. It was such a well written and captivating excerpt that I put her memoir on a list of books I would like to read when time permitted.

My summer has consisted of spending quality time with my dear parents, hanging out with friends, and volunteering. The extra time was the perfect opportunity to read My Beloved World in full. Less than twenty pages in, Sotomayor had managed to enchant me once again. As I kept reading, I realized that I had a lot in common with Sotomayor. I am no Supreme Court Justice, but her childhood and college struggles deeply resonated with me. Our “worlds” were colliding.

Sotomayor’s memoir is filled with stories of her and her Puerto Rican family growing up in the Bronx. One of the most poignant stories in her book was that of her father, Juan. She grew up hearing her parents arguing, knowing that these quarrels were partly because her father was an alcoholic.

“But it would be a long time before his drinking became the catalyst for daily fights, before my mother realized that she not only didn’t know what to do but didn’t know what not to do to avoid making it worse. And still she insists: whatever else her husband did, he always worked, and he always cared about Junior and me. Just not enough, because how much could you care if you’re killing yourself? If you’re drinking every extra penny there is?” (63).

Reading this transported me back to my early life when, late at night, my mother and I would go searching for my father around town knowing he was with friends getting drunk. I was too young to understand, but I knew that there was trouble. Fortunately, as I grew older, my dad realized how precious life was to be wasting it away with alcohol. No matter what my parents went through in those early years, my mother has always said just what Sotomayor’s mother said about Juan. My dad is THE hardest worker I know, always pushing me to be the best version of myself and he is one of the main reasons why I am the person I am today. His work ethic is something that I grew up striving for and I am so grateful that his alcoholic days are long gone. Every person and family has their trials, and this just happened to be ours. Although it was a difficult time for us, I am thankful we went through it. It made us a stronger and more united family.

Another commonality that I found between Sotomayor and myself is the strong push for education from our parents.“‘You’ve got to get your education! It’s the only way to get ahead in the world.’ That was her constant refrain, and I could no more get it out of my head than a commercial I’d heard a thousand times” (70). Reading this in My Beloved World, I immediately smiled knowing that I could relate to Sotomayor.

Both of my parents grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico. My Mother barely finished elementary school and my Father finished high school.  Mexico was unsafe, filled with crime heavily influenced by the Sinaloa Cartel. It was not an environment that would provide for a stable life. They came separately to the United States in the 1980’s (they would later meet in California in 1993) hoping to find better work in a country full of opportunity. They would soon realize that without an education, it would be very difficult for them to find quality jobs.

When my parents had me they knew that the most important thing they had to do was instill in me the value of having an education. Growing up as a first generation student of two Mexican immigrants, it was definitely difficult to do well in school. Sometimes I was even envious of my classmates who had educated parents that went to school here in America. Looking back, I am thankful for the parents I have because if it weren’t for the adversity they have faced, I may have not have been as appreciative of the education and opportunities that came my way. In America, we are so blessed to have the freedom to go to school and learn and I really wish more students realized how lucky they are to have this privilege.

My first semester at Georgetown was absolutely the most difficult, stressful, and disheartening time of my life. Taking twenty credits my first semester of college was not smart, but I believed I could do it. It turned out to be a very terrible decision on my part. In My Beloved World, Sotomayor mentioned how terrible it felt to have received a C on her first American History midterm at Princeton (133). I felt the same way about my biology and chemistry classes. I couldn’t keep up and I struggled to understand the material. These being premed classes was another added pressure. It was such an unpleasant few months that I gave up on being premed and the notion of becoming a doctor, a dream of mine since I was in preschool.

If I could sum up my feelings of my first year at Georgetown, it would be these two perfectly written sentences by Sotomayor.

“I came to accept during my freshman year that many of the gaps in my knowledge and understanding were simply limits of class and cultural background, not lack of aptitude or application as I’d feared. That acceptance, though, didn’t make me feel less self-conscious and unschooled in the company of classmates who’d had the benefit of much more worldly experience” (135).

Deep down inside, I knew being a doctor was what I wanted. This summer I returned back home, disillusioned and anxious about what I was going to do with my life. I found peace when I returned to The Free Clinic of Simi Valley, a second home to me. I have spent over seven years volunteering there, surrounded by extremely passionate and intelligent nurses, doctors, volunteers, and the most supportive and compassionate Director. This is where it all clicked once again and I knew that if medical school was what I wanted, I could do it.

It is challenging to talk about failure, especially when you’re surrounded by many high-achieving people. But I have come to learn that adversity and failures are what make us who we are. Look at where Sonia Sotomayor is now! As I make my way back to Georgetown, I am invigorated and ready to take on my second year as a Hoya!

x Mel

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