Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pact Reflection: Essay Contest...

I wasn't sure about posting this because it was so personal, but what the hay. I grow from my past, and my past is my past not my future. If any of this essay offends you, please know that most of the emotions come from my younger self. I understand that the feelings I went through came from a place of egotism. Which is the "The world revolves around me" mentality that is strong amongst younger adults. Note also that I said assumed a lot. I assumed the feelings of others, that does not necessarily mean that is how they felt. Please don't read this with a closed mind. It is hard to write reflection without some false senses of self and others. If you at all know what i mean. This is part of the reason I wasn't sure I wanted to post it here. I have had requests though. I am telling everyone though, read with caution and don't read too much into certain parts.

This essay won me second place in an essay contest....

Facing the Future
Amanda M. Cunningham
Reflecting on The Pact
13 November 2008

When a person grows up smart it is assumed that the person will have a pretty easy life, generally and academically, but when the same person grows up poor, in America, the challenges become prevalent. For George Jenkins, one of the authors of The Pact, and myself, the determination to achieve our goals had to out weigh the knowledge that we were smart enough to achieve our goals, but too poor to afford our goals. George and I both had to choose to live our lives in unexpected ways in order to become the adults we wanted to be. We faced similar family and social situations just to become the people our minds would desire but our economics wouldn’t allow.

George and I come from a special kind of child mold. We performed well in school and had a desire for learning. When George was told he could be anything he wanted to be he chose to become a dentist. When I was told I could be anything I wanted to be I chose to become a librarian. By the time most kids reach the age of 12 they loose their dreams of doing anything they once had a passion for. Children who grow up lower class tend to loose these dreams quicker than those who come from higher class because they often fear they will never make enough money. Human nature causes us to want to care for the people around us. Growing up, money was often the one thing our families did not have. It would have been natural for us to forget any idea of doing anything miraculous and replace it with an idea of “Money, Money, and more Money”. George’s dream came to life the first time he went to a dentist. My dream came to life the first time I smelt a book. Neither of us gave any attention to paychecks. Happiness was our number one priority.

Part of what made George and I special was our mothers. The “rocks” of our families, our mothers were single parents who worked long hours to keep food on our tables. My mother was up every day without fail to go to her job cleaning houses. George and I always had water in our faucets. We always had heat in the winter. Our mothers were also proud women. They wanted to always be self sufficient role models. When situations became tough in New Orleans, my mother packed up her home and her two young children and moved them across the country to Colorado Springs where she could make a better life for her family. After only one year of being in Colorado, my mother had purchased a car of her own and her first home for our family. My mother always encouraged my dreams. No matter what crazy idea I came up with that week my mother would tell me I was smart enough to do any of it. My mother was my encourager.
Our “brains” can sometimes get in the way of our growing. It is assumed when people always do well that they do not need to hear when those closest to them are proud. As George stated, “good grades” were just “expected”. When we did do well, no praise was offered. When parent teacher conferences came around, our mother’s didn’t go. This was usually because they knew we would do fine, academically, on our own, and frankly, they didn’t have any time. Sometimes though, this lack of action or interest from my mother would cause me to think that what I did didn’t matter. At one point, I stopped telling my mother when I did something well and started only sharing that information with my friends and teachers. My sister didn’t always do as well as I did in school, but she received a lot of attention for it. I thought that no mater how hard I tried I would never be able to do anything note worthy. At one point I even tried failing to see if my mother would pay attention to my academic life. She assumed I was still doing well and never said anything about it. Being academically intelligent can sometimes put a strain on life outside and inside of classes.

The rest of my family was often a challenge itself. Because I was “smart” my family always assumed I would become a highly paid executive, a brain surgeon or a lawyer. It was assumed that I was going to be the person in the family who made a lot of money to share with the rest of my family. I went through a phase where I tried to think of the highest paying job I could use my “brain” to get. My family would only be able to succeed if I pushed myself harder and harder to live out my purpose. My purpose was to study as much as I could to make as much money as I could. I thought that if I wasn’t a “rich” adult I would be a failure as a human being. It was also assumed that I would use my intelligence to do some kind of complicated job. When I thought jobs that didn’t require a doctorate degree, I felt like I would be “wasting my brain”, as was once stated about my desire to be a librarian. My family, though I love them dearly, didn’t always encourage happiness in forms other than money, and I had to get over that.
The people you keep in your life tend to impact your outlook a significant amount. When I hear a good outlook on life I tend to hold onto it. For example, I once heard that money was not important because more is printed everyday. That idea was so true for me that I have never let go of it. For George, people like Mrs. Johnson and Carla were in his life to support him. They always told him he was going to be able to become a dentist, but they never worried him with the money. As a child, money was always in the forefront of my life, and as I aged, I tried to surround myself with people who had a different idea of life. Looking back, my best friends’ families tend to have more money than my family, but no matter how much their families had; I noticed that they all complained about never having enough. What I took from that was the awareness of no person ever thinking they have enough money, and that money must never become the most important thing in my life. To me, happiness with life is the most important thing.

Being as I am still in my first year of college, the struggles of being an intelligent person who comes from the lower class are still prevalent. I have already considered dropping out of school because of the expense, but I keep in mind that what I learn in these classrooms can never be taken away form me. I will have the classes, and gain the intelligence, but anything else I could possibly do at this time, I would be doing for money. If I were to drop out of school to get a job, I would be submitting to money. Seeing how George overcame his struggles gives me hope for myself. He came from a lower class than I did, but the people he is helping and the life he is living makes it all worth it.

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