I sat in the other room, listening as she sobbed and muttered senseless words of lost hope to herself. This has become routine lately. I come home, sit down, and I listen. Because what else is there to do? What is there to say?

She is lost in herself. Lost in the pain and the confusion. Her mind is clouded by the wine she steals from my room when I’m away. She thinks I don’t notice. The depression has deep roots that grip her soul with dark twisted lies. She needs help. Real help. And I can’t give it to her.

She spends her days taking care of her brother. He has been given six months to live and he is in excruciating pain every day. I can feel the heaviness as she walks into the room after a long day of pushing his wheelchair around from place to place. She is exhausted.

Meanwhile, I spend my days waking up early, grabbing coffee with young girls who are making big decisions about where to spend the next four years of their lives and little decisions like whether they are going to winter formal or not. And then I make small talk with strangers for hours on end as I make almond milk lattes and beloved #PSL’s. And in the evenings I head to school and I learn about the political economy of media and the importance of concise writing. And I come home tired. And to be honest- drained of grace and patience more often than not. So I sit and I listen. And I feel stuck. Because what is there to do? What is there to say?

I walked into a meeting last week with my academic advisor. I have been avoiding scheduling a meeting for a while because when you’ve transferred multiple times and changed your major about a trillion- and then taken almost a year off of school in the time between- the finish line doesn’t really ever feel like it’s in sight. She met me with a smile as I walked in. My palms were sweaty and my heart raced as I prepared for “You have two more years of school left and none of your credits are going to transfer.” She spent a lot of time clicking and typing. I asked her how her day had been and commented on the weather.

“Wow- I can’t believe I am going to say this to you, but it looks like you could graduate this spring if you wanted to.”

Jaw. On. The. Floor

I asked her to clarify, thinking she had misspoke. You mean the Spring of 2018, don’t you?

“No. I mean this Spring. Spring of 2017!” She was smiling.

I squealed. Like a child who gets a puppy for Christmas. My mind started racing. It was really happening. I am going to finish college. I am going to have a four year degree…a whole entire year earlier than I thought I would. All of a sudden the finish line was in sight and I could only feel one thing; proud.

You see, anyone who knows me well knows that my journey through college has been a hard one. Finances have been tight. Classes haven’t transferred smoothly. Meetings with academic advisors have left me in tears. On top of all of that, I am a first generation college student. No one in my family has completed college and gotten a degree.

As thankful as I am to have the opportunity to further my education, I have also become painfully aware that the odds are stacked against me. You see, statistics would say that due to the atmosphere I’ve grown up in and my family’s financial instability, the chances of me being successful in life, or even graduating from college, are slim. It sucks to write that, but it sucks even more that it’s true. I took a social work class my sophomore year of college and I went back to my dorm room crying one day because my professor told us that most kids who grow up in poverty stay in it their whole lives. Combine that with a childhood full of abuse, neglect, and turbulent relationships and according to science, I was bound to be a screw up. I was a statistic and not the good kind. What was there to say? What was there to do? I felt stuck.

As I walked out of my advisor’s office the other day, I started thinking about feeling “stuck.” I think so often we become dissatisfied with our lives and start to believe that we don’t have a fighting chance at becoming unstuck. We start to believe that we don’t have space to move forward. We forget that the world has better and more abundant for us if we choose.

We are our own worst enemies in regards to stagnancy. When we speak the word “stuck” over our lives, we enter into dangerous territory. More often than not, we aren’t stuck, but we must be willing to move ourselves. We must be willing to believe that we are more than casualties leftover from the poundings of a cruel world. We have to rid ourselves of the victim mentality that we so often cling to. Yes, I am a victim of abuse and neglect. My life hasn’t been an easy one.  But I am not destined to repeat the mistakes the people around me have made. We do not need to be held by chains of what used to be and we don’t need to feel confined by the chains of our present circumstances. We have the choice to walk forward. We have the choice for our lives to look different.

Eight months from now, I will step onto a stage wearing a cap and gown and I will hold a diploma in my hand stating that I have a four-year degree from the University of Washington. I will be a first generation college student, not defined by poverty or past abuse, or by the house I live in or how I spend my days, but by my determination and character. I will be the best kind of statistic and I will stand, proud of my life and proud of who I am becoming. I am not a victim. I have freedom to move forward and be different…and I will be. I am not stuck. We are never stuck.