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Our house was not the one with the metaphorical white, picket fence; ours was black cast-iron. We were not the family on welfare, but we were grateful for that fact. Before I was born, my father rose above the conditions of a broken-down family and abusive parents who discouraged his education. His childhood experience motivated him to become a psychotherapist which didnít bring us much money. We shared a duplex with a single lady named Julie who would puncture our tires, and had an assortment of boyfriends, whom we were instructed to avoid. When I was three, we were forced to move from the duplex by our landlord: my fatherís father. We lived with my maternal grandmother until a friend found us a home in San Jose. Looking back on this situation, our family has come a long way and has grown to value financial independence as an essential support for family life. The history of my family is something I hold with pride, however. It is an important lesson of personal strength and faith that with will and knowledge, improvements can be made.

My most important lesson of strength came in my pre-teen years when I obtained a mature sense of self-acceptance. I learned to stand strong through the rushing river of premature trends, although very much alone. During this time, when a social circle established oneís identity, my friends flocked away, seeking a new social identity and left me standing lost. Many times did I question the validity of my own self-assuredness; what was my self-esteem against the disapproval of many? My mother told me that I should be proud of myself. She recounted the story of how I had taught myself to swim, and ride a bicycle. I was strong and independent, she told me. I had just forgotten who I was. I was very fortunate to have such a motherÖ not all the parents of my friends had such reassuring words to offer.

After I learned to take control of my life, I learned to put it into perspective. Since I was five, I had been growing to love my neighbor, Kristopher, whose family problems were anywhere but in the past. I spent years mulling over his hectic life, determined to turn it around. I served as a parental figure to Kris as his parents fell victim to depression and mental illness. Providing numerous words of optimism in the most trying of times, I refused to give up on my friend. My loyalty remained until my friend strayed away and fell victim to depression and ruthless remedies. As his life spun out of control beyond my reach, I learned compassion for unfortunate people, insight on everyday problems, and utter despair. What was this compared to my knowledgeable father and ever-forgiving mother? Compared to the Brady Bunch, my family was shabby, but put into perspective, I had it easy.

Throughout my life, the numerous people that I have encountered have given me a sense of hope, strength, and perspective. Aware of the reality of common hardships, and confident of my abilities, I am determined to make use of myself, and do something important with my life. I wish to offer positive words and to serve as a kind of hope to those who are suppressed and inhibited. It is my dream to be a renowned writer or a social-worker. I have also considered being a psychotherapist or a lawyer. I would die happy knowing that I have made some glorious impact on the world and like Martin Luther King Jr., I will use what I have: the pen.