CSULB - My College Experience · Life

Fear of Success & Transformation

Could fear of success & transformation been one of the reasons behind some of the bad choices I made at my Community College during my early 20s? According to one of my homework assignments it’s quite possible. Last night I was doing some reading for my Race, Class, Gender course and one of the articles made me reflect back on my own experience with transitioning into college and the choices I made. The article is Across the Great Divide: Crossing Classes and Clashing Cultures written by Barbara Jensen.

The article talks about the different emotions a person experiences when crossing over from working class to middle class by way of pursuing higher education as well as the “unequal opportunity and the cultural domination of one class of people over another”. The section that really got me to reflect on my past choices was “Survivor Guilt” and Cultural Collision.

If crossovers are not conscious of the cross-class experience, the problem it creates can hide behind many personal perspectives…For many it is a compulsion to ditch class, or get “loaded”, or to suddenly “blow off” an important exam.

That last sentence sounded very familiar to me. During my early 20s I was adamant about attending the local Community College even though our family was going through some very difficult financial as well as personal hardships. I was torn between being the breadwinner for my family as well as providing emotional support and pursuing something I had always dreamed of – higher education. I decided I could do both but what I ended up doing was accumulating one W (withdrawal) after another, semester after semester, or sometimes blowing off exams, or getting C’s and D’s. I was setting myself up for failure rather than allowing myself to be taken by surprise by it. This was very unlike me because during K-12 I had been an A student, but then again I wasn’t the breadwinner of my family. For the longest time I thought the reason I had followed the pattern I did at my Community College was because I was afraid of failing. But in reading this article, it made me realize that a part of me may have been afraid of succeeding because that meant transformation and maybe losing a connection with my family ties and culture. I definitely had a strong sense of loyalty to my family and to help them and felt in part that by pursuing something I knew I could succeed at might mean that I would be straying from them. But those thoughts had more to do with my own personal perception because my family never told me not to attend, it was my own fear of what this new change in me would bring and if succeeding in life would mean losing ties with my family and culture.

I realize now that isn’t the case and while I’m still working on getting my degree and it’s taken me some time to get to where I’m at now (all those bad choices had consequences) I am still very close to my family and our culture. Success and transformation doesn’t have to mean you suddenly become disconnected from where you come from but becomes an addition of you. I really enjoyed the article because it gave me a new perspective and it was interesting to think back on something that happened so long ago.

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3 thoughts on “Fear of Success & Transformation

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is so comforting to know I am not the only one who has experienced this. I appreciate you pointing out the struggle of crossing over class lines. I am in that position now. I am close to finishing my doctorate degree and have been dragging my feet terribly for the past few years to finish it. I want to finish. I really do. But on some level, I don’t because I am terrified of becoming disconnected from my family and my culture as well. I would be the only one in my entire family to be called “Doctor.” On one hand, I know they would be proud of me but on the other, I fear that they would no longer know how or want to relate to me and would further distance me. Thank you again. I am glad to see you continued with your schooling! Best of luck!

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    1. Hi there, thank you so much for your comment! I’m so glad you found my post helpful. Back when I read that article in class I felt like it helped me understand so much about myself and my fears as well. I must say I do hope that you find that excitement to complete your doctorate degree, it is such a great achievement and you should be very proud! I truly believe that as long as we continue to keep that connection alive with our family and practice our culture it is completely possible to achieve higher educational goals which will ultimately only enhance the person we are. I think the key thing for me was realizing that my family was in no way being weird, it was all me and in my thoughts. As long as you continue to relate to your family then there can’t really be a disconnect. Best of luck to you too!

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