Perfect? Well, close enough. Thinking of the different types of families who exist, I can say with pride that my family works. We personify the typical nuclear family: my mother, my father, two brothers and me. And we function! Big family activities include dinners where we talk, biking in Prospect Park, or going to quilt shows. I am a published poet, and actively involved in Boy Scouts. My younger brother has written a novel. My mother has a growing massage therapy profession, and my dad is advancing in a city government job. We live in a big Victorian house in Flatbush. We never had a lot of money, but we always had a lot of fun. One big happy family.
Things were going perfectly.
Then, five years ago, my mom discovered she had breast cancer. With a capital C. She had a lumpectomy four years ago, and a mastectomy two years ago. Each time we blindly believed that it would be gone for good. Last spring it appeared in her lower back. After radiation, we again thought the cancer would be gone. With heavy hearts and stupored souls we learned that it was back, and it was threatening her life.
We were in shock. Now what? First, Mom had to take care of herself. Second, we had to take care of Mom. She became our top priority. My family's distribution of responsibilities has always been reasonably equal. But now that had to change. Cancer was thrust into my "perfect" teenage life. My dad, my brothers, and I took over the chores, along with the stress and worry. My domestic skills became more than supplementary, they became essential.
But, what about me? Aren't these years my years? The time for my ego to be in front? Isn't this my time to shine? Senior year in high school, sculpting abilities and an identity through talents. Writing and reading poetry, starring in my own TV show, applying to colleges, going for Eagle Scout. This isn't fair. This happens to other people's moms. But it happened to mine. So I had to learn how to balance my needs, to be up front and on stage, while placing my mom's needs ahead of my own.
Have I lost? Hardly. I've gained - in maturity, in insight, in reasoning to put myself and my priorities aside. My abilities to balance others' needs along my own. I've learned that when I'm tired, stressed out, and I just want to collapse, I don't. I search inside myself for a fresh source of energy. A place to put aside my problems, and help my mother.
This is what college will be like. Challenges, courses, classes, projects, homework, finals, and a thesis. Not to mention all the distractions of frat parties, "all nighters" with friends, and excuses that will detour me from my true course of education. But with these life lessons, I know I can survive the complexities of college.
Life is not perfect. But successfully conquering any imperfections, and coming out triumphant over your problems and all others is what makes life really worth living. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.