Before I sit down to write anything, I always try to steer clear from the sob stories. I want to believe that I am something other than the low-income, recovered anorexic college student without a father. Unfortunately, my upbringing and the obstacles that followed have given me far too much to say. While I find it important to make it clear that individuals like myself have the woes to tell, the evils of money have provided me with a carefully cultivated perspective that I would not trade for every dime to Justin Bieber's name. Up until my junior year of college, being the poor kid was nothing more than a come-up story that college admissions counselors eat up when reading personal statements. However, thanks to the Hollywood Hills, I've come to realize wealth is not all it is cracked up to be.
Being that I could no longer starve myself to cope with stress, I spent the second half of junior year dealing with my re-employment and self-esteem issues by fantasizing about being the "LA" version of myself. In laymen's terms, this was the plastic, extended, toned, dream Stefania that I just needed the money to become. Every time I laid in my bed, all I could think of were plumped lips, perfectly sculpted white marble teeth, tacky bronzed skin, and "melons" instead of my biologically-given "peaches."
It's exhausting spending your hours of rest fantasizing about the person you wish you could be.
It wasn't until a friend took me to a Super Bowl party next to the H in the infamous "Hollywood" sign — that's when everything changed. Trying to find one extrovert in the room full of beautiful prototypes, I found my dream self. The Michigan-born Barbie doll had everything I dreamed of — lip injections, veneers, breast implants, high cheekbones, everything. When I broke away from our exhaustingly boring conversation, I escaped by claiming I "broke the seal." As I shut the ridiculously massive door (why do rich people supersize everything, does anyone know?) behind me, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
My eyes stuck on my $60 outfit, frizzed blonde hair from the light rain, natural eyelashes, and semi-straight teeth.
For the first time in years, I finally gave myself an absent-minded smile and looked away with content.
The financial hardships still stand. I battle my eating disorder every day while taking orders. Each time I ask, "Would you like bacon added to your Brussel sprouts?" a piece of my vegan heart chips off. I spend some nights crying over my dying car or my stomach that I wish I could pay to have suctioned. But when the emotional tides drift away and the logic shines on the shadows of doubt, I remember the girl I became the minute money mattered.
The resilience runs deep in my blood. I am a warrior and I have been one since the age of eighteen. I file tax returns, I write checks, and I understand FAFSA, finally! While the reality is waiting to happen for some of my peers that have been blessed with my dreams, I know New York City is waiting for me with open arms after I walk across the stage in May and receive my diploma.
Despite the trials and tribulations of laboring over a college degree, you can't put a price tag on the first-generation college experience.