“How do you reconcile after everything? I mean, just how do you go on?”
There was a moment of silence and creases formed between eyebrows as the Holocaust survivor pondered over the question. With raised brows, blank expression and surprise in his eyes, he answered, “I don’t know. Life just goes on—but you have to remember that everything is free choice. The German soldiers did not have to kill the Jews and the French gendarmerie was not forced to round up the refugees. You have to do what is right and stand up for your beliefs because no one can make you do anything.”
As I walked out of the classroom, I could not help but feel my struggles become infinitesimal compared to his. Yet his words echoed in my head while the weight of them sank in my stomach and surrounding noises became inaudible as I trudged on, my thoughts reminiscent, diverting back to what was once my own new beginning. Whereas coming to the United States marked the end of appalling adversity for him, it was the beginning for me. It was during 1999, the year of the Y2K and the dawn of a new millennium, that my family immigrated to the United States from South Korea. I was ten years old and we had with us little to nothing.
I recall standing in the middle of airport, one hand holding onto my mother and the other hand clasped to my brother’s. While my mother was preoccupied making sure our luggage arrived safely and checking everything, my brother and I looked around with our mouths agape. To our own surprise, we could not distinguish one Caucasian person from another—they all looked alike.
In this foreign land full of indistinguishable inhabitants, we reestablished our foundation and became acculturated to adapt to our new surroundings. My mother was somewhat adversely affected by this revenue of change. She became physically and emotionally abusive to vent her vehement anger and depression due to factors such as my father’s affair, economic struggles and becoming stranded in an unfamiliar territory. There were days when I would cry silently in my room after another one of her tantrums, and nights were spent engulfed in storylines of novels, admiring and empathizing with the characters, which served as a means of escape from reality.
Once I entered into middle school, I began to stand up to my mother. This change was as a result of seeing the lives of my friends combined with their support. Initially my mother fought back with increased violence but then eventually started to change incrementally. From that point on, I became more active in voicing my opinion and stood up to fight for what I genuinely believed was right—I simply followed the model of my favorite heroines. In addition, I worked harder with the drive to succeed. Upon high school graduation, I received a scholarship and worked part-time, which enabled me to obtain higher education, and due to all the advanced placement courses I took in high school, I am able to finish my college career a year early.
Over the years, I reconciled with my mother who I cannot help but sympathize with because I am fully aware of all the obstacles life bestowed upon her. It was the physical distance between us that led to the realization of how dependent we were on each other. Our subtle apprehension altered our behavior and resulted in mutual appreciation. She has become invaluable to me, and my relationship with her has led me to mentor a middle school girl in hopes of mitigating at least a modicum of all the struggles a young woman has to face. Through my adolescent years and experience with domestic violence, I have learned to become compassionate, hardworking and articulate in expressing my beliefs. Despite everything, I am grateful for all that my mother has done for me because I would not exist or be who I am today if it were not for her. Reality was harsh on her but she never forfeited. True, she was not the most affectionate mother, but that does not diminish her admirable strengths that engaged her to persevere and raise two children, even when she could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After all that has happened, I am ready to enter a new chapter in my life, an aspect of which I hope will be law school. With my consolidated determination, I believe I will be able to complete all tasks handed to me and succeed in law school, and my enduring sense of justice and compassion will enable me to remain objective in practicing law and be an aid to those who are disadvantaged or oppressed as I had been. Like my mother, I will be tenacious in the face of obstacles while remaining in perspective and keeping my humanity intact—because this is what is most essential. One has to remember at the end of the day that knowingly compromising one’s morals is neither amendable nor will it guarantee subsistence—one must do what is right and not lose hindsight. As the Holocaust survivor said, life is ultimately full of choices and I plan to pursue each one and stand my ground.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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