Piecing Myself Back Together: My First Semester Online

This semester contained some of the heaviest meltdowns of my college career. I’d always heard junior year was the hardest, and although I was no longer taking espresso shots at 3am or putting up with my clueless Caucasian peers, this semester tested both my mental and physical health. I will be brutally honest with you my readers; I suffered plenty these past few months after I managed to willingly walk away from a person and place I never envisioned myself leaving. I navigated through homelessness, once again couch surfing at my best friend’s home. I had a car of my own and felt comfortable living that narrative, but my friend Jonathan refused to let me sleep in my car.

I managed to move into another place, and continue the semester. It started off rough and I’ll admit I spent the majority of my time overwhelmed, but between attending school full-time and working virtually as a College Adviser through the non-profit East Bay Consortium at Castlemont High School, I just knew my focus was needed elsewhere. It was challenging to be present each day, but I knew I’d regret allowing my emotions to get in the way of my work. Especially when I service underrepresented and under-resourced youth. 

Not only was I balancing those priorities, I was also working as a course assistant under one of my previous professors at Berkeley. She’s one of the most understanding, talented, and inspiring professors in education. I loved the class, but some of my days were 10 hours of scheduled meetings and virtual spaces where I had to be attentive; it felt crushing. The amount of work I had to complete outside of attending Zoom lectures while dealing with my ongoing anxiety was overpowering my ability to be focused and consistent. This affected my performance in my classes for a brief moment in an uncannily similar way to how I started the fall semester of my senior year in high school. Once I understood this, it all became easier to handle. This pattern of experience wasn’t anything foreign to me, and it wasn’t the first time I left situations that weren’t good for me. So while it was painful, I also gained insight on myself, my academics, and how those impacted my personal life. I learned to re-center, re-prioritize, and appreciate all that I am — and all that I am yet to be. 

I adjusted to my new environment and caught up with my classes by breaking down my assignments into smaller tasks. I scheduled regular meetings with my therapist again. When I vented to her about the past few months, she responded with, “congratulations” and pointed out a pattern of received abuse with my past connections. I suppose she remembered more of my earlier experiences in 2019 than I did at that point, considering the notes she took during our sessions. Through our sessions I’ve realized even further my strength, self-sufficiency and tenacity. I started to cultivate peace and stability for myself. I recognized my self-worth and capacity both in and out of academics. Although grades are oppressive and they don’t accurately measure my worth, it did feel nice to walk into my finals with stable and “impressive” grades. During our finals week, I handled writing a 16 page research paper while managing other finals and supporting extra workshops for financial aid. 

I’ve discovered that contrary to popular belief or word of mouth, I’m not broken. Perhaps I was, but since then, I’ve pieced myself back together. Someone that is truly broken I’d assume would stay in abusive situations, but I won’t. Trust me when I say the experiences mentioned above were only the tip of the iceberg of the trauma I experienced this semester. This semester challenged me in deeper personal ways that I’ll probably never be open to publicly discussing. However, I’ll always appreciate the experience and the lesson learned. 

To my past lover, I apologize for seeing you for your potential and all that you could be instead of seeing you where & for who you were in that moment. 

To my best friends, especially to those that have cared enough to provide me a place to stay during this pandemic, no words can truly convey my gratitude to ALL of you for breathing life back into my spirit when I needed it. 

To my Professors, thank you for pushing me past what I perceived to be my limits. 

To my fellow students in higher education, when it becomes rigorous due to the structure of the system, remember we aren’t done with it. Continue to surpass the obstacles structured against you while prioritizing yourself and health. You got this!

To all those hoping I’d fail, you know who you are and I guess you’ll have to wait because I’m nowhere near done. Matter of fact, I’m just getting started. 

As Philosopher Khalil Gibran stated, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

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Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo is an independent, low-income, first-generation, undocumented or rather DACA-mented, woman of color navigating higher education at the University of California Berkeley. She has been an independent student since her senior year of high school, when she ran away from her abusive parents. It is in that same year, Yendy became a published writer with Lacomadre.org. Yendy is currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Comparative Literature with a Minor in Education. She strives to attend law school as soon as she is finished with her Bachelor’s degree.

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