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Reflecting on My Past Unhealthy Undergraduate Self

As 2023 begins, I've started to feel really retrospective about my life. I ended up graduating a semester early from college December of 2022. It's been really weird having people applaud me for graduating early, when in reality I chose to graduate early mostly because I was tired of studying psychology and didn't want to drag it out any longer than I had to. I didn't decide that medicine was something I truly wanted to do until two years into my degree, so my last two years of college were spent taking the courses for my psychology degree, courses for my French and biology minors, while also doing medical school prerequisites — needless to say I was consistently overbooked. I don't necessarily regret majoring in psychology (it was really interesting and I learned a lot!) but I wish that I had freed myself from the need for academic validation much earlier so that I wasn't constantly at 18-21 credit hours a semester. I wish that I had realized earlier that constantly working for the knife isn't "living". Constantly receiving grades for doing things that I enjoyed ended up sucking so much joy out of doing them.

All that being said, I'm choosing to forgive my past self for the mistakes that they made. I was young, and a lot of my belief system came from how my surroundings treated me. Although I consider the midwest United States home, it doesn't necessarily consider me one of it's own. For as long as I can remember, I've been forced to prove that I belonged here, a grace given to my peers but not me. I don't even have the privilege of using the "I was born here" retort many of me second generation American friends have. Under most circumstances, not being born here should be insignificant. But it becomes significant if you're like me, in a family with a pending green card application. My family applied for permanent residency here almost a decade ago, and we have yet to receive our pathway to citizenship. In the meantime, on a legal level, I've always been considered a foreigner to where I call home. It does not matter how many years I've spent being educated in the United States, how many memories I share with my American born friends, or how much I've planned my future to be here.

On paper, I'm not American. My entire life I've been forced to overperform to prove that I am worthy enough for the United States to want to invest in me. It's stripped away parts of my humanity. These past few years I've been forced to take all my hobbies and interests and make something tangible out of them, whether it's been taking my love for language learning and making it a minor or being forced to create watered down pieces of art for my activism. I've always had to play the role of being a "good" immigrant. An immigrant that's just happy to live in the United States, regardless of how many times it's dehumanized me. I haven't been able to express any emotions other than determination or criticize where I consider home in fear of being told to simply "leave" if I didn't like it here. If I want to stay I have to work hard, be good, and hopefully be worthy enough to obtain a work visa of my own. I feel like I've lost who I am. The things that once brought me joy became sources of stress.

Pretty much as soon as I graduated, I started to work on my neocities site. I've had my stints on various social media platforms as a creator (instagram, tumblr, twitter) but for one reason or another I'd always lose interest in the platform. I'd been familiar with neocities for a while at this point, but had never really seen much of a reason to create my own. What was the point of having a website if nobody was gonna see it? But then I realized that this was exactly why I should have a neocities.

I've been singled out and alienated for most of my life for one reason or another (gay, brown, immigrant....I could go on). I've always felt that I've had to put on an act to maintain the respect of those around me. I have to be strong, because any slight weakness is a reason for an opportunity to be taken away from me, a friendship to be ruined, or a potentially deportation. I want to use this site and the ability to not have my face or professional life tied to my creations to embrace how I truly feel without having to censor myself for respectability politics. Of course, I will have friends irl who know who I am online and I will have online friends who know who I am irl. That doesn't necessarily bother me. I am not ashamed at myself for feeling the way that I feel about things. The difference is that now these people can make the active choice to embrace this side of me if they feel like it, rather than potentially feeling obligated to follow an art instagram account that I have and have my vent-y art work blasted on their feeds. I'm honoring my authentic emotions while also not feeling like I'm burdening those around me. I'm putting my creations out into the world without having to think too hard about other people seeing them.

This 2023, I want to learn how to balance the things I do for my professional life while also taking the time to do the things I enjoy. One of the first boundaries I'm putting up is that I don't plan on creating artwork or writing unless it's for myself and myself only. I have a couple of things in mind visual novel wise I'd like to make, and I'd eventually like to make an RPG Maker game. The stories I have right now are pretty much realistic fiction, but once I've become more comfortable with character building and writing I'd like to explore using fantasy/fictional worlds and settings as well.

All in all, I can't do anything to change the past and the mental turmoil it's caused me. But I'm excited for the future, and that's not necessarily something that I can say I've felt for a very long time.