"Why did you come all the way from Los Angeles to Wesleyan for college? Why would you want to go so far away from home?"
This is a question I get on every single tour of Wesleyan’s campus that I give. Almost always, some parent will think it’s incredulous that I would ever want to give up that Southern California weather into this messy New England winter. Almost always, some student will ask me how I managed to bear through the cold winters. Almost always, I answer, “Seasons. I wanted to experience winter—no also fall and spring—because in LA, it’s always summer.”
Almost always, laughs travel across the crowd and the tour continues. But every single time this happens, I always wish I had the time to elaborate on not only why I chose Wesleyan, but more importantly, why I’m still here.
There is not a week that goes by that I don’t wish that I could transfer somewhere else, somewhere where not only is the weather warmer, but the people too.
But I could never leave Wesleyan.
Growing up, I never learned how to speak. Words came out of my mouth just fine, conversation was easy, but everything I said always felt foreign to me. I laughed along with these peers of mine when I was bullied by them, no matter how painful or scarring the words were.
They were just words, right? Nothing worse. Remember, I was told, so many others face situations much more difficult than you. Words were meaningless and just filled with childish ignorance, they can’t do anything to you.
Growing up, I never learned how to speak. The words that I begun to use to define myself in my own mind were the ones these bullies threw onto me every day. I laughed along with them, scoffing at my weakness, and took in all the words they used on me.
Be quiet, so many others face situations much more difficult than you.
Silence will get you through the day.
I needed to get out.
My only thoughts were to succeed in school, to get the best grades possible, to open as many doors available and pick the one that takes me furthest away from here.
And I did.
From the moment I stepped foot onto Wesleyan, I felt like I had a stake in this place around me, and I felt like I finally had the chance to not let the people around me define who I am but let me define myself.
I started to realize that when I opened my mouth to talk, people were actually listening. I realized that I actually felt like I was finally speaking for myself, and that the words coming out of my mouth were finally my own, and not anyone else’s.
Wesleyan gave me back my voice.
Wesleyan allowed me to be who I am in my entirety, and gave me the opportunity to grow in ways I had never before imagined. The people I was surrounded with consisted of some of the most supportive people I have ever encountered in my life, and they taught me more than I could’ve imagined.
The remaining fragment from my past that I have not been able to shed is how easily the words of others affect what I think of myself.
So yes, Wesleyan is a place like any other where horrible things happen. And yes, Wesleyan is a place like any other where we work together to make this school a better place.
But Wesleyan has given me back my voice, and no matter how hard the fuck you want to try, you’re not taking it away from me this time around.
And for me, that’s Wesleyan’s saving grace.
I have a decade’s worth of words at my arsenal, don’t you dare try and stop me from using it.