In 2013, Travis Reginal above wrote an essay in Education Life about making his way from Jackson, Miss., to Yale, as a first-generation student. In his admissions essay, he had examined his love of writing poetry. He updates his journey, in his favorite format.
My room appears as if it were just the first week of school.
Most of my belongings still lie in boxes.
The items that are out seem to have been tossed about randomly,
Finding no spot in particular to call home.
Hands on hips, I look at where to start.
Even though I am almost through my junior year, it’s not too late
To open the boxes that I am sure still contain some of my potential.
I have spent a lot of time shouting to my anxieties,
Trying to avoid the nagging feeling that I matter as long as I am “high achieving.”
That is when you become someone worth advocating for.
I am not good at boxing shadows so I have lost more than a round or two to myself.
Classes are a competition, myself versus privileged peers.
Hey, don’t laugh when I speak.
Reading about policies that affect my family.
Cuts in food stamps are more than just a discussion topic.
Who but me has been on welfare?
I have picked up the odor of this place.
Dreams of helping bring about racial reconciliation and educational equality
Are momentarily replaced by thoughts of wealth management,
By frantic searches for opportunities that might lead to a high-paying job some day.
You know, the thing that is supposed to change the trajectory of my family.
Dreams of what a world-class education would feel like if I were fully present.
I am afraid to look at my grades.
An email containing my final English paper, freshman year, sits unopened.
I leave my “self-help” student job,
Loosening the chokehold on my ability to prepare for classes like I want to.
I snap back into frame.
I am good at bending and stretching without breaking,
For I am a bridge that connects places that are uncomfortable with one another,
A bridge that says we won’t treat disadvantaged kids as the other,
To be conquered with policies that see us simply as statistics.
I rest in two places —
Yale, with its suave way of getting doors to open,
Exclusive perks and networks,
And Jackson, where I double check that the door is locked,
Where people sell drugs down the street.
I remember that home is not always comfortable,
There are growing pains wherever you go.
Now I have let the poetry of myself spill onto the pages of this campus.
I chuckle, soul full of relief,
Staring at brokenness long enough, I still find hope,
The light switch in a dark place.