Ok, this is a very rough draft so try to keep the comments polite. The flowery language has been noted and much of it will be cut. Right now I am already approaching my word limit and have said not too much, so I need help mainly cutting unnecessary sentences or possibly cutting/restructuring passages. The basic outline I am trying to meet may be too ambitious and deals with a few issues:
First, growing up in poverty. Second, my father's resilience throughout joblessness and multiple relocations. Third, the nasty divorce that poverty had a hand in causing and which has influenced my interest in family law. Finally, I want to tie this into personal growth and overcoming my own challenges going from an alternative high school, getting GED diploma, community college years, scholarship to private university, and the GPA I maintained there. If possible, maybe discuss how my internship in Consumer Protection has been a way for me to help people in situations like the one I describe with my father. I am beginning to think that this final section I haven't even gotten to is the most important and that the two pages I have could really be put into two paragraphs or maybe a diversity/adversity statement. Let me know what I can do with this.
Here's the first draft:
The role that financial instability has played in my life has been striking and deeply affective. I have experienced first-hand the powerful influence of economic and social capital on personal relationships and identity development. The sadly all-too-common struggles I have witnessed and had to overcome myself have forced me to recognize that concern with material security can be ignored by the privileged while dominating the psyche of those less fortunate. Through my experience living in poverty, dealing with crippling scarcity as I navigated a world marked by intoxicating abundance, I have come to realize that material wealth is subordinate to the pursuit of self-development, not the catalyst that must precede that pursuit. Though on paper my expected family contribution reads zero, this belies the profound influence my family—especially my father and his resilience in the face of nearly insurmountable challenges—has had on my personal and intellectual development.
I grew up in a household with seven children and one income. My middle sister took the role of care-giver to my twin brother and I at a very young age. My mother was crippled by severe manic depression and the cocktail of drugs like Lithium prescribed to her left her exhausted and bedridden for days. She would experience spells of inexplicable energy and enthusiasm during which she would sell Avon beauty products or pursue a real estate license, but each time she would quickly collapse again. My father was a Buddhist with a protestant work ethic, a corporate salesman with a passion for progressive politics, and so busy when I was young that I rarely saw him. Despite our difficulties, neither of them ever discussed finances or pressed any of their kids to pursue wealth over happiness. My father would always tell me, “do what you love, kid, and the money will follow.” I was taught to rely only on myself through his constant repetition of TANSTAAFL, or “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” These values I learned growing up have been powerfully influential, but challenged early and often.
When my father was laid off when I was twelve, I first thought nothing of it. He worked very hard and in America, I believed, hard work did not go unrewarded. I assumed he would quickly find new work, but this was not the case. My belief in American equality of opportunity and class mobility was shaken. My father had always tried to keep finances private and, as a prideful man, continued to try to hide our poverty as he sought new work. When he was dodging bill collectors, I was told I should never answer the phone in the form of “Stone residence,” as I had been taught. When I forgot to heed his warning not to open the garage door, the family car was repossessed before evening. For months thereafter, my father walked two miles to the grocery store. I vividly remember my selfish embarrassment when I witnessed him walking back, arms full of grocery bags, sweating profusely. Eventually he did find us transportation—a rusted Crown Victoria circa 1970’s that he had purchased for five dollars after sitting in it longest at a promotional competition.
The relationship between my father and mother became strained quickly and I will never forget the late nights that I spent peeking through the railing of the stairway at the two of them screaming back and forth. The arguments were never solely about money, but always referenced the money issue and usually started and ended with my father calling my mother useless for not working, despite her debilitating depression, and my mother calling my father pathetic for not being able to provide for us, despite his relentless resolve. The arguments only became more explosive as bills mounted and our standard of living continued to plummet. My father was the first to declare that he had had enough and filed for divorce in the spring. The proceedings were ugly and marked by events that for the only time in my life forced me to feel ashamed of my own parents. When the dust settled, my family scattered. My sister, a senior in high school, was allowed to stay with my mother, but she was deemed unfit to raise my brother and I and we headed with my father to Memphis (How do I word this sentence better?).
Thanks in advance for all the help you can provide. These forums have been a lifeline for me throughout this pretty grueling application process.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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My advice would be to not focus as much on the actual events and instead focus on how they affected you in a way that is relevant to your LS application. This seems to be very much about your father's struggles and not as much about your own. I also wouldn't go into too much detail about the divorce or the family split-up, it doesn't seem like it's adding to the theme of your PS.
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