By Marisa Rodriguez
Published on February 3, 2019

Dear Tyler,

It’s Friday and I’m finally off work. I get in the car. It’s 5 pm- rush hour on the 405 freeway. 19 miles to go. How was school? Did you have fun? Do you have homework tonight? How was the homework you turned in today? Are you hungry? Did you eat at grandma’s house or did your dad cook for you? Do I need to cook for you when I get home? 20 minutes pass. I’m merging on the 10 freeway. I’m driving slower than I was on the 405. 15 miles to go.

My overthinking is making me crazy, so I call you.

Ya comiste?” I ask.

Si,” you say.

Te hestas portando bien?

“Yes, mama, are you almost home?” you ask.

“It will take me about another two hours to get home from where I am, babe,” I answer.

You reply, “Okay,” and hang up.

Your crestfallen voice makes me sad. It breaks my heart to be apart from you. Unfortunately, the more cars there are, the longer it takes me to get to you, at this specific time, every single day. 12 miles to go.

Tyler, when I was young like you, I wanted to go to college because it looked like fun. However, when you were born, everything changed. I changed everything. I finished community college and transferred to UCLA, a 4-year university. It took me ten years.

I love going to school and learning new things so I can provide a better future for you. I do not want you to grow up with the same education that I grew up with. I’m preparing you for college, and that is an expectation I have for you, that my family didn’t have for me. I go to school every day because I love you unconditionally. I’m sad when I leave you in the morning and come home late at night. After I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, I am all yours. (Until I decide to get my Master’s degree.) I’m merging on the 60 freeway. 3.5 miles away. I’m almost home.

At UCLA, my education expands my mind to think in a different way. It is a demanding university. I fight through it because I want to absorb everything and learn. Although I have access to higher education, it is hard for me to fit in here. Not only as a woman, but as a mom. I feel out of place here. Other students here do not know what it is like to juggle the responsibilities of a full-time student, full-time mom, and working while pregnant.

Most students do not have to worry about keeping two other human beings alive. It is tough.

At UCLA. Photo by Marisa Rodriguez, 2017.
At UCLA. Photo by Marisa Rodriguez, 2017.

Tyler, I know you do not understand yet because you are still young, but to attend UCLA is a great achievement. Fifty-three percent (53%) of the time, college students who are mothers do not graduate with a degree after 6 years. Even with the odds against me after 10 years, I will graduate — pregnant and with a 7 year-old. I’m the first one from my family to graduate from a university. Graduating is a great accomplishment for me, for us. It seems surreal. I cannot believe it is almost over. We did it, little man.

I am proud to be your mom every day. I hope you are proud of me. Do you like school? What do you think you want to do when you grow up? You can do whatever you want. I hope you do. 0 miles to go. I am pulling into the driveway now. See you soon.

I love you.

Mama

Works Cited

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Marisa Rodriguez recently graduated from UCLA with a double major in History and Gender Studies. She loves the History Channel, but she’s disappointed that they rarely play history anymore. Marisa is a lot older than many of the other students at UCLA, but takes pride in being old because she doesn’t look it. She is proud of her Mexican heritage and loves Mexican food, especially her mom’s Pozole.