During a discussion in my AP English class, my teacher instructed us to open our notebooks and write one word that sums up each of ourselves in entirety. My classmates around me scrawled words like “student,” “friend,” and “daughter.” I wrote “dreamer.” This word, however, means much more to me than a scribble in a notebook.
It is not unreasonable for me to claim that my dreams saved my life. I’ve had great aspirations since I was young, but it wasn’t until the summer I was thirteen that I learned the true value of dreams. At that point in my life, my dreams of a bright future studying at a prestigious university and traveling abroad to explore and volunteer were the only flickering lights that I saw at the end of a dark labyrinth called anorexia.
The summer before my eighth grade year was spent at the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center in Massachusetts. While my friends at home swam in their pools and had sleepovers, I sat through tearful meetings and supervised meals. I despised being inside the walls of CEDC, but at the same time, I fell in love with the scholarly atmosphere of the Harvard campus around the center. I remember what I was wearing and how the sunlight fell on my father’s face one morning as we walked alongside college students with armfuls of books. I told him, “Someday, I will go to a school like this.”
When school began for my peers back home and I was moved into a residential treatment center in a new location, I continued to complete school assignments while envisioning the scholarly environments that I yearned to experience in the future. I fought against urges to doze off in the stifling hospital rooms as I sat through hours of tutoring and tedious reading and rereading of required texts. It was not until November that I came to terms with the reality that a life of sickness was not compatible with the life of my dreams. In fact, if I continued abusing my body, I would never attend college. I wouldn’t see the world or find my place in it. I saw that if I persisted existing in my worsening state of half-living, I would soon not be living at all.
My eating disorder was a coping mechanism I had clung to with desperation for a long time, but I gradually allowed myself to let it go for the sake of my future aspirations. I walked out the doors of my last treatment center on December 1, 2009, without turning to look back. I began school sixty days late, and was able to finish both semesters with straight As. I entered ninth grade with a sense of determination; not only to excel in the classroom, but to drink up each opportunity offered. I not only had dreams, but also the ability to bring them to life.
Although life has been difficult at times within the past four years, the possibility in each day of recovery has never failed to win out over a life of sickness. My dreams continue to carry me through the trials of each day and every moment of self doubt. Someday, I hope that my dreams will take me all over the world, to cradle African babies in Namibia, cruise down the Grand Canal in Venice, and stroll the sidewalks of Singapore.
My aspirations are now within reach. I have taken risks, snatched up opportunities, and prepared myself for the stellar college education that once seemed so distant as I walked the Harvard Campus at thirteen. I don’t know where my life will take me in the years to come, but I do know that whether I am sitting in a college lecture or speaking a new language in a country far away, I’ll have my dreams to thank for getting me there.