In my parents’ bedroom, prominently displayed on one wall, is a three-sided mirror. As a child, I used to love jumping on my parents’ bed with my eyes fixed on my image that was reflected three times by this mirror. Although I no longer abuse their poor mattress, I still look anxiously for my image, a reflection of me both inside and out. Just as the mirror has three facets, so too does my life - the unchanging glass of the past, the malleable glass of the present and the hidden glass of the future.
What did I see when I looked in the mirror as a child? I saw my father, an Italian who immigrated to America at 30, a hard-working man who quit school at 14 to work a physically demanding job in which he is still employed. He is truly a self-made man who came from bitter poverty and now supports his family. He came here to claim his share of the American dream.
His heart is still in his homeland, Italy, however. Although as a child he was poor, he was surrounded by a loving family. When I was growing up, spending time with my mother and me was his utmost priority. I learned Italian as my first language so that I could communicate with him and my relatives. I have fond recollections of my father teaching me about Italian culture through stories and folklore, or cooking amazing meals. I have grown up embracing my Italian heritage.
What do I see when I look in the mirror now? I see a strong, confident and hard-working Italian-American young woman. My achievements have all been the result of hard work, a value instilled by my family, and my own talents, which I have nurtured. In addition to excelling in the most difficult school curriculum, I tutor students in math, science and language. I lead both my school newspaper and math team and am an active member in many clubs. I have amassed over 300 hours of service in the last year. I strive to make my community, my family and myself proud.
What does the final mirror, my future, show? That remains to be seen, but I know that within me lies the strength, the heart and the persistence to achieve my goals. I cherish my education, since learning is the foundation of my life and will enable me to reach my potential. I treasure my schooling, especially because so many of us, including my father, have yearned for educational opportunities. I carry the hopes of generations of my family.
To my knowledge, no relation has ever been awarded the title of doctor and I would like to be the first, either as a medical doctor or by earning a doctorate in chemistry. I plan to continue community service to give back to the community that has enabled me to be who I am. My Italian values and pride will also continue to shape my life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.