By Oscar Guzman – There was a knock at my door. I had just finished getting dressed and had my backpack hanging over my shoulders. When I opened the door, reality was standing there. We were looking eye to eye. Hi, I greeted and offered a friendly smile – however, I blinked twice, and in an instant, I squeezed between it and the door frame and bolted down the stairs. I could hear it following me – I could feel it breathing down my neck.
When I entered the lobby of McCormick Hall, there was no one at the front desk – in fact, there was no one anywhere, but I didn’t bother stopping. So I just kept going.
The streets were empty. The sidewalks were desolate. The breeze felt nice as I sprinted to my 8 a.m. class on the first day of school. The sun shone nicely over the clouds that seemed to collide with each other.
As I got closer to the streetlight, I saw a lady waiting to cross the road – she must have not realized there were no cars in sight. However, as I got closer, she raised her head, stared at me, and gave me a huge, sincere smile – it was my mom. Mom, I yelled, mom!
I ran to her. I ran so I could give her a hug, but before I could, she gestured her hand so that her palm was facing me – she wanted me to stop. She smiled and shook her head, and as I reached for her hand, she disappeared.
I could still see her face, and her beautiful smile. But before I could even bother to question what was going on, I felt reality’s hand reaching for my shoulder – so I started running. I crossed Wisconsin Avenue, and when I did, my dad was standing there. And not just him actually; my brother was there, and my sister, and my grandpa, and my grandma, and my godmother, and my dad’s seven brothers and four sisters, and my mom’s six brothers and five sisters, and my eighty cousins. All my relatives were there, but they would disappear one by one as I passed by each one.
Then, before I could even open the door to Straz Hall to go to my theology class, I was stopped by my grandpa – my grandpa who passed away four months ago. He was standing there, one hand on his cane and the other in his pocket. Abuelito, I whispered with my hand covering my mouth in shock, and tears streaming down my face.
He walked slyly towards me, limping as he did. We were almost chest to chest when he took his hand out of his pocket and placed it on my shoulder. His eyes were as brown as mine, maybe even browner. Although I never really saw the resemblance, my parents and relatives made note of how similar we looked.
You’ve come so far, he whispered in his fluent Spanish tongue, you will do great things. He smiled. I smiled.
What if I’m not ready, I worried.
That’s why we’re here, he replied – referring to my family – as he wiped my tear. We will always be here.
Maybe he had a point. I come from a family of five – dad, mom, brother, sister, me. But my extended family gets complicated. I have family living in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, Washington, and Mexico. In just my hometown, I have twenty five cousins, many of who are around my age. Leaving home a few weeks ago had to be one of the hardest things I have had to do. It wasn’t just because I was leaving them – because I knew I would see them again – but because I felt like I was saying bye to my childhood.
What’s going to happen next, I cried.
That’s all up to you, he replied and chuckled, squeezing my shoulder even tighter.
Being able to admit your fear is the first and most crucial step in overcoming it, he advised.
In regards to my education, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel pressure to do well. Having parents who immigrated from Mexico and received very little education, they taught me the value of education at an early age and that I must take advantage of what I am offered. Not only did that motivate me to do well in school, but for so long I have been trying to fight against the stereotypes assigned to Hispanics, the most popular being that Mexicans are illiterate and won’t amount to much as either an adolescent or adult. This influenced my upbringing both negatively but also in a positive way. It upset me to know that not many people expected much from me and didn’t think I had potential to go far in life; however, those who did believe proved that the power of faith and hope can go a long way when achieving goals.
There I was, sharing a conversation with my deceased grandpa. I knew this was a dream. I knew all I had to do was open my eyes – but I didn’t want to. I wanted to absorb my last few seconds with him, and my last few seconds of adolescence.
Arriving on campus has been an overwhelming experience – and many others might agree. Being the first generation in my family to go to college, I don’t have many relatives to share the experience with or even get advice from. I now know how it felt for my parents to leave their home in search of a better lives not just for them, but for myself and my siblings – and I am grateful they did.
Don’t forget about us, he whispered, go and make us proud.
Then I woke up.