The dictionary declares that membership is a state of being a member.  Wow.  That’s profound.  Not really.  Not always.  But sometimes.  The sometimes encompasses those memberships that we claim which in turn become identifiers of sorts of our personhood.  For example, I consciously and with intent affirm being a member of the following groups ~ First Generation Korean Adoptee, Korean American, Queer community, and feminist women.  

These individual states of membership play integral parts in who I am, how I view myself, how others perceive me, and my position in society.  For some memberships it matters little whether or not I claim membership or disavow my belonging ~ as far as others (society) are concerned, I am a member.  This applies to some extent to my racial identity.  I look non-White.  I could claim I was White all day and all night and few, if any, would buy into my pronouncement.  However, the same is true when I am around traditional, native language speaking Koreans.  I am denied membership to the Korean Club.  Mostly, I am lumped into that huge and overflowing group Asian American ~ that’s usually enough of a racial ethnic identifier for White folks ~ I visually fit into that category.  It is true that I receive my fair (or I could say unfair) share of What are you? demands.  But I receive this question almost equally from other brown skinned folks.  Being female is another group that it matters little whether or not I claim my place or not; society sees me and treats me not as a man. 

Wow.  This is a long way to come to discuss what I was initially thinking about this morning.  Here it is.  I am a First Generation College Student.  I am also a Student of Color which makes me eligible to be a member of the First Generation College Student of Color.  Generally, students are considered First Gen (FG) if they are the first ones in the immediate family to attend college although one can still be considered a FG even if a parent(s) attended college, if they did not earn a degree.  My adoptive father didn’t make it past elementary school and my a-mother earned her GED through a correspondence course when she was in her 50’s. 

I have to come to realize that going onto college, particularly graduate school, becomes a career onto itself.  When students hail from homes where college is synonymous with growing up, an expectation, a given ~ there are huge advantages.  In these households, parents know the ropes and rules of academia, high school advisors are enlisted early on in guiding the college bound student to the best preparatory classes, and sources for financial aid when needed are identified and accessed earlier in the process. 

For FG’s, not having this base of knowledge and usually not having the encouragement by high school counselors presents big disadvantages and even bigger challenges.  For example, what’s got me going on this topic is my difficulty in understanding my school’s graduation requirements.  Starting with not even knowing that I needed to request a copy of the Graduation Procedures and after doing so and receiving a copy of the 13 page document, having the damnedest time in deciphering its meaning.  It’s one of those kinds of things where I understand each individual word by itself but not when strung together and not when understanding them means that I am moving further and further outside my family’s life experiences.  In summary, my brain goes on strike when I try to comprehend the steps I need to take to graduate. 

A sentence as simple as –

  • You must file a Notice of Intent to Graduate with the Registrar by the end of the trimester preceding the trimester in which you wish to graduate.

is a head scratcher.  I keep forgetting what preceding means.  I look it up in the dictionary.  I ask friends.  I get it.  and then I forget it.  which leads to me to freak out because I can’t figure out whether or not I have already missed the deadline to graduate in June.  then I look up the word preceding, again. 

In my head I get it.  I cognitively understand this seemingly stupid and crazy cycle.  I am simply working through the angst of moving beyond my parents, even though they are dead, that doesn’t seem to matter.  I am processing the negative self talk of being an imposter in graduate school, the fears of not being smart enough or capable enough.  But my emotional self is screaming out Enough.  Enough already.  Just tell me WTF does the ‘trimester preceding the trimester’ mean?