Recently I was online and I stumbled upon this short personality test called “What’s your Actual Age?”. Just for fun, I decided to fill out the questionnaire and it ended up telling me that although I may really be just 19, I am “actually” 29. Thinking about the results made me realize that sometimes I really do feel like I am that old. They say that some people go through a lot in their younger years which causes them to grow up much quicker than others their own age, and I definitely feel like I am one of those people. Although I used to be distressed about all the hardships I experienced, I now realize it has only shaped me into who I am today: a responsible, independent, and strong-willed woman. Because I am able to reflect on my life this way, I hold strong belief that all of the rough experiences of our pasts merely teach us and strengthen us for our futures.
A few events and circumstances in particular over the past few years have definitely changed my life and who I am as a person now, the main one being my family’s financial troubles. Although we had never been rich, money never had never been so tight in our household until I started going to Catholic High School at age 14. My parents knew the cost of school was going to be a lot but thought we could handle it, and they felt they had no other choice but to let me go there since our area public high school was scum anyway. By just the end of my freshman year, the bills were already getting to be too much, and the school threatened to kick me out should we not be able to keep up with tuition payments. When it was time to start sophomore year, I wasn’t let in to school on the first few days with everyone else, again, because we were too behind with payments. This was a continued problem. Soon, my parents were no longer able to pay the money and had run out of family members to borrow loans from. They told me I would just have to just transfer out and go to the public high school for free. I wouldn’t allow this to happen because my education was too important to me, and I loved the high school I was already at. So, I started applying for jobs, got hired at a local bakery, and I started there the very day after I turned 16 and was able to legally work. I worked as many hours as I could after school and on weekends to pay my own tuition from sophomore year on. I worked early and long shifts every Saturday and Sunday starting at five o’clock in the morning, at a job I learned very soon that I hated. To say the least, the management was cranky, the pay was unfair, and the customers as rude as humanly possible. It was excruciatingly difficult juggling my school load while working so much and dealing with other personal issues all at the same time. Many times throughout my high school career I didn’t think I could ever push through and I didn’t think anything was ever going to get better. There was so much on my plate and I couldn’t understand why God would let so many horrible things happen to me. But now I know.
Today I am able to recognize that each of those experiences in my life had a lot more meaning and lessons tied to them than met the eye before. Unlike most of my friends my age, I have learned to be very independent and am able to support myself. I budget my money and know the difference between wants and needs. I pay all of my own bills and it has taught me a great deal of responsibility and makes me value the things I have and the things I have paid for, especially my education. I handed in my last high school tuition payment a mere week before graduation – I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to walk across stage. But not only was I able to finally pay my way to graduating on time, I did so as valedictorian, senior class president, parliamentarian of the National Honor Society, tutor coordinator for the Spanish National Honor Society, and a member of student council and the math club. The struggles it took me to get to that point in my life showed me how strong-willed I am and how even in the roughest of times I know how to work and push through for what is important to me. I also learned important life lessons about time management and I now know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as cliche as that is, because I recently realized I met almost all of my best friends while working at that bakery. I am proud to say that today I am happy with my life. Even though many of the stressful circumstances haven’t changed – I am still not rich, I still work at the bakery from hell, people I know continue to get sick or die, etc. – I have changed and matured in so many positives ways, and I owe it all to my past for teaching me what I know now and giving me the strength I have today.
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