This I Believe

Laura - Tallahassee, Florida
Entered on April 13, 2007

I believe that another world is possible.

When I was a child, my parents and I lived in the projects. Identical rows of red-faced apartments housed immigrants and their crying babies: Chinese, Indian, Mexican. The complex had a tennis court with no net, and its own wasp-infested, huddling elementary school. It was surrounded by a chain link fence.

There lived a colony of cockroaches in our unit that emerged when the lights were off; we would come home to hundreds of cockroaches teeming over every surface, scrambling for cover. Carelessly, by rote, my father would grab a vacuum cleaner and suck up as many as he could find. I imagined they came out at night, too, when the house was dark and still—a glossy black pulsating mass, scrabbling on the tables and crawling into my mouth, ears.

I had nightmares constantly, but my parents were never fazed; for them, tenements with harmless infestations were a step up from laboring during China’s Cultural Revolution, not knowing whether they’d be able to eat. At least they were in America. At least they had gotten out.

Things have changed since then, though I still keep my mouth clenched tightly when I sleep. My mother worked nonstop for nearly ten years until she became a tenured professor at the state university; we have a nice house and a man who comes monthly to spray for bugs. I go to Yale, a liberal bastion of upper-class academics. I am continuing my parents’ climb out of oblivion, and who knows what worlds I will find still? I believe there are always more and always will be more. I believe in the power of hard work to effect change. I believe that anything is possible, and nothing is absolute.