An experience that has greatly influenced my life is my Italian heritage. My parents were married two months after they met, which was unusual for people to do. Soon afterwards, they decided to move to America, which they thought was the "land of opportunity." Despite the language barrier, they did find a better life for themselves.
Life was difficult while I was growing up because English was hardly spoken in my home. The fact that I had very little practice with English made it difficult for me in school. To make matters worse, every time I went to visit family in Italy, I returned knowing less English than I had known before.
In school, no matter how hard I tried, I was never satisfied with my work. Many times I blamed my family for their inability to raise me in a normal home, where English is spoken all the time. I would get very defensive and curse my family history.
It wasn't until I took a step back and looked at my life and my heritage that I could truly appreciate my background. How many people can say that they were brought up learning two different languages? That's what makes my family so unique.
A great change occurred in my life the day I entered high school. I changed from a large Catholic middle school to a small private high school. The struggle began again, but this time the work was harder and more demanding. I could never really go to my parents for help, because they had been taught in Italian, and they didn't know much English. I finally had to take the initiative on my own.
It was an intense four years. I worked hard and sometimes I still didn't get the results I strove for. I know in my heart I'm making my family proud and even earning a little gratitude for myself. Now I am looking forward to college and I know that all my hard work and struggling has paid off. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.