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My American Dream This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

The clerk of the neighborhood grocery store stood in disbelief as I unloaded Cheerios, milk, and Twizzlers from my cart. “Where is your mother? Is she paying?” he asked, stooping to my level. “Nope, I am,” I replied nonchalantly, revealing two missing front teeth as I handed him the money on my tiptoes. I was seven.

Childhood – this one word causes our minds to flood with nostalgia – birthday parties, playing in the sprinkler, and falling asleep to our father reading us a story. My childhood was no American dream, but the sacrifices I made for my mother shaped me into a strong, independent woman. When I hear the term “childhood,” I remember the days I ventured alone to the grocery store as my mother sat in a pool of papers, my little sister on her lap and a textbook in her hand. The days I held the chair for my older sister as she blended fruit for my little sister. The times I'd comfort my little sister when Mommy wasn't home. And of course, the day my mother's radiant smile lit up the auditorium as she accepted her diploma at age 42.

Above my bed, a poster hangs bearing the quote, “Don't give up on your dreams or your dreams will give up on you.” I can remember my father's infuriated response when he heard the startling news. “You can't do this now! Who's going to take care of the kids?” he shouted angrily.

I was born to immigrant parents who, like many, moved to America in hopes of new opportunities. Unfortunately, my mother's dream of a job in the medical field was put on hold when she had my older sister. However, she was determined to fulfill her goals. I was seven when my mother enrolled at Lehman College.

“I really don't know what I'm going to do in college without my mother,” my best friend said, as she watched me make my famous Oreo Chocolate Chip Brownies. “She does everything – packing my bags, my laundry, even treating my mosquito bites.” While most of my friends still depend on their parents, I learned early on to care for myself in order to lessen their burden. When I'm not at school, I work part-time at a French pastry shop, cook dinner for my sisters, and even make phone calls regarding our bills. All alone, I courageously watched myself get stitched up in a third-world emergency room, and traveled thousands of miles home by myself after a trip to Morocco. I can proudly say that these experiences have prepared me for my future as an independent person.

Now I am 17 years old, and my mother works at the NYU Langone Medical Center. She taught me to never put my life on hold for anything. My upbringing is a story that is essential to who I am today. Like my mother, I have a dream to go to college.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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