Authentic Eagles: Andrea Roman On Guilt

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.

Andrea Roman, A&S ’14

As the daughter of two Bolivian immigrant parents, my mother and father came to the United States in search for a better future for my brother and me. Having only graduated high school, my parents knew education would be my ticket to success. At the age of three, my parents enrolled me into a private preschool school where I would receive full financial aid. I was extremely fortunate to keep receiving scholarships as I entered a K-8th school and eventually into my high school. I am blessed to have always attended one of the best schools in the DC area and to have been presented with several opportunities through my schools.

My first memory of guilt was in fourth grade when my mother changed jobs. Because I went to a private school, there were no school buses for transportation. My school did not open until 7:30 in the morning and classes did not start until 8:30. In order for my mother to make it into work on time, she had to drop me off at a friend’s house by 6:30 so that her nanny could drive me to school. Every morning I would crawl into my friend’s bed while she kept sleeping, but the entire time I laid there, all I could think about was how bad I felt that her family had to open her house to me and even worse, how bad I felt that my mother had to wake up so early to take me.

This feeling of guilt progressed as I got older. Once I entered high school, I was old enough to put together some observations that I had always noticed growing up. I had always been the only Latina in my class and overall, there were only a few AHANA kids in the entire school. My home life was always kept separate from my school life because I knew they had nothing in common. My school friends lived in surrounding neighborhoods of my school while my home friends attended the school down the street that had almost no Caucasian students. A lot of my home friends did not like that I attended a private school and thought that I viewed myself as better than them or too good for our local public school. It was difficult to explain that it was my parents’ decision to enroll me at that high school and that we didn’t pay for it. I felt guilty having to defend my parents, but also guilty having to leave my friends every day to go to a school far away. Although I knew deep down inside that my parents put me in that school for the own good of my future, I still felt bad that my friends viewed me differently and that I was given opportunities that I otherwise would have never been given.

Once senior year of high school came around, college was all we ever talked about in my school, but with my home friends, it was never brought up. Some would go to community college while others became parents or found a job. Regardless of what my friends would decide on doing, there was one thing that would not change and that was staying at home. No one was going to leave…except me. One of my friends laughed at me when I told her I was applying to Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College. She did not think I would be accepted because those schools were not meant for people like us. I applied anyways, despite the fact that I knew my friends would be unsupportive. For this, I felt guilty, but when I got accepted into BC, I knew I had to take it. I told my parents of my decision, and they weren’t too happy about it, either. It wasn’t in the DC area and leaving home was unheard of.

Staying at home was expected because the reality is, most countries outside of the US don’t do the whole go away for college and discover yourself thing. Rather, you graduate from high school, you don’t move out, and you go to the local college in your city. It took a lot of convincing, but eventually, my parents supported me in my decision. As I moved into BC campus and said my goodbyes to my family, the first thoughts that came to mind were not of sadness or excitement, but of guilt. Watching my parents drive off made me feel so guilty that I had willingly moved far away.

The nightly phone sessions of me sobbing to my mother because I was homesick lasted for almost every night until I received a phone call on October 10th of my freshman year. My mother called me around 7 a.m., but when she heard my voice half-asleep, she told me to call her back. I went back to sleep but was soon awaken by her 10 a.m. call. This time when I answered, I immediately heard her cry. I could not believe the words that came out of my mother’s mouth. My brother had gotten into an extremely tragic accident and had been arrested. As she continued to explain the situation, I knew I would have to fly home as soon as possible.

With only a month into school, I didn’t know who I could trust, so I kept it to myself and didn’t leave the room all day in fear that someone would see me cry. I went to mass that night and couldn’t hold it in any longer. I approached Father Tony and asked to speak to him. I told him everything that had happened and he told me to come into his office the following morning. When I arrived to Campus Ministry, he bought me a flight home and I left for DC. When I arrived home, I found my family completely destroyed. I had never felt so guilty before in my life. While I was sound asleep in Boston the day before, my family was going through the most difficult experience of their lives. My brother was released but would not speak to anyone but me, his best friend. He was depressed and embarrassed. As I laid next to him all day, the only thing I could think of was how I should have been there with him instead of in Boston. If I had been there, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation. Family is everything to me and if something hurtful happens to a family member, it is as if it happens directly to me.

I spent the entire week at home but couldn’t miss any more of school. I left home unwillingly but there was nothing I could do. The next few months at BC were filled with nothing but guilt. While my family stayed depressed in our house and dealt with media coverage and endless amounts of lawyers, I was going to class and working. In order to compensate my being in Boston, I got a second job so that I could buy flights home every other weekend. I didn’t know when my brother’s court date would be so I decided to take the following semester off to help my family. My parents did not support this decision, and neither did my mentor, Dean Sarr. Even though I felt extremely guilty for being away from home, my family would feel extremely guilty if I came home and sacrificed a semester of my education. I was convinced to stay at school but ended my semester early when I found out that my brother’s court date would be in early May. After my brother’s sentencing, I stayed home for the summer, but when September came along, I felt so bad leaving my parents alone while I left for Boston.

In the following years, including now, I have felt guilty for not being home during the most difficult time of my life. I feel guilty that I stayed at BC but have finally realized that the decision was made so that I could have a better future. Dropping out of BC and staying at home to help would have been a short-term solution, but staying here and graduating will allow me to help my family in the long term at a greater scale. And while I feel guilty that my brother will not have any visitors for the weekend of my graduation because my family will be with me in Boston, I have come to terms that this feeling of guilt is not how my family, especially my brother, wants me to feel. They all pushed me to stay in Boston for the success of my future, which is their dream and in turn, their success as well. I have been able to turn my guilt into motivation to make my time here in Boston worth the sacrifice of being far away from my family. Since that first memory of guilt in fourth grade, I have felt bad for the sacrifices my family has made for my education. Finally at the age of 22, I am able to say that instead of letting my guilt bring me down, I will use it to push me towards success.