Life is Tough

6 June 2019

Life is Tough
As I sat at age eleven with my Nintendo cradled in my left hand and my eyes buried in my right hand saying my goodbyes to my father, I did not quite realize what was truly happening. For the next eighteen months, the only time I would see my father would be in an olive green jumpsuit with his prisoner number plastered over his left chest.
Things changed throughout that year and a half. My mother would no longer wait for my brother and I at the bus stop after school, she needed to become the “man of the house” and that meant getting a job. There were no more walking through the door after school and being welcomed with snacks and a simple, “How was school today, son?” We moved from our cozy, accustomed home with its large backyard and ordinary setting to a tiny two-bedroom apartment in a large apartment complex. Fortunately, I was still allowed a bit of familiarity with the chance to graduate with my friends from my same elementary school. Looking back upon those years now and the amount of sacrifice and work my mom had to accomplish without her husband there, makes me want to be the person who she is, someone who will step up and do what is needed when the situation demands it. My mother went from a housewife to the financial provider of two small children in the blink of an eye. I am ashamed to say it, but I was very bitter and selfish during that time. I was angry at the world for the hardships I had to endure, and was completely oblivious to the fact that there were millions of people around the globe who had it ten times worse than myself .
Fast forward to spring break of 2012, my parents and I had planned a trip to a relative’s condominium in Florida to spend the vacation week (my brother had work). Unbeknownst to me at that time, we would never end up going to Florida on that trip. What happened still haunts my memories to this day. I was walking into my parent’s bedroom with my North Face backpack filled with my IPod, books, and other necessities for the trip ahead. I see my mother lying on the ground completely inconsolable, tears running down her cheek with her phone glued to her ear. I only hear snippets of the conversation before I was signaled by my father to leave the room. These fragments included “Lee….in hospital….brain cancer….scared.” It turned out that my mother’s brother, a man who was almost like a father to me, a man that I based my future ambitions off of, was in the hospital after a CAT scan revealed a large tumor on the right side of his brain. The voice of my grandmother on the phone crying and confused as my dad tried breaking the news to her would make anyone break down into tears. After a week in the hospital and an intensive brain operation, my uncle was let out of the hospital with news that the doctors had given him anywhere from twelve to eighteen months to live.
Fast forward again to a leadership workshop camp sponsored by the Rotary Club in which I was sent to. There were people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and the stories they told were inspirational and saddening at the same time. There was a sixteen year-old girl with brain tumors that was not expected to live past eighteen. There was a boy born eight weeks premature who was not supposed to have lived. There were people who have lost relatives, parents, and siblings to sickness, violence, drugs, etc. After I was able to muster up the confidence to go up in front of the camp and tell my own story, the looks of understanding and sincerity on the faces of these kids the same age as myself reassured me that things get better, no matter how terrible a time is, it will always get better.
Everyone has their own story, everyone has their own struggles in their personal walk of life. What defines them is what they do after these times have passed. Do they wallow in self-pity until their time runs out, or do they pick themselves up and use those experiences as a source of strength and courage? I know that I will always pick myself up. I know that the tough times I have been through have done nothing more than shape me into the man I am today, and I would never change who I am.

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