I have not raised my hand all class. I know what to say; I have something worthwhile to share … I want everyone to hear what I have to say. I say to myself:

“Michaela, you can do it. Raise your hand. You’ve done this before.”

It is almost as if I am playing hot potato in my head — in the end, I do not raise my hand. Another opportunity is missed, and I am left scolding myself until the next day.

Why do I feel like I will be laughed at if I give an answer to a question during discussion? Why do I feel that I have to make sure that anything I say “sounds intelligent”, so that I can feel that I belong?

Sometimes it feels as if I have to constantly prove that I am competent enough to sit in the same class as other students. Coming out of high school I knew that there would be some challenges I would have to face because my high school was severely underfunded; the sky was the limit for some, but for most, this is was untrue.

Sometimes I do muster up the courage to answer a question during instruction. I did just this in my Biological Anthropology class I built up the confidence and cleared my throat. I did not flinch or appear nervous when I provided an answer. Suddenly, someone replies with a scoff:

“No, I think this is the answer”

This moment is when I realized that the feeling of having to prove myself was reality. And that gut wrenching feeling of not feeling good enough takes time to cope with — it can mess with your mental health. Knowing that you have worked hard in high school with all that was offered to you, but realizing that you will always have to work ten times harder can be discouraging.

However, one thing I continue to remember as I walk around campus and see other students that have similar stories to my own is that we are still here. We are going to graduate from the University of Michigan, we are going to pass that hard class that everyone warns us to never take, we are going to succeed even though the odds are against us. And even more important, as a black woman, I am even more motivated to do well because not only do black students make up about 4 percent of the population at the University of Michigan, but the graduation retention rate is lower than our white counterparts.

Though I may have to work a little bit harder than others to get an A in a difficult class, I am learning to understand that working harder does not mean that I am not competent enough, but rather that I am determined to accomplish the goals — no matter what.

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