When I was younger, I was adopted by a family with nine other siblings. I was one of the middle children, and always felt a little left out. This was partly because my other siblings all had brothers or sisters close to their age, while I was often on my own. This isolation also took place because I had lighter skin than most of my siblings. We’re all black, but I’m one of the lightest one, so that made me different. I invested my time in my local church, my schooling, and extracurricular to alleviate my feelings of loneliness and to prove my worth to myself and my family. My parents held high expectations for me because I was high achieving in school, they always saw me going far in life. This is why when I became homeless in college I never ended up telling them. I didn’t want to disappoint them. Going off to college was exciting to me, this was my time to determine my future for myself. When I came to college, I took advantage of this newfound freedom. After growing up with so many responsibilities and such strict parents it was hard not to have some fun in college, but I ended up having a little too much fun if ya know what I mean. Although this new experience was exciting, there were also times I felt a disconnect with my classmates. I don’t know if you noticed, but La Crosse is white. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who didn’t look like me and I remember telling myself, “I gotta find some black friends”. It wasn’t that I just felt unwelcomed, I was also the target of hate crimes due to my race. One time my black female friend and I were walking to Walgreens and a car full of white boys rolled up next to us and started yelling racial slurs and throwing ice balls at us. It was hard to imagine how terrifying a situation like this is until it happened to me. The combination of trying to fit in at this extremely white campus and partying too much my freshman year led to some major isolation problems ultimately my grades suffered. My junior year rolls around and by this time, I’ve gotten my act together for the most part. I’m more focused on school, but I struggled in econ. By the end of my spring semester, I had three A’s, two B’s and one F from Economics. That one F combined with my poor grades from freshman year, placed me on financial aid suspension. Regardless of what my grades showed, I deserved to be at the university and that I have worked hard since my freshman year. But after getting A’s in both of my summer classes and still not getting my financial aid back, I knew I needed to make some sacrifices to make it through my junior year. Staying in school was my number one priority – for me, dropping out wasn’t an option. In order to make this happen, I got two jobs, decided to become a part-time student, and dropped my meal plan. Even with all of these sacrifices, I still didn’t have enough money to pay for housing. I began jumping from couch to couch at different friend’s places, and staying at my ex-boyfriend’s. This caused a lot of tension between my friends and I, but especially between my boyfriend and I. His roommates wanted me to chip in for rent, but I couldn’t afford it, so he covered for me. I started to feel like a burden on everyone. Besides a few of my close friends, I was too embarrassed to tell people about my situation. I didn’t tell my parents because of the high expectations they had for me, plus they already had too much on their plate with all of my other siblings. I didn’t consider myself homeless at the time but after all of the stress between my friends, school, and work, it hit me that I had nowhere to stay. Some of the people that knew about my situation told me to drop out of school and work to get back on my feet before going back. But I didn’t even take this into consideration, there was no way I was going to give up on school. After working my butt off for a couple semesters, reapplying for financial aid, I eventually got it back. I knew I had to take the initiative in order to improve my situation ‘cause no one was going to do it for me. Not everything is happy-go-lucky. I’m not gonna lie, it was really hard to get through this time of my life, but after all the work I put in, I finally was able to get an apartment with a couple friends. I continued to put in my maximum effort and I ended up graduating with a communications degree. Looking back on it, it’s crazy to think that I experienced homelessness just because of some dumb mistakes I made. When most people think of homelessness, they only think of people on the streets begging for money. But I was homeless. And I was never in a shelter. I was never begging for money. I was never on the streets. I mean, some days I’ll admit I smelt a little raunchy when I didn’t have my own shower, but I wasn’t the stereotypical “homeless”. You’re gonna have good days, you’re gonna have bad days, but you just gotta keep going. And that’s life. At the time, I didn’t know where I’d end up. But look at where I am today, I have my degree, I’m working full time at a great job, and I have stable housing. Although I was homeless, I was fortunate enough to have the friends and resources I had in order to stay in school and finish my education. Not everyone is as lucky as me, it easily could have turned out a lot worse.