I Believe Hardship Presents Opportunity
I believe hardship presents opportunity. I am a father to three boys, a loving husband to a beautiful wife, and an educator with the awesome responsibility to instruct our youth. But my life hasn’t always been so pleasant.
When I was eighteen I graduated from high school and became the only person in my family to do so. (I went on to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.) While I value formal education, it’s what I learned while being raised in various housing projects that forged the person I am today.
Growing up, my family was extremely poor and even more dysfunctional. A typical day for my father consisted of sitting at our rickety kitchen table slurring drunkenly to truckers on his CB radio. My mother was a recovering heroine addict who would often hitchhike to her methadone clinic, come home, abuse prescription drugs and nod off on our dilapidated couch.
Growing up I experienced things that should have molded me into a blend of my parents, but they did the opposite. When I was nine, my mom come home bloodied and beaten after a fight with another woman over drugs. Years later, when I was in middle school, my father was sent to prison. But instead of letting myself be pulled into my parents’ distress, I decided to remove myself from my family’s downward spiral. I spent less and less time at home. Instead I stayed at friends’ houses.
From my friends, I learned about family. Many families graciously allowed me to eat, stay the night and attend holiday gatherings in their homes. I learned simple things like the smell of a freshly cleaned house and how a table looked when it was set. Positive examples from stable adults helped me to understand that a better life was possible.
Dedicated educators gave me the key to achieving this better life. My teachers taught me that opportunity lay in education. They looked past my pitfalls and instead pointed to the doors I needed to walk through in order to obtain my goals.
Now I’m a teacher. And when I interact with my students, I carry with me both the lessons I learned from my teachers and the ones I learned from my personal struggles. I know that, at any moment, I may be dealing with a child that needs me to see their potential and not their problems.
I remember seeing the news report of my father’s arrest when I was a teenager. I was sad, angry, embarrassed, and confused, but I made a promise to myself that day that I would use the hole my family dug to plant myself as a seed of hope and success. I vowed to do the opposite of what I witnessed in my home. Now that I am a father… a husband, not a day goes by that I don’t use something from my past to influence how I live my life and plan for my future. I believe in learning from hardships and creating a better life.