I wonder if my mother still recognizes me: if my eyes still twinkle the same? I wonder if she notices the bricks, I drag behind me as my feet hit the pavement — how my chest caves in after the deepest breath, just barely making it out alive. Sometimes I wonder if this is where my body succumbs to fractions, a puzzle with missing pieces that I will never again obtain.
Over these four years, I have transitioned into so many people. I have become various escape paths for people who needed them, yet never thanked. I was walked over by faculty and used by students. Everyone talks about the destination and never the journey.
This university has taken so much from me.
Yet here I am, weeks away from graduating, and what do I have to show for it? We leave like shattered mirrors, and what do we have to show for it?
We push out assignments while struggling through the toughest of times. We neglect our mental health to impress professors who could not care less because they are tenure track. We leave the best parts of ourselves at the door of academia and never pick them up.
Four and a half years ago, I entered this institution with rose-colored glasses. I expected the best from a university that thrived on bad decisions and hating people that looked like me. I have seen my closest friends be racially profiled by UPD. I have had faculty members speak out of turn about the Black community because I was the only Black person in room.
I have been the only Black person in the room.
Do you know how devastating that is, being completely alone, having no one to look to for advice? We become like the sun: stared at even though you are not supposed to be. Do you know what it feels like to constantly prove that you belong here when everything around you says that you don’t?
Black students leave as debris.
We leave in broken pieces of what was once whole. Our minds were once whole. Our souls were once whole, and now we walk these halls like funerals processions, leaving tears behind on each desk, hoping that if we grieve our deaths then graduating might be a little easier.
We try our best to ignore that Cal Poly Pomona has become a gravesite for people of color.
We leave in pieces. We carry fragments of ourselves across the stage and .stuff it in diplomas, praying that employers will accept it in exchange for a $50,000 salary.
Because all we’re worth is the wreckage that this university left us in.
I asked if my mother would recognize the woman she has seen today. No, I don’t think so. Hell, I wouldn’t even recognize myself.