I had just returned home from a fencing meet, sweaty and exhausted. Peeling my red knee socks off my feet, I sighed and collapsed on my bed when I heard the familiar chime of the doorbell. It was the last sound I expected to hear at 9:30 on a Wednesday night, but when my parents opened the door, we were greeted by two burly uniformed police officers.
“You have thirty minutes to pack your bags and leave,” they commanded sternly. 30 minutes that changed my life forever. Though I was confused and jarred, I frantically threw my clothes and textbooks into a duffel bag. Actions first, questions later.
It was only revealed to me later that my mother had filed a restraining order against my father and that we were being immediately evicted from our home with no warning for a two-week period. Dealing with homelessness and legal issues in my parents’ relationship placed a humongous weight on me as a sixteen-year-old high school junior. Wishing my biggest concerns were calculus test grades or band rehearsals or fencing practices or mall trips with friends, I missed class time for appointments in my guidance counselor’s office and skipped practices in search of a hotel with vacant rooms that I could stay in for the night. Despite these challenges, I did my best to distract myself by striving to continue achieving high standards in academics, athletics, activities, and internships.
My father’s alcohol addiction has driven a rift through our family. Childhood memories of family dinners, birthday celebrations, and weekend outings gradually became tainted and eaten away by recollections of heated arguments, sleepless nights, and salty flowing tears. This changed my perspective on the disease of addiction because it enlightened me about the intense effects that addiction can have on both the sufferer and their loved ones. It also corrected my prior assumption that addicts are inherently immoral people. Having witnessed both the nurturing and ruthless sides of my father, I now understand firsthand how the disease of addiction can inhibit rationality and completely change a person’s personality. It is for this precise reason that we should prioritize helping individuals overcome the disease of addiction rather than demonize them for actions that they have limited control over.
Apart from the negative effects that my father’s addiction has had on my life, I have come to appreciate the silver linings as well. I have now grown into a much stronger and more trusting person who is unafraid to face challenges head-on, seek help from others, and also support others when they need help. I have learned to be understanding and sympathetic, and begun to break my old habit of seeing everything in black and white. By developing a more nuanced and open-minded view of other people and situations, I can make better judgments and wiser decisions.
In addition, seeking help from my guidance counselor has inspired me to appreciate the work that often-under-appreciated therapists and psychologists do. Watching my father make great strides on the road to recovery after beginning to see a psychiatrist also demonstrates the power that they can have in diverting the paths of suffering individuals. These experiences have also driven my future career goals because I look forward to majoring in neuroscience at university next year with an anticipated minor in psychology. My ultimate goal is to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in brain and cognitive science. In terms of career aspirations, I aim to work in academia as a researcher to investigate the effects of drug addiction on brain activity and cognitive health. My ultimate goal is to conduct research for social benefit and improve the quality of life for millions of individuals and their loved ones who are affected by the disease of addiction by identifying risk factors to prevent it before it fully sets in.
My mission to pursue education is driven by motivation and perseverance. My homelessness did not stop me from submitting my research to competitions and winning a New York Times STEM writing award. My father was diagnosed recently with a brain tumor requiring costly treatments, but I am not discouraged by financial obstacles. I work as a paid research intern to cultivate my passion for STEM, while earning money to afford medical treatment and college tuition.
Being awarded this scholarship means a safe and secure dorm to live in; it means being the first from my family to attend college in America; it means paying off my father’s medical bills; it means researching treatments so that other families will not have to suffer the same consequences. It will fuel the flames of my fiery passion to learn, to achieve, and to serve. It will propel me towards a Brighter Future.