My mother’s eyes rolled as she let out a sigh. I continued to protest. Sitting with my parents in the family room of our bustling home, we intensely debated the future of my education. For a short moment, the raging emotions and heated conversation almost allowed us to block out the surrounding commotion of my nine other siblings. A screeching high-pitched scream from my six-month old sister in her bouncy seat across the room directed us away from our discussion and back to reality. Upstairs, a crying wail let out from my pre-teen sister as she screamed from the banister overlooking the family room, “she stole my curling iron”. We all felt the vibration from the “thump” that hit the wall. Must have been the curling iron. Meanwhile, scampering feet ran through the kitchen and out the backdoor to the woods behind our home, as my school-aged brothers, decked out in replica medieval era armor, engaged in what appeared to be a reenactment of a Crusade from the Middle Ages. As the second oldest of ten children, this loud chaos was so familiar it had almost become calming.
Our conversation continued, as if the distractions did not exist. At fifteen, I was convinced I could succeed in a dual enrollment program at a nearby college. Far from sharing such confidence, my mother gave a list of sensible reasons that I was not ready for this endeavor; including the fact that I had not started the geometry portion of my math curriculum, and was too young to obtain a driver’s license to commute to the school. Eventually, my parents agreed that I could at least take the SAT and attempt to receive acceptance. A deep sense of determination, embedded in a fear of failure, rushed through my body and landed in my turning stomach. I was adamant to give everything I had to SAT preparation during the next six weeks leading up to the test. Walking away, I heard my mother’s ambivalent voice “I don’t think you’ll be able to do it”. Nothing could have made me more determined.
I ate, slept, and breathed the SAT for the next few weeks. Despite my best efforts, the returned score was ten paltry points lower then the score required for admissions. Defeated, I was certain my chances at attending college that term were over. An admissions officer informed me of one final internally proctored ACT. I was predisposed to give and up and avoid the turmoil of test preparation. It that moment, my mother became my biggest advocate and motivator. She challenged me to not loose my resolve, and try just one more time. Because of her newfound support, I took the exam, scored several points higher then needed, and became the youngest student to ever attend my college. My mother has since been my most faithful advisor.
It was not until I went to college that I became fully aware how much my family has shaped me. Being part of a large family is not a life I choose, but one that was chosen for me. To be honest, I probably would not have chosen it if given the choice. However, I am shockingly aware that nothing could have better prepared me for life. Years of pointing, starring, and not- so-quiet mumbling, every time my family went out in public together taught me self-confidence and the bliss of being unconcerned with the opinion of others. My parents, although actively involved in my life, were not able to hold my hand through the baby steps of every newfound responsibility and challenge of adult life. Tragic as this may appear, I am very thankful for it today. They supported and guided me, but never did my work for me. This almost forced independence. Such self-determination, leadership, and responsibility have become the blueprint for the rest of my life.
People often ask me why I have put so much effort in accelerating my education. The biographies and essays on great men and women of history have always baffled me. As I have learned about their lives, I have found a common variable: they utilize their adolescent years. Instead of deferring responsibility or waiting until their early thirties to crack down on the hard work of achieving their goals, men like George Washington and women like Clara Barton willingly took on difficult challenges and accepted responsibility generally reserved for people twice their age. Previously, I had written off many of history’s heroes and heroines as overachieving geniuses who led unattainable lives. Humbled, I discovered that their success was more due to the character and competence they dutifully built as young adults.
I aspire to follow the example of such men and women. Resolving to never defer my dreams for the future, but rather to aggressively pursue them in these potential-rich years, I strive to make my young adult years the launching pad for the rest of my life. Such a mindset led me to attend college at fifteen, graduate highschool at sixteen, and ultimately, to apply to law school at eighteen.
Tear it to pieces