Per an American ideology that cherishes “rags to riches” stories like those of Horatio Alger, the statement “you can do anything you set your mind to” has become overused and lost its promising air. However, its impact may still be substantial when the speaker has accomplishments of their own to back up what they preach. My mother is the epitome of an individual who has worked to no end to finally be satisfied with her results. She has influenced my ambitions in more than one way, and it is because of her that I realize the importance of finding a career in life, rather than a job: that is, finding fulfillment, rather than monetary obligation.
I was five when my mom first told me that “can’t is not a part of [my] vocabulary.” I didn’t get it initially, but by watching her life from that point (when she was still in medical school) up to the present, and listening to stories of her past, I eventually understood. Working as a chemical engineer, a pilot, and a nurse, prior to discovering her niche as a physician, is inspiring to say the least. This is why, when she tells me I can do anything, it’s somewhat conceivable. Seeing that she did indeed find contentment after multiple unsuccessful attempts has proved to me that I don’t have to settle for anything short of my aspirations in life.
Yet, there is still more to this story that enhances its amazing proposition. My mother had the pleasure of witnessing this “rags to riches” story firsthand in the projects of Chicago’s south side. In a world that was unpromising and saturated with negative influences, she lived in a one bedroom apartment with her mother (who may as well have been absent) and three older siblings. The expectations for them were low; merely graduating from high school would have been an appraised feat. Unsurprisingly, the temptations of short-term relief, derived from drugs and methods of illegal trade, allured many, including her brother who became strung out on heroine and her sister who found herself prostituting. Sadly, this was a truth common to many. With no positive models to look up to, the youth of her era had little chance to succeed. Deprived from material wealth in a society that glorifies money, one may see how the greed to escape their situations led to trouble.
Money, this same factor that could have stood as her biggest impediment growing up became, ironically, a major proponent my mother’s success. Her will, her integrity, and her ability to look past its appeal allowed her to overcome the obstacle that so many of us succumb to every day. The reality is that money, the tool of capitalism, is a source of stress and displeasure, a scarce want that can drive people insane. Money, which skews our perceptions of what is right and what is truly important in life, is one of the biggest detriments to modern society. Even after the initial struggles in her childhood, my mom continued to look past money while searching for a content lifestyle. Her experimentation in the job field is a testimony of this.
Today, when she comes home after an evening of moonlighting in the E.R. and tells me that she gets “chills” from saving lives, I realize that she has finally found contentment. This is when I am once again reminded that impossible is really only existent in our minds.
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