“On days when I feel like just giving up, I remind myself that I am only 18, and that I have the rest of my life ahead of me. I’m too young to lose hope”- Lakshmi P.

Most people look forward to turning 21 but that is something that visa holders like me dread. Turning 21 means that I will age out of the system and have to fight to stay in this country, a country that I have lived in for the majority of my life.

I have known about my visa status since middle school, but I only understood the seriousness of the problem around junior year of high school. As my dad explained to me that I don’t qualify for in-state tuition or most financial aid, can’t easily pursue a career in health care, and would have to switch to a student visa before I turn 21, my whole world came crashing down. I entered a dark place and I began questioning everything. Why didn’t he tell me this earlier? What’s the point of working so hard? Despondent thoughts consumed me, and I spent countless days and nights worrying, and feeling so utterly powerless. It just didn’t make sense. I used to think that America was a country where everyone had equal opportunities. I used to think that if I worked hard, I could be anything I want to be. But I’ve come to realize that isn’t necessarily true. I just want to be able to visit my family back in India without the fear of not being able to return home. I just want to be able to have a part-time job. I just want a chance at stability. I just want to feel wanted.

I just want to be given a real chance to chase my American dream.

There are still some days when I question my existence in this country and lose hope. But I am in a much better state of mind now thanks to my parents. Their unwavering optimism about my future makes me believe that nothing is impossible. I’ve come to accept that everything happens for a reason, and that the difficulties I’ve faced have made me more human.

On days when I feel like just giving up, I remind myself that I am only 18, and that I have the rest of my life ahead of me. I’m too young to lose hope. I’m too young to give up on my dreams. My life is just starting…

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