Post by Rachel Patteson
Photo by Ryan Gavin
“My circumstances were very different growing up from most people. I had parents who were divorced by the time I was 2 years old. My mom ran away at that time, and I was left with an abusive dad. At 4, my dad was thrown in jail and I went into an orphanage. I bounced between abusive foster and group homes from 4-10 years old. At 10, I was handed back to my mom; it was an unstable path the next few years barely living off of $200 a month, with no running water or sufficient food, and a mom and stepdad who only cared about drugs and alcohol. Still, I moved almost every year, didn’t have a family to go to, and I was relentlessly physically, sexually, and mentally mistreated and neglected.
At 13, I became homeless. My mom kicked me to the streets because I disagreed with how we were living. From there, I bounced between different homes. But even then, no matter where I went, I was mentally and physically abused, treated like nothing more than a maid and a nuisance from those I lived with, and was always told I was insignificant. I didn’t have anyone else to go to. Most of my family were either abusive, dead, or didn’t want me. At 16, my dad died, most of my grandparents had died, my cousin and aunt that I was close with died, and I was barely making it. At 17, I was prepared to go to college with a couple thousand dollars saved from jobs, when it was all stolen from the friend’s family I lived with.
What got me through all these hard times was this very stable passion and talent I had for science. Fortunately — despite my circumstances — I excelled in school, maintained straight A’s all my life, and graduated with honors at the top of my class. I thought that if I went through all this and came out on top in school that nothing, even money, should stop me from being the first one in my family to go to college. With the help of a couple scholarships and Mizzou’s welcoming invite, I moved from Louisiana to Missouri at 17.
The hardest part about moving every year is making new friends and incorporating myself into a new community. People assume everyone has family or their family situation is stable or they have homes to go back to. When I make new friends, I actually have to fib a bit about my past to even fit in because otherwise, I deter people. Because I don’t have a home, family, and had to teach myself about financing, life, school, sex, love, relationships, and even how to confront my mental illness, it had become especially difficult to relate to people on even the most basic levels — and that’s been the hardest part growing up.
You see it in movies all the time and hear it from many people: that family is a forever bond. But it took me a long time to realize that all of my family is very toxic and I needed to let it go. Being a part of diverse organizations, like the Asian American Association, has taught me a lot about letting go of the toxic things in society. The inclusivity of these communities has allowed me to become more open about my past, and because of them, I found a new home at Mizzou.
Now I’ll be moving off to London for grad school, nothing I could have ever imagined at 2 years old when my life began to go downhill. In a weird sense, I think what happened to me was supposed to happen. I became a headstrong person, open-minded and empathetic. And with my future in climate change research and politics, I need to be. I don’t at all wish I could re-live my life with better experiences because I gained a unique perspective on life and a greater passion to make the world a better place through my talent in climate science.
There are still a lot of hurdles for me to face: I have to continue my fight with depression, extreme anxiety and the pressures of climate change science. But, in the end, one thing is for sure: Mizzou is a choice I will never regret, and I’m very thankful for the acceptance of the many communities on this campus.”
“Home”: Great Falls, Montana and Shreveport, Louisiana
Major: Soil, Environmental, and Atmospheric Sciences — Mizzou College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Minors: Geology and Korean
Involvement: Mizzou Asian American Association – AAA, Language Exchange, Asian Ambassador’s Program, People’s Visioning Mizzou, Mizzou Alternative Breaks, MEAC, WearthWhile Founder.
After Graduation: I’ll be a Mark Twain and National Science Foundation (NSF) GRFP fellow to conduct climate change paleoceanography research at University College London in the fall semester and continue onto a Geosciences Ph.D. after.