I remember my childhood fondly: looking out the window at a beautiful lake, watching the latest Nickelodeon cartoons on a big flat screen TV, driving an ATV through a muddy forest, and eating snacks from a huge stainless steel fridge.
That’s all true – but none of those things were mine. All of them belonged to kids of rich white people whose homes my mother had to clean.
My mother came to the United States from Mexico in her early twenties, looking for a superior way of life than what she had living on the outskirts of Morelos, Mexico. In the U.S., she took the only jobs she could get – cleaning other people’s houses. She did that day after day, week after week, year after year, to support me and my three younger siblings.
The lake view was from a house that my mom had to clean to pay our rent. The flat screen TV belonged to the child of the woman whose windows my mom had to clean to pay our electric bill. The ATV I loved to drive in the woods and the fridge where I got snacks belonged to a kid I met when I helped my mom clean his mother’s house every Saturday to buy a week’s groceries.
When I started to feel sorry for myself because I didn’t own these amenities, I would think of my beautiful mother. As I saw her do backbreaking work, day in day out, sacrificing herself for me and my siblings – giving up any life of her own – I would think, “My mom doesn’t deserve to suffer like this. I need to do more. I need to sacrifice too.”
So I gradually gave up sports and friends to help around the house and care for my younger brothers and sister. And our frequent moves to cheaper housing meant adapting to new schools multiple times, saying goodbye to old friends and trying to make new ones.
It wasn’t always easy, but whenever I thought, “Why me? Why does my life have to be difficult?” I thought about my mom. Even with my learning disability (ADD) and depression, I pushed forward, just like I saw my mother do with her suffering.
I pushed forward dealing with frustration, asking for extra help from my teachers and holding in my thoughts and feelings. I knew the only way I could do more and be successful was by working harder on my academics. I remember my body enduring long nights of trying to complete and understand my school material.
Through all of these difficulties, my mom has been my greatest inspiration. She’s been my biggest fan and supporter. She’s taught me by her example that I need to sacrifice for others and for myself to persevere in the face of adversity. The things I learned from her example will make me a more determined student in college and a contributor to my college community. My goals for the future are to get a college degree, establish a career and to become a greater contributor to society by giving back to my community, the Mexican-American community.
With my determination to succeed in college, the pinnacle of my success will be when I will walk upon the stage, smiling cheek to cheek, receiving my degree that I worked hard for, and then gazing out into the crowd to find my mother applauding with tears running down her face.