Last Tuesday, I conquered a fear I didn’t even know I had. I visited UCLA.
I was going to the Getty with my best friend, and we decided it would be fun to visit the home of the Bruins, and my parents’ alma mater. Though I was excited at first, my heart started to race as soon as we started walking down Westwood Boulevard.
Now that might have something to do with the fact that we parked roughly a mile from the campus itself so that we didn’t have to pay out the wazoo for parking, but I think most of it had to do with anxiety.
Well, pride and anxiety.
But before we continue, I need to provide some context.
Being that my parents were both proud Bruins, I’ve always felt this slight feeling of self-doubt when it comes to college. I wanted to go to a “good” school (cough cough UCLA) and have the quintessential college experience my parents had talked about for the first 15 years of my life: late nights wth friends in Hedrick Hall, crazy weekends filled with memories in Westwood, football games at the Rose Bowl, and the beauty of living on your own, out from under your parents’ wings.
Those conversations suddenly stopped when my brother started applying for college and they realized those quintessential experiences were going to cost approximately $30,000 a year. I know they felt guilty about creating this perfect picture of what college would look like, and then ripping it out of our adolescent hands.
It felt like that scene in the Wizard of Oz where they pull back the curtain and realize the wizard was a really just a frail old man pulling levers. Except in my case the curtain revealed my parents juggling a mortgage, their own student loans, medical bills, miscellaneous debt, and the life expenses for four people and two dogs.
I realized then that I would never be able to have those experiences. I would never be able to dorm at my school, or go out of state for school, or even go anywhere with more than a 45 minute drive. And I was angry for a long time.
I was angry at my parents, for not being able to provide me the experience they had promised me so many times. I was angry at God, for not giving me what I thought I deserved. I was angry at my friends, for being able to afford to go to schools that cost more than $6,500 a year. And I was angry at myself, for working so hard, and still not getting the results I wanted.
But last summer before I started school at Cal Poly Pomona, the Lord changed my heart in a miraculous way. I’d like to say that it was a beautiful and heartfelt change, where my heart was softened and I matured and grew out of my own volition. But really, God just punched me in the face.
I came to the realization that I wasn’t owed ANYTHING. Nothin’. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I could have been the mothaflippin’ Pope, and I still wouldn’t be owed anything.
I also realized that my happiness had to come from my own attitude and choices. I needed to work twice as hard to make friendships and get involved. I wanted to have at least SOME sort of college experience, and gosh darn, I was gonna get it.
And I did. I rocked the crap out of my freshman year and had the time of my life. I met some of the most amazing people in the world, and I now call them my best friends. I go out and study at coffeeshops till one in the morning, I consume startling amounts of coffee and Wingstop, and although I live at home, I’m happy to say I spend barely any time there (no offense mom and dad). I love my school, my job, and my friends.
I haven’t had the quintessential college experience, but I’d argue that what I have is better. I have taken every opportunity to be happy and live a joyful life and made the most out of it. I’m honestly more happy than I ever have been before, even if I’m also more busy and stressed. I regret nothing about my first year of college, and I’m unbelievably blessed.
But now that we have all that covered, its time to go back to UCLA.
I have had an amazing year, but as we walked up that street, towards the Bruin statue, I was so scared. I was scared that all those feelings of entitlement and discontentment would come flooding back, and I would realize that my year had actually sucked. I was scared that I would see the campus my parents had raved about and feel worthless and ashamed.
But as I walked thought that campus, all I felt was contentment and relief.
I walked by the library and Royce hall, and my parents’ old dorms, and I felt completely satisfied in my life and in what I’m doing. Sure, UCLA’s campus is insanely cool, and students don’t have to drive 20 minutes in any direction to find something fun to do, but I really love Cal Poly Pomona. I love the trees and the architecture and the diversity and even the god-awful hills. I love that I belong to a community like Cal Poly Cru that accepts me wholly and completely. I love that I can run home if I’m feeling sad or if I forget my binder, and I really love that I’m only spending $6,500 a year.
It’s so crazy to me that I ever doubted that my college experience would be anything but amazing. God did a wonder on my heart, and I’m unbelievably happy about that.
I’m not a Bruin; I’m a Bronco, and I’m damn proud of that.