Tag Archives: back to school

I got into Stanford and I’m a Stanford Kinda Gal

9 Oct

I can’t remember how I first heard about Stanford and started dreaming that I would attend one day. I do remember the walks home from Roosevelt High School freshman year vividly.  I lugged my backpack over my hunched shoulders, leaning forward to offset the weight, and dreamt. As I passed by the Food 4 Less parking lot I dreamt about getting the acceptance letter. As I passed by the 7 Mares, I dreamt about walking on campus and attending lecture. I dreamt and I dreamt until I walked into my home.

My life took many turns and the Stanford dream slipped away, seemingly impossible to reach.

Three years ago, Bella, Iza, and I made the joint decision to uproot our lives and move to the bay area. A few months later, I enrolled in the local community college and went to school on Thursday nights, Saturdays, and online. For almost three years I juggled a demanding career, being a mother, being a partner, and school. I studied after everyone went to sleep and studied before anyone woke up. At times it seemed impossible to continue. But no matter the road bumps, I made it work. I persevered.

When I kept getting straight A’s semester after semester, the Stanford dream crept back in. But this time it wasn’t a dream, it was a fantasy. During my morning runs I would pound the pavement for 5 miles or more until my body could take no more. I think I was physically punishing my body. Punishing myself for daring to dream about Stanford. I equated that dream to fantasizing about becoming a billionaire (from my multiple successful startups of course) and solving the world’s problems. I didn’t dare hope that it could happen.

When it was time to apply I applied to the UCs and hoped that Berkeley would say yes. I started the Stanford application weeks ahead of the deadline but didn’t know if I would submit it. I loved the questions they asked, how thoughtful and insightful they were. I enjoyed working on the application and I figured it didn’t hurt to write. I could always use those answer for my UC applications.

As the deadline neared I agonized about asking for recommendation letters. I felt like others would see me as ridiculous for daring to apply. But I asked.

The night that the application was due, I kept toying with the submission button. Everyone was asleep and I was downstairs staring at the screen until I hit submit at 11:30 pm.

I would have put it completely out of mind if not for Ryan telling everyone that I applied to Berkeley and Stanford. I appreciated his confidence but I felt incredibly pained when he said it out loud. I could see others thinking – Does she know the acceptance rate hovers around 1 – 2 %?

I found out that I got into Berkeley the day after I had Valentina. I thought we were set to move to Berkeley and make it work.

During the drive up to Berkeley for a transfer student welcome event I figured that I would log in and check the response from Stanford. I had received an email the day before from Stanford and had to request a password reset to access my account. I hadn’t told Ryan that I had a response. I neededed to compose myself and process the rejection by myself first before telling him. I figured I was in such a high from getting into Berkeley that I could take the rejection. Valentina, only a few days old, slept in the car seat next to me. My mother (staying with us for a couple of weeks to help) sat on the other side. Ryan was driving and braving traffic as the day was grey with fog and rain.  I logged in from my phone and saw the letter. I read the first few lines. Puzzled, I read it again. My blood ran cold and I felt disoriented; only the heaviness in my stomach anchored me to my seat.  “One of the best parts of my job…” Only after I read it a third time did I cry out suddenly, “OH MY GOD!” “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Ryan braked and accidentally exited the freeway. He and my mother both looked at me with a mix of bewilderment and concern. “What’s wrong?!”

I couldn’t speak. I took a breath, and another. “I GOT INTO STANFORD!”

My mom teared up and Ryan cried out. He pulled over and parked on the side of a road and I read them the acceptance letter. I called my sister and told her. We screamed with joy and excited energy.

We did attend the orientation event and I was inspired by the future Berkeley students but I was still dazed by the news. We left early and went home to tell Bella and Iza.

A few weeks later and I’m now two weeks into my first quarter at Stanford. It is everything and so much more that I dreamt it would be. This place is paradise. I feel an incredible sense of belonging, of being cared for and guided, and of the infinite possibilities for my future (well finite only because at some point I will have to graduate).

When I started this blog I wondered if and when I would be able to write happy stories. Would I only be sharing stories of pain and survival? Would I ever be able to share stories about my life thriving?

I am incredibly fortunate to have so many people around me that love me and that I can pour my love into. My life has been healthy and happy. But it is now bursting with the promise of personal achievement. I thought that I had permanently failed all of my great teachers, coaches, and cheerleaders from my youth when my life took a different path. But I now have the luxury and great fortune to be able to go back to school and invest in myself.

Now I run without bounds. I recognize no limits. I’m taking life by the horns and making it my b!tch. And damn, does it feel good.

White Huaraches

4 Sep
I always get so paranoid about the girls having everything they need, to the point that they probably have a bit too much.  They needed sneakers for our daily evening walks (part of our new routine) and I thought out loud with them as to where we should go to find them.
“Are we going to that store where the lady gave us mood rings?”  I must have looked confused because Bella added, “the one downtown where she always gives us stickers.”
Leave it to my girls to make a chain store feel like a neighborhood mom and pop store and to look forward to a shoe store that I dreaded as a kid, Payless.  These kids are so used to getting their shoes at locations as varied as: Nordstroms, the alleys in downtown L.A., Gilt (online), and of course Payless for the seasonal wares, that they don’t see the difference between them all.  They walked off to play with their dolls and I was left lost in my thoughts about shoes.
When I was about nine years old I used to have constant nightmares of showing up to school barefoot.  It wasn’t that we were destitute, we always had the necessary items.  The real problem was that we were taught so well to never ask for anything that my mother never noticed when I needed new shoes.  In the fourth grade I had one pair of shoes and they were these white huaraches; I ran in them, played basketball in them, and dragged my feet in them as I walked home.  They were soon obliterated to the point that they were falling apart around my feet.  In the school yard, I looked for my sister and showed her my sandals with the ripped straps.  I kept dragging my foot on the floor so no one could tell that my sandal had become completely undone.  She left me with her friend, Bertha, and ran off to find a stapler.  Seconds before the morning bell rang she stapled my sandal back in place around my foot and smiled at me triumphantly.  I smiled back and gingerly walked off to line up for class.
As soon as I walked into Ms. Aurajo’s class the strap broke again and boys being boys, i.e. mean and stupid immature, loudly started to make fun of my huaraches, taunting me about being too poor to buy a proper pair of shoes.  Ms. Aurajo walked over and looked down at my feet and without a word sent me to the nurses office with a scribbled note I couldn’t read.  I dragged my foot across the hallway so the sandal wouldn’t fall off and with each step I could feel my cheeks grow hotter and redder.
When I got to the nurses office and handed her my note, she asked me to sit down.  I was about ready to cry but she prepared a cot for me to sleep in and tucked me in and asked me to take a nap and promised I would feel better when I woke up.  I lay there confused, unsure of what to do so I kept my eyes nearly closed knowing my long eyelashes would make it seems as if I was sleeping, something I had learned to do at home when I didn’t want anyone knowing I was awake.  I studied her face and noticed that she had her eye make up done the same way as my mother, with an electric blue across her eye fold and a bright pink across her brow.  She had shoulder length jet black hair with the bangs teased up, just like my mom.  But her eyes were a lovely almond shape, just like Ms. Aurajo would kindly point out my eyes were shaped like.  She had smooth olive skin and pretty lips.
I dozed off and when I woke up, Ms. Shiro was there holding my hand in hers.  I tensed up and pulled back but the kind look in her eyes made me relax and I longed for her to hold my hand again.  “Susana, do you have any other shoes at home?”  “No, yes.  I have a pair of tenis but my mom says they are for Christmas.”  “But we’re in September.  No matter, come back tomorrow morning, I will have a pair of shoes waiting for you.”  I looked horrified and ready to bawl, what would my mom think if I came home with a pair of shoes from this pretty nurse?  I walked home with my restapled shoe and couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my sister or my mom.  The next morning I went straight to class but the nurse came by my classroom and asked me to follow her.  I kept pinching my arm to distract myself from the horrifying embarrassment I was going to cause my mom when she saw me.  Ms. Shiro took my sandals and unceremoniously dropped them into her metal trash bin and handed me a pair of patent black shoes.  They were a shiny black with a rounded toe and mary jane style strap, they were lovely.  Which made me feel all the uglier in having to walk home in them.  My sister looked down at my feet and gave me a look that said, “Oh boy, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you get home.”
I was hoping to get home and somehow avoid my mom but she walked outside as we were walking in and saw my shoes immediately and soon enough she got the story out of me.  And I close my eyes to not remember what came next as I was soon in my room with silent tears rolling down my cheeks, pinching myself to distract myself from the pain on my legs and the wounded look I caused in my tired mother’s face.

Back to School

28 Aug

Loving Sisters, Daughters of Mine

I can’t help but feel the tightness in my chest as I see your little faces scrunched up with worry as you start school again.  You cling to me and I have no plans to let you go.  I want to hold the both of you like this, close to me, with my arms wrapped tightly around those two sets of shoulders that I never want to carry the weight of worries and fear.

At times, I regret my selfish motives in bringing you into this world. Did I do you wrong?

But that is an equally selfish and stupid thought to have.  When I look into your little shiny eyes, I can see how much happiness you will bring into this world, many times over what you already bring to me and those that are lucky enough to know you.

You possess kindness, sweet dispositions, tender hearts that ache at other’s suffering, and a joyous ringing giggle that can bring a smile to anyone who hears its music.

I am incredibly happy and blessed to have you as my own, to lay claim to having had some say in how wonderfully you are turning out.  No matter what other great things I accomplish in this life, the two of you will always overshadow them with your perfection of sweet little human beings that you are.

I am biased, no doubt, but I could care less about what others may think is an exaggeration; they have not met you.  They have not felt the velvet warmth that fills my soul when you hold me tightly as I tuck you into bed.  Nor you’re refusal to let go of my neck when I kiss you goodnight. 🙂  That love that carries through when we look at each other, smile at one another, and cuddle up with each other is unparalleled.

Some of my favorite moments are when I am in the car stopped at a red light and I reach back with my right hand and two little sets of hands instantly latch on.  You just know to expect it.  Or when one of us has a particularly difficult day whether it’s a  demanding project for me at work or someone not sharing with you at school; we listen to one another – no matter how frivolous it may be to others, we listen, we know.  And we always end it with our salute of Three Musketeers, and if that doesn’t work, we fall into a fit of giggles brought on by silly faces or jokes.
Some day the two of you will know how happy you make me.  When you are old enough I will tell you how instrumental you were in my life and how much motivation you provided.  I will confess that it’s a lot of work to raise two little ones on my own.  It was hard to have you so young after marrying too young.  But you two are like little wells of happiness that I can endlessly dip into when I need a smile, when I need a reason to see why every day is a gorgeous day, when I need a reminder of how precious life is.
No matter how tired I may be, no matter how much I want to take a nap after a long day of work and driving around to take care of the mundane needs of life, I can draw strength from your little smiling faces.  Those little beaming half-moons that fill me with an inexplicable energy to get everything done to make sure we have a simple but happy life.
I will be here for you always, no matter where you go or what you may or may not do, I will be here to love you unconditionally and to listen when no one else may seem to.  Every morning I will think of you and every day you will continue to be my babies, my little treasures, my Bellini and IzaPizza, no matter your age.
Whether it’s the first day of school, you’re first interview, or your first date (God forbid it happens before you’re 22), I will be here holding on tightly and leading the way.
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