Christina’s Story

Potential Hess 2.jpg
Christina Hess Al-Junaid
Class of 2018
Major: Social Welfare
Minor: Spanish

When I arrived at UAlbany, I had already struggled as a full-time caregiver, while balancing school, battling depression and anxiety, bearing the brunt of severe bullying, enduring extended emotional abuse, witnessing death, and taking care of my mom, who was also ill. Two weeks after moving unto campus, my freshman year, I lost a friend to suicide. I struggled greatly from continuously being emotionally and mentally wounded by those related to me by blood. I felt alone and hopeless at times. I wondered if college was really where I belonged. I worked three jobs to pay for everything on my own.

I share these struggles with you to show you that life’s obstacles can be blessings in disguise. I have my own apartment now, will be studying abroad in Costa Rica this spring, and am working toward my dreams of becoming a social worker in the future. I am doing all these things, while learning to be the best possible version of myself.

I am Resilient.

Such a simple word with the complexity of a puzzle and the beauty of a masterpiece.
Resilience was my only option and my savior at the very same time. Trauma, care-giving, depression, anxiety, and loss have shaped me, but have never defined me. My life has been restored and this new story began to unfold at the University at Albany. I have built a foundation and family here at UAlbany. One that strengthens me through the struggles and gives me hope for my future.

There are a few mottos that I live my life by and would like to share. The first is to be kind and show compassion to everyone, no matter who they are, and especially to the ones who seem the least deserving. The second, is that life is all about perspective. When I changed my categorization of “bad” experiences to “learning” experiences, my life changed. It is the power you give to something and how you view it, that matters most. The third, is that you will learn, that in addition to fighting for the people and issues you care most, you must be willing to fight for yourself. You have the power to love yourself and be patient with yourself. You have the power to work for a future that you are proud of and create a new life for yourself. These are things I am learning to do at the, ripe old, age of 22.

Finally, I want you to know that hope exists. All the sleepless nights, crying, anxiety-ridden decisions, self-doubt, questioning, and pain will be worth it. I know this because I went through it and still am. I am still here. These are not things to be read in a college textbook or taught. They are real life experiences that require us to feel and work toward. We live through them every day. They are what makes us stronger. Take one decision at a time, one step forward, no matter how many times you fall back and know that you are on the right path, even if it isn’t completely clear right now. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

You are deserving of hope and you will conquer whatever barriers are in your way.

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