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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.

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