When people have asked me how I “made it” through the foster care system, many things come to mind for me; but one characteristic that I feel has particularly helped me successfully navigate life is this: my stubbornness. Sure, stubbornness may not be seen in such a positive light most times, heck, I have even frustrated myself for being so stubborn. But it’s also something that I have come to really appreciate about myself.
Growing up, there were two phrases that I really did not like to hear; the word “no” and someone telling me “I can’t.” I am not exactly sure where I got it from, but there was always this drive in me that pushed to want to prove them wrong. I don’t even know if I can say it didn’t phase me for people to tell me that I couldn’t, because it definitely did. I was just fortunate enough to never let anyone make me feel like I needed to give up.
My senior year of high school it had came time to start applying for colleges. Pursuing a higher education was never a question for me, it was going to happen. It was a really exciting time for me; I applied to several schools but my mind was set on one, and that was San Diego State University. I am originally from Bakersfield, CA which is about four hours north of San Diego. I knew if I went that meant leaving quite a ways from home but SDSU had always been my dream school. So, on November 30th, which was the last day to apply to CSU’s and also happens to be my birthday, I submitted my application for SDSU after making sure it was perfect. I was nervous and kept wondering if I should have checked it one more time. I was nervous that my grades wouldn’t be good enough. I worried that I waited to long to submit it. But what I wasn’t worried about was that I wouldn’t be able to attend because I was in foster care.
In March I had a meeting with my ILP worker. It was around the time I was to hear back from the schools that I applied to, which were all outside of Bakersfield. I was excited to tell the worker who, I might add, didn’t realize I was a Senior and kept calling me Monica, that I was expecting to hear back soon. She gave me a surprised look and told me "good job figuring out how to apply and everything but you won’t be able to attend any of those schools.” I was going to be 17 until the end of November so I “wouldn’t be allowed to leave Kern County.” She also said that it was too expensive so I wouldn’t be able to afford it meaning I would most likely have to just come back to Bakersfield anyways. She kept trying to tell me all that could go wrong and to just start at a community college, wait two years and if I was ready by that time I could apply then.
Well, let me tell you all something. As I mentioned before, I am one stubborn person. I worked so very hard during high school to do everything I needed to do to get into the school I had been longing to attend. Even moving around never stopped me from getting my work done. So when I got notification that I had been accepted into SDSU, there was absolutely nothing that was going to stop me from moving down south.
During those next few months there were meetings, phone calls, a court hearing, three social worker changes, and a bunch of people who hardly knew me trying to decide how my future looked. Basically, the whole nine yards. But being who I am, I didn't, not even for a second, believe that I would not be attending SDSU that Fall. Now, since it has already been a pretty long story so far, I’ll just fast forward a little bit and say that when all was said and done, I did it. I am going into my fourth year at SDSU this August. I have been living on my own and I have no intentions of leaving school before I have that degree. I talked to my ILP worker a year after being at SDSU and it took all of me not to say something smart. Instead, I held my breath and said "yes, I'm doing great down here, thank you."
I am sure we all have a story about a time that someone tried to tell us about ourselves. I’ve learned time and time again that what people have to say, whether it is good or bad, doesn’t matter unless we believe it. I guess that’s just the stubborn side of me.