Scholarship Finalist –

Motherhood and Its Impact On My Self and Educational Goals

My name is Rima Villarreal. I am a single mother of two beautiful boys and am intent on earning a Master’s Degree in Depth Psychology. I just completed my second semester at Santa Barbara City College and have a 3.96 GPA. I am at the beginning of a long and challenging journey.

I was inspired to return to school by my psychotherapist Michelle Falvey, a brilliant and spirited woman whose services I had the honor of receiving for 1 ½ years during my participation in the Family Strengthening Program at St. Vincent’s of Santa Barbara, a transitional living program for low-income single mothers with children under 5 years old. I entered this program following a volatile dissolution with the father of my sons in 2012, and I have focused on healing, building and maintaining an awareness of self, tending to my sons to my utmost capability, and moving forward in pursuit of a beautiful future for my family. Among other requirements, I have attended weekly counseling, case management, and group therapy focused on understanding the brain and development of the young child, compassionate parenting, and the significance of self care. I balanced these obligations and goals with full-time employment as a public servant for the majority of my time in the program.

In September of 2013, shortly after my return to school in August, my psychotherapist, the individual who was the impetus for so much of my growth during this journey, and the momentous decision to return to school, passed away from a rare and aggressive cancer. Her life was taken in six weeks. Her passing devastated me to the core, and I struggled to focus on my studies amidst the enormous grief I felt. I felt great pain, but I focused on the reasons why I decided to return to school, and consciously honored her memory. I completed the winter semester with a 3.85 GPA.

Shortly after the beginning of the Spring semester in February, my youngest son, 20 months old at the time, was hospitalized in the intensive care unit for severe pneumonia. His entire right lung had collapsed from a bacterial infection. His condition was precarious, and it was an experience unlike any other to sit near his side at the hospital, watching his tiny chest move up and down as he struggled against the illness. He was in the hospital for two weeks, and I was nearly overwhelmed with terror and despondency. I again maintained my focus, reading class material and writing essays in the hospital while he slept, staying up late and awaking early in order to meet all my responsibilities. Thankfully he underwent a full recovery, and I realized that his and his brother’s health and well being are what means the most to me in life. I continued the semester as a full-time student, worked part-time at a local children’s center for homeless and at risk children, and maintained focus on my sons. Balancing work, school and motherhood was a challenge, but I completed the semester with a 4.0 GPA.

As a mother, I have learned that within me I have a tremendous capacity to pursue my best self. I have learned there is a deep and powerful internal reservoir that can be strongly tapped by the love and responsibility I feel for the boys I brought into this world. I have learned that I am strong and sure.

As a mother, it is important to me to consistently hone and expend my talents and abilities – to actively challenge myself to fulfill my potential in the small and large. The person that I am and project to my sons is the model that they will carry with them all their lives. I want them to be proud of their mother and their identity/ancestry and background.

I have learned that being a mother means frequently feeling as though you are putting everything you have into each day, each moment, and that strain and depletion comes often, but that this expenditure of energy is more than reciprocated with vast and valuable rewards – smiles, joy, security, and unconditional love from the most precious of beings.

I have learned to prioritize goals and tasks based upon their value, and to consistently contemplate the long term. I have learned that balance and self care is important, and being present, and remaining cognizant of your values, motivations and aspirations.

I have learned to recognize and appreciate opportunities, resources, and gifts with genuine gratitude, and to attempt to extract the most meaning and value from these.

I have learned to be creative, and to shift the nature of my internal dialogue and perspective towards a deeper and kinder consideration of others, a focus on positivity and the potential of what may be. In this practice lies peace and forgiveness.

Being a mother to me means a resurgence of a focus on dreams.

All of these lessons will serve me well in pursuit of my educational goals. Since becoming a mother, quite simply, I have a firmer notion of my identity and sense of self. I have children who are protecting, guiding and driving me towards something of immense value. I believe in myself and what I am capable of. My experiences as a mother that have been filled with pain and trials will serve me well, because I have stood face to face with momentous fear, anger, turmoil and failure . . . I have tended to the ashes left in their wake and emerged with peace, hope, and love. I have learned to be more diligent, effortful, purposeful and strong, and not to succumb to or define myself by my difficulties or strife. I am a survivor and I will intend to place my greatest efforts towards my education, the attainment of which will help me to help others who are victims of trauma. This means so much to me – it is a path that will draw from my greatest strengths, qualities and interests for a life filled with work of meaning and purpose.