You’ll never graduate high school. You’ll never go to college. You will never amount to anything…just like the rest of your family. Sad as it seems, these were statements I heard on a regular basis; statements that would later be the foundation for my unshakable determination. I believe in the power of choice. A person cannot control where they came from or what they were brought into when they entered this world, but they can choose where they are going. Everyone, no matter their circumstance, has choices in life; and it is the choices we make that shape our future.
I grew up in a very small town. I lived with my mom, dad, two sisters, and brother in a trailer park. Even though living in the town trailer park already made me a little self conscious, it wasn’t until my family started falling apart that I felt my world was broken and my future hopeless. When I was in the seventh grade my father was put in prison for dealing drugs. Shortly after he went away, my siblings’ lives began to deteriorate. They all dabbled in drugs, some of whom eventually became addicted. Both of my sisters dropped out of high school; one of them joined the circus and the other became pregnant. My sisters continued risky drug habits, which lead to jail time for the both of them. My brother was expelled from school in the eighth grade for getting into fights; he never went back. Following my father’s example, he dedicated much his time to dealing and using drugs. After my father’s imprisonment, my mother was never around. She would come from the bar at all hours of the night and into the morning. My world was in disorder, and I felt alone.
Everyday I would go to school and hear the verbal attacks from my peers. Jokes of my sister in the circus, my promiscuous mother, or my drug-dealing father were the topics of the attacks. To everyone in town, my family was a joke, which meant I was a joke. All I ever wanted was to be somewhere else, living a different life. So, what did I do? I forged on. I’m not sure where my determination and discipline came from, but I realized in middle school that I had a choice of what I was going to do with my life. I had a choice of what I could be and where I could go. I held on to the notion that all things were possible with the power of choice. The more people around me told me that I couldn’t do this and I would never do that, the more I believed that with the power of choice, I could do anything.
I chose to study really hard and become dedicated to my schoolwork. I chose to stay away from drugs. I chose to become involved in numerous after-school activities that helped me gain the confidence in myself and the leadership qualities I would need for the future. I chose to overcome any obstacles that came in my path; I chose to succeed. I was the first person in my entire family to graduate from high school, and I did it with honors. My studying paid off because I received a full scholarship to a well-known university; I went on to graduate fourth in my class from that university. I moved out of the trailer park and into a city where I bought my first house and started my professional career working for a renowned hospital. The choices I have made in my life have helped me achieve happiness. It was my life choices that shape the person I am today. My belief in the power of choice remains steadfast. The future is mine for the choosing.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.