This I Believe

Andrew - Snohomish, Washington
Entered on April 16, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Is it the American Dream, or just embroidered into our internal creed that implicitly tells us that we may achieve what ever we desire with the proper will? Though I cannot answer this, I can assure you that it exists.

I believe your situation does not define you.

I am the son of divorced alcoholic high school dropout parents, one absent, and each having multiple failed marriages. I am the younger brother of a multiple felon, and also a high school dropout, who is losing an internal fight with alcoholism. In this mess, my older sister has gone on to be the first and only to graduate high school in my family, the only member without a substance addiction.

Placed in this situation, I could follow the high occurrence of failure. I could not care, and indulge in substance and lose morals and burn bridges. Many would think a person in my situation would be lucky to achieve average. I believe different; those more fortunate than me could just as well end up nowhere, or conquer the world.

Somewhere, in the moments of disappointment of mom not coming to Thanksgiving, or not having enough money to vacation, I decided on something. I decided that I wanted luxury not poverty, loyalty and not infidelity; I needed to be rich, in character as well as in finances. The refusal to achieve mediocrity slowly made its way to my core and established itself among the self-preservation principles.

If I were placed in a setting of abundance and opportunity, things might be different. I might not have developed a strong belief in defying the norm; rather, I might have decided to strive for average, and nothing else. Instead, it is the view from below that has caused me to want more, want it all.

The track record for my family members is not of high quality and accomplishment, but it does not define me. In the dawn of my eighteenth year, I am on track to walk at my high school graduation, something never done in my family, and am distinguished among my peers and elders as one not necessarily of success, but surely not one of failure. This may be the norm for others, but it is a step toward what I want, a step away from the trend of my family, and my situation.