2017 is here! A lot of us agree that last year was rough for many reasons and we couldn’t wait for the year to end.  I most certainly felt that way. I just wanted 2016 to be over but also felt a bit of anxiety for what 2017 would look like. I had mentally checked out by the end of November 2016 and I noticed how it had become easier for me to list all the “not so good” things that occurred throughout the year than to acknowledge the many times I had been blessed. That way of thinking started to change during the first week of December. I can’t describe the experience but it was something like an alarm clock that went off in my head. That alarm clock helped me realize that I was heading down the wrong path. I was making choices that were negatively affecting my relationships and personal growth. This feeling of “waking up” helped me seek ways to start taking steps in the right direction. Last month I may have only taken one step in the right direction but I’m happy because the first step can be the most difficult and I’ve already accomplished that. I spent the first day of 2017 at Point Reyes National Shoreline with a great friend. It was a little cold but that didn’t stop me from getting my feet in the water. Waves are very calming for me and being at the beach helped me clear my mind so that I could reflect on last year. The self-improvement work I started in December has been helping me become more appreciative of everything that happened last year. 2016 was rough but it was also very beautiful.

Things about 2016 that I’m grateful for: Graduating from Cal, my parents becoming Legal Permanent Residents (LPR), new addition to the family, friendships & new brothers, LEVN and spiritual growth.

  1. Graduating has been a huge achievement for me and my family but I haven’t been good about seeing it as an accomplishment or giving myself credit for the hard work. Back in May, as I was preparing for the graduation ceremonies, I was upset with myself because I was leaving Cal with a 3.0 GPA. I felt embarrassed and was constantly beating myself down for not working hard enough to earn a GPA that would qualify for me a top law school. I’m learning to have more patience and self-love. Now, instead of solely focusing on the grades that I didn’t achieve, I am reminding myself that I did the best work that I could at the time. Cal was not an easy journey. I’ve been recalling the multiple obstacles I faced during the first two years of undergrad when I was undocumented. At the time, AB540 was the only law that made it possible for me to go to college because I wasn’t required to pay out of state tuition. The in-state tuition fees were significantly less but they still presented financial difficulties because there was no financial assistance and I couldn’t legally work in the US. I was working hard to succeed in my classes despite the legal and financial barriers I was facing. I remember the pain I felt after completing my first year of college when my parents and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to return to Cal. Somehow, we made it work. Thankfully I became an LPR by my third year of college and that’s when things were a lot easier. I still know that 3.0 GPA is not going to get me into a top law school but instead of focusing on the bad, I’m now working on getting enough work experience and studying hard so that I can score high on the LSAT.
  2. After 24 years of living in the shadows, my parents went from being undocumented to legal permanent residents. Even though I have experienced what it means and feels to be undocumented in the US, I cannot speak on their behalf because their experience is unique from mine and from each other.  All I know is that they’ve been incredibly hardworking and honest people since we arrived to the US in 1992. Despite the obstacles they faced, my parents did everything they could to provide for me and my sisters. My parents were so excited to show me their LPR cards when I visited them during the Christmas weekend. They couldn’t stop smiling and said that they still couldn’t believe it. I remember how I too couldn’t believe it when I became an LPR, so I can understand that it can take time to adjust and eventually feel like they are no longer in the shadows. This Christmas I could see how they were a little more at peace.
  3. I’m thankful for Lyla who joined our family on August 12, 2016. She’s my sister’s first baby, my parents’ first grandchild and my first niece. She’s been a blessing and has brought a lot of joy to our family. I’m thankful that she’s a very healthy and happy little girl and I cannot wait for her to move to Modesto so that I can bond more with her.
  4. I’m thankful for the new brothers and friends that I made this year. I’m also thankful for the obstacles that I faced because it showed how much I’m loved and supported by others. I was blessed in Spring 2016 with so many brothers that have guided me and made me a stronger person. I’m blessed to have been able to go on a study tour trip to Mexico City over the summer where I also created strong bonds with other individuals. I’m blessed with old friendships and mentors who supported me when I hit a roadblock this summer. I’m still learning on how to strengthen my relationships and how to support others in the way that I’ve been supported. My friendships from last year showed me that true friends don’t criticize our shortcomings, instead they help us get back up and motivate us to grow.
  5. I’m thankful for the “not so good” experiences from 2016 because it pushed me to communicate more with God. I know that I shouldn’t have waited for the negative experiences to motivate me to seek God but I’m glad that I have been able to create a positive and healthy experience with Him. I recently went through most of my journal entries from 2016 and I noticed how in most of them I was writing to God and asking for guidance. God has been there for me and heard me this summer when I was in a dark place. God helped me find LEVN, a place that I desperately needed. LEVN has been helping me develop professional skills while encouraging me to continue my spiritual growth. I didn’t have the best relationship with God when I was younger but I’m thankful that that’s no longer the case.

The end of 2016 was scary but there were many great things throughout. Going to Point Reyes helped me remember how much I was blessed last year and set goals for 2017. My main goal for this year is to continue making healthy decisions and be more helpful to others. I’m learning to adopt a healthy lifestyle because by doing that then everything else will hopefully fall into place. I am shocked to see how this year of service is flying by and it does get me a little sad to think that it’ll end in July. I will make the best of the time that I have left in the program while preparing myself for post-LEVN life and career plans. 2017 will present challenges but I will not lose hope. It’ll be a great year I just need to take it one day at a time.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)