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Monthly Archives: November 2009

I had an idyllic childhood. I spent most of my days with my stay-at-home mother, playing with my brother when he came home from school, and walking the dog with him and my dad after family dinner. My large extended family would gather monthly for birthdays, and two weeks every summer, we would all go to my grandparents’ cabin in Tahoe.

My dad worked close to sixty hours a week, but I was still much closer to him than I was to anyone else. He sang me to sleep with old country songs, he carried me on his shoulders in front of the band after Cal games, and we went to church together on Sundays. He was my sunshine and my hero; I feared disappointing him more than anything.

Things change. My brother started fighting with my parents, I decided I was too old for lullabies, my relatives had less time for Tahoe in the summer. My dad started getting back pain and losing weight; in addition, he was laid off when as his company went bankrupt and had to take a lower-paying, less fun job.  I was in my awkward preteen years, which are never easy for anyone.

Things change more. My dad’s back pain turned out to be pancreatic cancer, which killed him four months after diagnosis.  My mom got a job which involved two months training in Maryland, during which time I lived with my grandparents. When she got home, she worked full-time and her schedule changed every two weeks. My brother was already in college, so I spent many long hours alone in my house; between this and problems both normal and abnormal for someone my age, I became depressed.

Although none of this was fun for me, there are upsides. I am much closer to my mother now than I was before, because now we can only rely on each other. If I hadn’t been depressed and gotten behind in my chemistry homework, I would never have learned that I love tutoring kids because I wouldn’t have spent so much time in my teacher’s room after school, and I doubt I would have wanted to come to Mexico to teach.

I also have increased perspective on life, which is usually good but sometimes detrimental. While I wasn’t heartbroken when my boyfriend broke up with me, I also have a hard time thinking of an F grade as a horrible thing: neither are on the scale of a malignant tumor.

Children also affect me more now. Whenever I go to the Farmacia in my neighborhood, I over-tip the kids bagging the groceries because they are usually younger than ten and they are working instead of playing outside. The last time I watched the musical Annie, I cried during the first five minutes because I started thinking about the plight of orphans, how they have no one to love them or care about their lives. Also though, I cannot help but smile when I see parents patiently answering their children’s questions, little kids playing catch in the street, or fathers carrying toddlers on their shoulders so the kids can see parades.

While I believe that sadness is a part of life, I also want to do my part to lessen it. I want every kid to have as wonderful a childhood as mine.  I’m interested in so many careers- teacher, doctor, chemist, art historian, mathematician, politician- and I hope that college will help me decide which one I want to pursue; but whatever I choose, I want to make the world happier in my small way.

When I was small, I liked the idea of God, and I believed he existed, but only as an abstract idea. I went to church for the spectacle, the singing and my fellow Catholics; it wasn’t until one specific incident that he became personally important to me.

My mom and I took my dad to the emergency room when I was fifteen.  I brought homework along, but I couldn’t concentrate, so I prayed the rosary in entirety three times, which is when the doctor came back out to talk to my mom. My dad stayed at the hospital that night, but I went home with my mom believing that everything would be alright; I had prayed my rosaries and no one had told me otherwise.

It wasn’t until the next day that my mother told me my daddy, the person I loved most in the world, had terminal cancer and three to six months to live. I couldn’t stop all the tears in front of her, but I saved the true extent of my emotions for God. When my mother was at the hospital, I started yelling at God: ranting about how he didn’t answer my prayers, that it wasn’t fair because I was only fifteen and needed my daddy, that (of all stupid things) Beyoncé was older, richer, and more blessed in general than me, that she didn’t need her dad nearly as much as I needed mine.

Then a thought dropped into my head: we die because we are so selfish as to believe one life is worth more than another. I only wanted to exchange my dad’s life for Beyoncé’s because my dad was important to me. It was intensely selfish to think my loved ones were worth more than anyone else’.

Sure, there wasn’t a voice, and an angel didn’t come unto me. Nevertheless, I believe that God answered me, because I think that thought was his and not mine.

Since then, there have been times when I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone else, or I talked to others and they couldn’t help me. So I talk to God, and I feel that he listens. I certainly have doubts about whether or not I’m imagining the whole thing, but I like to think that it doesn’t really matter. Whether he really exists or he’s just a comforting construct of my mind, I believe I’m better off because I believe in him.

I come from a world of beauty. Everyone else lives in this world as well, but so often they fail to see it. I get up in the morning, and while some people sleep through it, and some people appreciate the sunrise, I notice the beautiful graffiti the neighborhood boys have made on the previously bare white brick wall. I went to the Louvre in Paris, and while nearly a hundred people crowded around the Mona Lisa, I gasped at the amazing Titian works around the back. Truly, I do find the balance and perfection of the Renaissance paintings beautiful, but I find the slightly off-kilter figuratives of the Mannerist era (Bronzino, Greco et al) more appealing.
I ride the public transportation, and although there are many attractive men arriving or departing at every station, I smile at the woman who gives up her seat for an old man or the father playing hand games with his six-year-old daughter. Her smile is always brighter than I think possible except in that moment.
I admire Rhetoric, that refined goddess of the silken oration, the passionately lowered voice, the persuasion of the masses. Lovelier, however, is the raw appeal of Truth; no graceful garments has she. Truth weeps in the gutter, dirty and scarred, recalling her story to anyone who listens. So many pass her by, but stopping to admire her and hear her tales is more than worth it when one finds that her history is more fantastically dramatic than anything one could dream.
I live in the world where “anything essential is invisible to the eyes,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says in The Little Prince. I live in a world where the most beautiful picture might not be of a Hawaiian rainbow, but of a puddle of dirty water, where one’s mother can be beautiful at any weight, where gray can be the most vivid color of all.
I come from the real world, and the beauty is all of humanity, feuding, embracing humanity, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. I am its observer; I intend to be its advocate. Whether as a doctor, a politician, a writer, an art historian, a teacher, a mathematician or something else, I will serve and protect the beauty of humanity. I will serve my world.