As a friend drove her home on that cold, sleepy January evening, Mary Ann rested peacefully in the back seat of the station wagon. She was seventeen, without a care in the world as she curled up against the warm leather. Thoughts of her soothing sheets quickly vanished as she spotted a black truck speeding directly toward the terrified teenagers. In the midst of the blinding flash, she crashed into the station wagon’s front seat, instantly shattering her knee into thousands of pieces. As the sirens approached and flashing lights surrounded her, she let the silence of her mind take over.
My aunt “Mai” (as close friends and family call her) lay for several months in her bed, working vigorously to keep up in school and regain use of her atrophied leg. By graduation, she was able to walk with the help of crutches. She enrolled at Westfield State University, but when family financial problems overpowered her mother, she felt compelled to return home to support and work at a local IHOP. The days were long and hard as she brushed aside the pain of her still unhealed knee. When family troubles subsided, she moved out and entered a nursing career at Leonard Morse Hospital, where she excelled despite her lack of a full college degree. She also married and settled down to raise three children with her husband Michael; however, she yearned to complete what she had left unfinished so many years ago.
Six years ago, Mai was given an opportunity: Michael was taking night classes at Boston College and they offered a discount to him and his wife if they chose to participate. She gladly accepted, working days and studying nights for the next five years while never faltering in her parental duties. Last June, Mai and Michael finally graduated with their degrees held high, proving it’s never too late to go back. In the last year, she also had her sixth surgery on her knee, significantly improving her mobility and opening windows of opportunity even further.
When I think of my aunt Mai, I see a smart, caring person who puts family first while still pursuing what she wants to achieve in life; an image I would be proud to emulate. Even imagining the hardships she underwent helps me cope with any problems I encounter, as they pale in comparison. Whether it be slaving away over research papers or training endlessly for athletics, I have realized that my days are a walk in the park compared to the countless days Mai had to spend just to walk at all. Of all the time I have spent with my aunt, not once have I heard her complain about her problems. Her resilience and determination demonstrate the power of will that will help me conquer the challenges of college and succeed in my future endeavors. She has taught me that one can do whatever one puts their mind to, but must not falter over the bumps in the road. Thanks to my aunt’s unique example of hard work and commitment, I aspire to now travel a clearer path to success with college first on my list.