This I Believe

Gordana - Streamwood, Illinois
Entered on October 21, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family, hope

Throughout my short teenage life, I have listened to lectures about what qualities I should have in order to be successful, some of these beloved traits being courage, intelligence, or even humbleness. For me, however, an essential quality for success is optimism. When I was young, I remember coming to America and not knowing what to expect. I remember people saying my family was going to a country of great opportunity and that we had loads of wealth awaiting us. To our surprise, not only was wealth not awaiting us, but debt had settled in our lower class apartment.

I remember having to go to work with my grandmother on weekends when I was out of school because both my parents worked 2 full-time jobs. My parents couldn’t work fewer hours because we needed the money, and they couldn’t afford to hire someone else to take care of me. They were too busy paying off debts with increasing interests and a babysitter was an unnecessary additional expense. I remember traveling with my grandma to different parts of Chicago where my grandma would do additional jobs in order to raise some money. My snacks (and lunches sometimes) were canned mini sausages because they were the cheapest food in the store at sixty-nine cents a can.

Despite the horrible sounding situation, I didn’t view any of this as abnormal. I suppose that’s because the one thing I don’t remember from my childhood is any of my family members acting like we had a bad life. Even though times were rough, my family always remained positive, knowing that life would get better. When I remember my childhood, I think about my family always being optimistic about the future and having hope that life would get better with each and every day.

Years later, as I sit in my family’s furnished house, I think about what people told my family before we came to this country and I realized that they were wrong. I don’t believe America is solely a land of opportunity; I believe America is a country built on optimism.