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Column: Pour yourself into life

Photo via Rodrigo Trujillo

If you met me today, you might be confused about the person I used to be. 

While having optimistic outlooks on even the grimmest of circumstances are a common occurrence for me now, pessimism plagued my childhood. 

Growing up in southwest Houston, I attended a public school with way too many students and nowhere  near enough resources. I had no plan for the future. I figured I’d work with cars like my dad did or learn to code. College was never in the cards for me. 

None of my siblings went to college and neither did my parents,  extended family or friends. Higher education was uncharted territory that I was unwilling to venture into. 

This bleak perspective caused me to neglect various parts of my life. My GPA fell as overdue assignments accumulated. My participation in extracurricular activities was limited. 

I walked through life only looking a foot in front of me with no plan to map out the road ahead. 

This changed when one day my partner in a group project stopped showing up to school. It was English class and our teacher made us sign a contract with our group members promising to each do our part. On the last page, we had to fill out what the punishment would be if a person didn’t do their part.

“Death,” we joked. 

Days before the assignment was due, there was still no word from my group member, and I grew resentful. That was until a news article reached my phone describing a violent conflict between gangs that resulted in one casualty: my group partner. 

The following year, a friend I had known since middle school met the same fate. Just months later, a teammate on the debate team experienced a seizure while overdosing on drugs. Violence felt inescapable. 

This became a normal occurrence at my high school, but I knew I didn’t want to be next. Gang violence, drug addiction and lives cut short are all products of poverty—the type that subjugates you to awful circumstances that you should’ve never been in in the first place. 

I had an epiphany. I was too poor to be pessimistic. I couldn’t afford not to go to college. I owed it to myself, my family and my future to make better decisions. 

Since then, I became the first person in my family to attend a university. I’m involved in half a dozen organizations and have poured myself into each one and I have never felt more motivated and proud. 

In college, it’s easy to neglect your responsibilities or settle for less, be it your job, grades or campus organization. But remember, standing on the ground beneath you is a blessing. Being here at Bradley is a blessing. 

Don’t make excuses for yourself and don’t take life for granted. While life can be limiting, it can also be fulfilling. It’s your job to make it that way. 

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