Breaking generational traumas

In the backdrop of a barrio in Isabela, where the echoes of ambition often fade amidst the challenges of a low-income family, I stand as a beacon of defiance. None of my relatives or immediate family members tread the halls of major universities in the country—a fact that, against conventional norms, became my greatest blessing. As a driven achiever and a woman navigating the maze of dreams in the face of financial constraints, I take pride in being among the chosen few.

Rewind to 2019, a juncture that marked the beginning of my college journey. Like countless other incoming students, I cast my aspirations wide, applying to multiple colleges and universities, including the prominent ones in the city. To me, these opportunities were more than gateways to education—they were a means to make my single father beam with pride. Little did I know that my journey would be characterized by a fierce determination to rise above circumstances.

Coming from a public community high school in a rural barrio, I was acutely aware of the odds stacked against me. I wasn’t a product of a special science curriculum, nor did I boast memberships in significant organizations. In the eyes of many, I was “no one,” an outsider in the realm of academic competition dominated by those from science high schools and national high schools in the bustling metropolis.

Undeterred, I pushed myself to the limits, fueled by an unyielding belief that I could defy expectations. However, the inevitable happened—I faced my first failure in an examination, a harsh introduction to the bitter taste of disappointment. The UPCAT, a formidable challenge, proved insurmountable at that moment. Financial incapacities deprived me of the chance to try my luck at other major exams like DCAT, USTET, or ACET. Yet, in the face of adversity, the stubbornness within me prevailed, and I applied for reconsideration, desperately seeking a chance that could alter the course of my journey. Alas, for the second time, I found myself on the receiving end of failure.

Did it hurt? Undoubtedly. It was a unique pain, unfamiliar and ego-bruising. Did it hold me back? Not for a moment.

Fast forward to August 2019, and I commenced my collegiate journey at one of the best universities in our region. I immersed myself in the experience, joining clubs and organizations, and forging connections that would become a second family. The realization dawned on me—fulfillment and success were not exclusive to institutions like UP, UST, or DLSU. In those four years, I discovered that the richness of life could be found irrespective of the university’s prestige.

However, contentment did not shield me from the persistent desire to strive for more, especially when faced with the disappointment of not graduating with honors. The prospect of making my father proud fueled my determination to do better, to aim higher. I made a solemn promise to myself—to spare my father and myself the pain of disappointment. I allocated considerable time to meticulous review, determined to not just pass the test but to excel and secure a scholarship. The dream was not just mine; it was a familial aspiration to become the first-generation student in my family to enter a prestigious private university.

The day of the examination arrived in October 2023, and with it, a resurgence of familiar doubts. The questions loomed, challenging, and demanding a grasp of the basics. During this mental struggle, I confided in my father, expressing my apprehensions about the difficulty of the exam. Yet again, the shadows of worry threatened to engulf me, reminiscent of the emotions I battled in the past.

However, this time was different. A newfound wisdom, perhaps gained through the trials of the past, whispered to me that even if the outcome wasn’t ideal, life offered second, third, and fourth chances.

As the calendar turned to Dec. 2, 2023, my life was graced with one of the best year-end gifts—a gift that would become a source of immense pride for my family during Christmas and my father’s birthday. The acceptance letter from DLSU, a prestigious institution that once seemed like an unattainable dream, was in my trembling hands. Uncertain of what lay ahead, I opened the letter and felt a surge of fulfillment.

I had passed DLSU.

The weight lifted off my shoulders was not just the burden of personal expectations; it was the collective weight of familial aspirations. Later in the month, another piece of good news adorned my journey—I had secured the scholarship I had aimed for, covering 100 percent of tuition and fees. The surreal nature of these accomplishments filled the air, and the burdens of the past seemed to dissipate into the lightness of achievement.

In narrating this saga of trials, failures, and ultimate triumph, I find myself at the threshold of a new chapter. My journey, once marked by the weight of generational traumas, has become a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Breaking these chains in real time involves not just personal victories but the forging of a path that inspires future generations.

Gjia Jazelle Ruano, 22, a graduate school student from De La Salle University Manila.