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Rodriguez had supportive parents, but their ignorance due to lack of formal education and minority status differentiated him from his peers. He had earned himself a scholarship and considered to be a particularly exceptional student. He was also held in extremely high regard. He initially exuded pride in letting his parents know his achievement. As he grew older, he showed a lot of discontent with his parents’ lack of education. He resolved to pursue the challenging world of education to avoid the realm his parents had existed, the realm of ignorance. Unfortunately, he wanted to hurt the feelings of his parents for having encouraged him towards pursuing formal education.

His success and interests seemed to alienate him both at home and with his peers. He started to feel that perhaps his peers wanted him to fail. He developed a superiority complex and thought they were threatened by the thought of having a person from a minority demographic section succeed. His complex came with a downside, lack of confidence. His parents failed to understand this. He compensated this with a habit of mimicking his teachers. He even started considering himself not to be a model student.

He did not blow his own trumpet nor give himself due credit. His intelligence was by his mocking abilities. All odds seemed against him but he stayed on course to become exactly what he wanted to become. He graduated college and went to spend time in England. His nostalgia began when he began to realize that he was missing some things that he had ignored and denied many years back.

He started questioning his current life and that life he had left behind. He realized that he actually needed the exact things that he had escaped from. He realized he should not be ashamed of his parents or their status in life. He felt he needed to be closer to them and not fear showing it. Upon such thinking, he terminated his education. He truly just needed to strike a balance between the new life he had chosen as well as his childhood life at home.

Rodriguez was an individual struggling with self-confidence as a young man. He sought to pursue a summer job as a manual laborer in order to build his self-esteem. His father had always taught him about a connection between having a job and being a man. He sought to make his father proud. Rodriguez was of Latino origin and raised in America. This further complicated his relationship with his family. They had been raised in a different place at their birthplaces. The cultures of their upbringing were hugely different compared to his parents

He had been told by his father that if he worked and made his own money then indeed he would be treated like an adult. The ideas of his father got into his head and were entrenched deeply in his psyche and sub conscience. He sought employment at an acutely tender age, and it proved more difficult than he thought.

Unlike Rodriguez, I come from a family that values education. My father holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Botany from the University of Colombia. He teaches at a local University. My mother is a dentist by profession and works at a local hospital. My two elder siblings are both about to complete their masters’ degrees. The language of getting a good education and taking it to advanced heights is not new in our home. A good education ensures you have papers. Papers land you a job. At least that is what my father says.

The job you get does not have to be crucial when you are starting out. The more papers and job experience you get, the more your remuneration shall increase. It is a belief firmly adopted in my family, and all of us have been thrown into the miasma of education. The value of working hard is in our home. Hard work here applies mostly to schoolwork and your job. This is paramount in ensuring you do not get fired by your employer. I study hard; I work hard too but unlike my parents and elder siblings I have a lot of exposure with the happenings of the real world. New opportunities arise each day that do not require academic papers. These opportunities also have more fulfillment than the jobs gotten through academic prowess.

I score straight A’s in my examinations. My grades are everything but wanting. However I never seem to be able to get any jobs during the summer and other vacations despite the numerous applications I send out. My neighbor and very good friend Harry is two years older than me. He barely even remembers what grades he got in his final year, his grades have always been lowespecially if we were to go by the few moments we have had to look into each other’s transcripts and laugh out loud at the Cs and Ds.

Despite this, Harry managed to get a job as a Social media manager for a local fitness Centre. He has exceptionally strong networking skills and a good personality. He is highly sociable and an astute mobilizer. These are things I have failed to learn in school. After a month at the fitness Centre, Harry had been able to increase business three fold for the proprietor. Many establishment owners started to look for him. He then became a Social media consultant for quite a number of businesses. In a good month Harry makes around 60% of what my father makes in a similar time frame. This is solely from the Social Media outfit he is currently running. Take into consideration the difference in age and qualifications of my friend and my dad.

I have started to believe that if I follow the path of my parents, my potential may not necessarily be fully realized. Education to me now seems to be a limiting factor. When I started education in my elementary years, everything seemed so general. As time goes by, we continue to specialize further and divide ourselves to the different professions available whilst aligning ourselves with different careers. What happens when I have trained fully in one line of specialty yet emerging vacancies seem not to favour my profession, what am I to do?

I spent lots of time with Harry. The fellow is extremely financially liquid. He recently bought stocks that continue to favour his bank account balance. He bought himself a vehicle and was almost halfway in completing his payments. He does not seem top lack anything. His clothes are fabulous, mostly the latest designer fashion trends, and he flashes the latest communication and lifestyle gadgets. Word going around is that he has been paying school fees for his younger sister at the college level.

I want to live like him. My father says that the flashiness would not last as Harry would run out of money because he does not have papers. My mum says that perhaps Harry was involved in criminal activity. For them, it does not seem justifiable that one can be making money without necessarily having academic papers. My family was well to do, not rich, but we managed, all thanks to my mother and father. My father spends a lot of his time in campuses teaching. My mum is mostly on call, but at least we can be assured of her time with family once in a while. Once in a while arguments ensue here and there between the family members, mostly financially related. It is obvious money as a resource and even in our family, remains scarce.

Harry never seems to have money problems. He recently bought me a laptop for my birthday and said I could use it to do some graphic design for pay. He said he knew of two guys running websites for different counties who could use a guy like me. He also said I could use it for my homework and assignments. I have come to take Harrys words seriously. His actions are given more attention than his words. Why would Harry place doing my homework using the laptop he bought for me be placed secondary to doing graphic work for pay? It ceased to baffle me, and I eventually came to the conclusion that indeed Harry was one person who had his priorities right.

I made good money out of i.e. stopped requesting my parents for money to make various purchases. I started making more money than what my dad used to give me as my weekly allowance. I eventually started buying supplies around the house, from groceries to paying for repairs in the house.

Eventually, I started to see my parents as people who have been wasting their time. Asked myself if my parents had talents and what they had one to try and build the talents. I already started seeing myself as a master graphic designer even before I reached that level. I pictured myself working with leading brands. I figured if my father perhaps was good in football and took advantage of it, we would probably be immensely wealthy taking into account that he would have played in English and Spanish leagues. I started considering him an underachiever.

I had no reservations for my mum. I was wondering how someone’s cumulative worth in this world would be to venture into the mouths of other people. I started considering it an odd job. I forgot that these particular individuals were the forces behind my current status. I would not agree with my father on anything to do with education, after all I was making money. My other friends in school went on and on about me ensuring I finish school. I saw it as a case of misery needing company.

If the purpose of going to school was to ensure we get jobs and make money, why postpone the making of money if it comes your platter? Why still finish school yet what I was doing for money had no relation with my schoolwork? I figured my friends were just jealous. They would jump for the opportunity to be in my shoes any chance they had. They would not hesitate to do anything for money especially if it involved something they loved doing.

After a few months making graphics for local media houses, websites and various other clients, I received a phone call from the Creative Director of a popular youth publication called ‘The Source’. This was a big one; a dream come true. The Director informed me that he had got wind of my work, liked what I was doing so far, and he proposed I go over to their offices and talk business. Hefurtherindicatedthatifwasamenable to their offer, I would be trainedfurtherandstill be paid during training.

I was overwhelmed. I had been working indoors and immediately ran downstairs to break the news. My dad listened very diligently and immediately I put the full stop on my last sentence, he told me that I was not going. He stated unequivocally that I would have to finish with campus first before I go work for such an ‘adolescent profane magazine’.my Mother just told me; ‘your father has spoken’. I was furious. I stated that I did not need them and that they were such domineering and uninspiring parents. I even threatened to move out of the house, for good. My dad told me one of the things I never expected from him, ‘That is what men do’. I walked out in a huff, packed my bags and left for the meeting in New York. I had saved quite an amount and the thought of being able to provide for myself only fueled the desire inside me.

I sealed a deal with the magazine and was offered a hefty paycheck which included accommodation and regular return tickets to go see my family. Time went by; I was all alone in the ‘Big Apple’. I did not get a single phone call from anyone from home. It is like I did not exist, perhaps they did not exist. Just like Rodriguez I had a lot of time on my own. I embarked on soul searching. I missed home. I missed my friends at school. I missed the fact that I could talk to my father anytime, ask him about anything. He always had the right answers. Work was not a walk in the park. They had made it clear that they were paying me well so they needed to see the best and optimum results. I had one year left to graduation. My immediate boss had a degree in Fine art and Graphic design as well as a diploma in Human resource management. Training was hectic.

I desperately needed to put everything into perspective. I needed to talk to someone. By chance and coincidentally, I received a phone call from Harry. It then hit me that I had not even informed him of the latest developments. We talked for a while then he indicated that he had heard in the neighborhood that I had left home unceremoniously. He sought to know why and before I could answer he told me words I think I will never forget. ‘When you want to adopt the lifestyle of someone you look up to, then do not do it halfhearted, you have to copy everything’.

I had started making phone calls to my Algebra teacher, and a number of times offered to buy him lunch. This was not out of generosity; it was purely out of scorn. I had to show him I had made it without the ‘things’ he taught in class. I considered what Harry had told me earlier. I started to compare his life with mine. Strangely enough Harry had never moved out of their house. He retained the closeness he had with his nuclear family. At the time, his father was serving as a career attorney while his step-mother was a Paralegal at a nearby legal resource Centre. She was currently enrolled for a Law degree, pursuing it through distance learning. Harry never looked down upon them despite his success. He considered them to be the backbone of his sheer existence and abilities and lessons he had acquired in his life.

I had not looked at this aspect of Harry’s life. Perhaps I had seen only that which I hoped to see. We had never talked that much with him about life and our perspectives on it. Perhaps this was what he meant by borrowing a whole leaf instead of part of a leaf if you intend to emulate someone. All over sudden, I missed my parents more; a guilty conscience crept in. I seemed to make a lot of money but was in constant fear of being replaced by ‘new and better’ talent. My predecessor had come in the company in a similar fashion. My predecessor had come in the company in a similar fashion. He was dismissed with all benefits when I had signed the contract with the magazine. I feared for a similar situation on my part.

Perhaps my father was right in the long-term benefits of education. I started to see his point. Wished he would be around to advise me. I learnt that the management of the company was all academic giants. They were young, very energetic and most of all they were making much more than I was. I figured that was because of education. We talent guys were being treated differently. There was no formality in our communication and remarkably few prospects of career development. If I stuck to this, I would probably be stuck in monotony for years to come.

Reality had hit media consulted about it with Harry. He said that he had chosen to complete his studies despite how pathetic his grades were. For me, that should not even have been an option. It should have been compulsory because I was good at it. I resolved to go back to school and home. I had a troubled mind. Harry had remained at home with his step-mom, yet I had chosen to despise my real one. Funnily the story of the prodigal son came into my mind. I convinced myself that it would not be that bad. This marked the end of my career in quick money and a fast life.

On reaching home, I found everything pretty much the same. The familiarity was easily noticeable and relaxing. I had been missing something for all that time. This was it. My father maintained his calm and was silent for a while. My mother was in the verge of tears as I broke down my apology bit by bit. I had actually rehearsed what I was going to say. All that, did not come out. What came out was natural, not scripted, and I meant every single word of it.

My friends at school were glad I was back. They felt I had to go out and see the world, but I certainly had to come back. One of them actually admitted that indeed they had considered the prospects of being in my shoes and that they had been ‘somehow jealous about it’. Harry was also glad I was back. I felt I indeed had someone to look up to. The only problem was I saw what I hoped to see and not what I was supposed to see. I started thinking that probably that was what I lacked in life. An elder brother figure I could look up to. I was back to my previous situation, but this time my distaste was aimed towards my parents but to my elder siblings.

More often than not we have what we need to propel us to the next level. We lack the patience to wait for that big break. We seek to have similar luck with those close to us. We forget who we are and where we have come from and even forget those who have enabled us to reach where we are. I followed that path and luckily enough it all came back to me in good time. I expect to finish college real soon and embark on the real challenges of this earth. That is the story of my life.

Power of Love and Relationship Tongue-Tied Maxine Hong Kingston
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