I Wish I Were a Cat

panera

In the past two days, everything that could have gone wrong did. In fact, the only reason I am even able to write this post at the moment is because I walked to the local Panera to meet up with a friend who let me borrow her tablet (because my laptop battery died and my charger isn’t working… and the internet connection at my house is acting up). On top of this technological fiasco, things at home haven’t been great, and I mostly feel like screaming to the universe, “Why me? Why me? Why is everything so unfair and lame? Can I please just give up being a human and become a cat instead? – a pretty house cat who sleeps a lot and gets to eat treats flavored like chicken and whole grains?”

Alas, I am not a house cat. And life is not fair, and the universe isn’t going to let me give up, and I can’t make people behave the way I want them to. Much to my disappointment, things don’t work out the way I want them to. And that’s okay.

As a Quest Scholar at a highly competitive university, my peers’ advantages are often shoved in my face. This can be quite infuriating at times, no matter how much I love my school and many of my classmates. As the oldest of three children in a single-parent household, I had to do quite a bit of babysitting in middle and high school while my mom juggled to earn her undergraduate and now graduate degrees, while holding a job. I was the first student from my high school to ever be admitted to any Ivy League school, nevertheless attend one. I am Latina, which makes me a member of the most underrepresented ethnicity group at my university.

I am being a total Debbie Downer right now, but bear with me. I don’t mean to list these “injustices” or “difficulties” in order to bemoan how “hard” things have been for me, but merely to reinforce how some of us have disadvantages, especially when it comes to pursuing higher education. Even if and when we are admitted to and attend the institutions of our dreams, we are still at a disadvantage in many ways – it’s not as easy for us to afford unpaid, schnazzy internships, and it’s certainly disheartening when we are surrounded by people with lots of experiences (and resources and connections) that we totally and completely lack. Life really isn’t fair. I know that’s an old saying, and I know that acknowledging that there are people way worse off than me would be a grand understatement, but we need to remind ourselves of how unfair things are before we can come to terms with this simple fact of existence.

Some days, I get angry that my parents don’t own vineyards in foreign countries and that I don’t live in New York City. I get angry that people complain about not having enough cashmere sweaters or pea coats, when I know there are other kids in my school from families who struggled to put food on the table. I get angry when I realize how many people around me have absolutely no idea how lucky they are (and I myself often lose sight of how lucky I am).

But if we want to make progress, we have to look past life’s unfairness and start making ourselves accountable for ourselves. One of the reasons I chose to attend Yale was because of their admissions website’s blurb on “What Yale Looks For,” where it says, “Within the context of each applicant’s life and circumstances, we look for that desire and ability to stretch one’s limits.” I believe that with whatever we are given, we owe it to the world to be our very best selves.

So, in the face of life’s unfairness, in the face of a twenty-minute walk through the rain (without an umbrella and wearing a really cute floral dress that I learned is easily blown around in the wind, much to my dismay), in the face of how “disadvantaged” I may feel at times, I must always remember that whatever I face, I am capable of reaching for more, of being my very best self. I must also bear in mind how fortunate I am to attend the school that I attend and to have the resources that QuestBridge, my family, my high school, and now my university have provided for me. I must take advantage of my blessings and use the difficulties I’ve faced as growing experiences to become a more compassionate, magnanimous individual. In this way, I can prove to the world, and most of all myself, that I am capable of accomplishing whatever it is I wish to accomplish, whether it’s a blog post or becoming the kind of person with a voice that both resonates and matters.

Because those things don’t require monetary wealth – they require perseverance, courage, and, ultimately, some really great friends.

— by Adriana Miele, Quest Scholar, Yale ’16

This post was originally published on 7/22/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.