This I Believe

Selene - Sacramento, California
Entered on November 4, 2006

Juice and Cupcakes

For most people, there is one defining moment, a moment of truth which shapes their lives. Looking back, for me that moment first occurred when my sister, five years my younger, was in the fifth grade. One afternoon, she announced that she had participated in a spelling bee but didn’t make it past the first round. Her words were, “Its okay- at least we got juice and cupcakes!” We laughed about it then, but I remember marveling at the way she had handled her defeat. Ever since we had adopted her when she was three, I had watched her confront a strange environment and fears of abandonment. In her eyes, I was smart and talented because I could navigate “the system.” This was ironic because it came at a time in my life when I was struggling at school and had oodles of self-doubt.

All through school I struggled with math. To make matters worse, I was not into the latest fashion trends, nor was I especially outgoing. In short, I was an anomaly. At the start of every school year, I would resolve to work extra hard and be cool, and then things would finally be different. Alas, no amount of studying or attempts at socializing solved my problems. Still, something in me cried out for redemption. I always signed up for summer school. Every time, I would end up with a satisfying “A”, but the original grades would remain a haunting presence on my transcript like little printed black ghosts.

In another effort to prove myself, I signed up to do an IB Middle Years Personal Project. This was an optional assignment and most of my classmates bailed out. Perhaps, I had yet again bitten off more than I could chew? I was tempted to drop the project, but my determination to conquer my inner demons prevailed. Somewhere along the way I had begun to believe that there was ‘juice and cupcakes’ for me, too.

Finally, in my junior year, I did well in school and, after yet another session of summer school, I applied for a research internship. On a whim, I sent my personal project to scientists I had cited in my research. Lo and behold, I, three time champion failure was invited to be a research intern in Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. This was huge as it signaled redemption even beyond good deeds! Finally, a great year academically, was capped with an internship at Harvard, and even more good things were to follow.

Sometimes people who become part of our lives have the ability to shape us. Had it not been for my sister’s example, I may never have learnt the true meaning of resilience. I hope that someday I, too, will be able to adopt a child, and that that child will be able to teach someone else not to give up if they don’t make it the first time around, because there will always be ‘juice and cupcakes’. This I believe.