Finding Her Way in the World

by Madeline Pena
TCU Student
Last Halloween, I learned that life isn’t always full of treats. On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, my father filed for divorce. The following Friday, my mom picked me up and I thought I would never see the TCU campus again. I believed I needed to stay with my family for the rest of the semester, but a call from my campus minister, Megan Davidson, changed that. She said, “Madeline, while it’s already an accomplishment to be a student at TCU, it’s important to take responsibility and uphold its honor.”
I came to college with a set of new responsibilities, including time management, academics, and co-curricular activities. What did I ever do to deserve taking on more? I knew I had two options. I could let this situation define the rest of my life and bring me down. Or, I could let it empower me to become a better person with stronger character. I chose the second option and returned to TCU the following Monday.

Journalism student Madeline Pena, with Bob Schieffer at
TCU’s Schieffer College of Communication
I’m not going to say that this choice made the divorce easy. It forced me to obtain additional responsibilities. I had to maintain good grades for scholarships, emotionally support my family, and take on more financial responsibility with an on-campus job. However, I will say that the kindness and support I received from the TCU community eased the pain. Everyone – from my professors to friends – was understanding of my circumstance. My roommate made me a canvas painting and wrote a note on the back, “I’m here for you no matter what the situation may be.” My English professor found out about my situation through an essay. Writing has always helped me emotionally heal, but my professor helped me even further, when she explained that she was just an “email away.”
My campus minister advised me to take on one more responsibility – recovery.  I did this through the TCU Counseling Center. Two weeks after the papers were served, my campus minister escorted me to the counseling center. I filled out some paperwork and met with a counselor. She was wonderful. After a few weeks, I regained happiness and a new energy for life. I finished my first semester with good grades and a stronger sense of why I belonged at TCU.
Taking on additional responsibilities not only helped me grow as a person, but it helped me see the gratitude I had for the warm TCU community. Because of this experience, I could not envision myself at any other university.  Other people took the responsibility of supporting me in all my collegiate endeavors; I have made it a goal to pay it forward. God showed his abundant love for me through other people. I feel that it is my duty to return His grace. I applied for campus leadership positions, including Orientation Leadership and Residential Assistant. I’m happy to say that through these experiences, I’ve had many opportunities to support first-year students during one of their hardest transitions.
I ultimately decided that while I wasn’t responsible for the divorce, I was responsible for my future. And
in the process, I have to allow others to take on the responsibility of supporting me.