When I was in elementary school, the world was a place of make-believe where plush toys had tea in the afternoon or every story ended happily every after. Looking back, I realize how little I knew about reality. Often times, my father would watch the evening news and I would look on in confusion and bewilderment at what those people on televisions were talking about. Other times, my sister, on the instruction of our dad, would assign me absurd long division problems that had forty digit numbers. Although I finished every problem as the obedient Chinese daughter would, I never quite understood what my father went meant by “Work hard and do it yourself.” Those words seemed rather unhelpful when trying to figure out how to divide 534782905754372574389257438295748392570 by 4328714903271483921748329173, especially when my other classmates’ fathers helped them with their homework. Elementary school was merely a place for homework.
In stories told at the dinner table, I learned that my father came from a poor family in Shanghai. Being one of nine children, my father took responsibility for all of his siblings- the cooking, the cleaning, and the washing, the feeding. He wore greasy clothes and rarely shaved his beard, but he was smart. Within four years, he was able to complete college and earn a masters degree, even without a high school education. When arriving in America, my father worked towards a Ph.D. in mathematics and lived with my mother and sister on $300 a month. Yet, because he worked to hard, my family and I are able to live here comfortably and seize the opportunities unavailable to my dad.
In 2000, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, the diagnosis came too late and in April, my father passed away. I have never quite understood it but on that day, I placed a 2000 penny in my dad’s hand to be buried with; however, it is one of the few memories I have of him. Since then my father’s words have resonated with me. It has taught me that every single moment of time is invaluable and I want to make the most of it. Not only is it important for me to work hard in school and be able to complete an education, but also spending time with family as well. Hard work leads to success as my father has shown me through his actions. That is why I choose to spend hours on homework and extracurricular activities because I know that it will eventually pay off. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
When people ask me what I want to be, I reply, “I want to be engineer.” Not only do I love the sciences and engineering, becoming an engineer was also my father’s dream. Because of the lack of opportunities at the time, that dream never happened. However, those opportunities exist now; now is the time to seize that chance. Hard work and self-reliance will accomplish that.
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