You’ve seen it—whether sitting in the dorm hallways, meandering in broad daylight, or lying in bed at night—students and their loved ones update each other about their lives. Sometimes, they speak in loving tones. Sometimes, they debate in exasperated whispers. Other times, both sides laugh hysterically as their cameras pan around to share bits of their surroundings. In fact, you most likely do all of the above yourselves. Every time I observe these occurrences, I am reminded of why I am here. As soon as I get access to a quieter place, I sit myself down, pull out my phone, and call my mother.
The sight of her face is enough to remind me of the incredible waterfalls of her blood, sweat, and tears that she shed on my behalf. Over the course of eighteen years, I watched my mother, an immigrant woman with so few resources and abilities plopped in a foreign country, take on tremendous physical, emotional, and mental burdens. She suffered through abusive relationships, took on jobs that had her working over twenty hours a day, resorted to eating bananas instead of blackberries, her favorite but pricier fruit. She even lived in the car when money became strained in order to save as much money as she could for me. The gray-green Nissan underwent such heavy use that it reached its breaking point and constantly needed to be towed away. During the nights when we sat in our dying car waiting for the tow truck to pick it up, I would catch my mother staring out the window at what at first seemed like seemingly nothingness. Upon closer inspection, she was in fact gazing at the tall buildings of the financial centers far off into the distance, reminiscing about her relinquished dreams and ambitions of banking and investing in order to give me the best life possible. After a while, she would look away from the buildings, smile with a twinkle in her eyes, and remind me that everything was okay. My mother is my angel, my rock, my everything, and we have never once separated.
Day by day as my high school graduation approached, the air filled with more tension as my mother prepared to make the biggest sacrifice for me yet. Quality education and academic achievement remain of great importance within Chinese civilization and culture; therefore, my mother was determined to have me attend the college of the best fit for me despite the financial and emotional burden that this decision would crush her under. For me, leaving for college meant leaving behind for the first time in eighteen years. And so on Friday, September 15, 2021, I left my mother behind in my small town in New Jersey to fly all the way across the country to Los Angeles. At the airport, she held back a sob as she patted me on the shoulder before the security guard shooed her away. I was too busy shuffling around with my 200 pounds worth of luggage to properly say goodbye.Now, especially since the next time I see her would be in June of next year, I do wish that I had one last chance to properly embrace her.
Whenever I feel my thoughts wandering astray, one call from my mother or just the thought of her alone pulls my feet back on track. She is currently making tremendous sacrifices in order for me to be here, and I remind myself that I am here at UCLA to study hard, to succeed in my classes, to enjoy the #1 college dining hall in America, to meet new people, and to grasp opportunities. But most importantly, I am here to make my mother’s sacrifices worth it by picking up where she left off—pursuing my dreams and ambitions.
As I continue to pass by students connecting with their loved ones, I fondly wonder about their own unique stories and backgrounds while reflecting on mine. What are their sacrifices? Their dreams and ambitions? Their parents’ sacrifices and dreams and ambitions? Staying connected with your loved ones is vital, so please, remember to check up on your family and friends today.