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Where My Father Left Off This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


I was born in Cape Verde, where I experienced a part of life that will be with meuntil the day I breathe my last breath. Living there for nine years, I learned totake advantage of opportunities; I saw the rough parts of life and the mistakesthat get you there.

I remember sitting in front of my house peelingvegetables and waiting for my father to come home from his work, fishing. Heusually arrived at the same time but I never knew what time it really was; I justknew when the sun was setting behind the mountains, I would look down and see myfather coming up the hill carrying fish in one hand and sometimes vegetables inthe other. I saw him work hard every day, but I could never remember it payingoff, except for our survival.

He sent me to school as soon as I was oldenough, but it was only to learn to read and write in case of emergency. Hehimself had a gift; he was a fast learner. He went to school for two years, buthad to drop out to support his mother. My father worked on the streets until Iwas born, then started fishing to make enough to support both families. Iremember watching him cut yellow-green callouses off his hands from pulling infishing lines and working in the field. I always see my father's hands this way;I can never imamichaelgine them looking pink like others.

My father alwaystried his best to make me and my little brother smile. He always tried to makethings better than they were, but I was learning quickly. I knew my father couldnot keep all his promises, and he knew he made them only to give us hope, andthat one day we would understand this. I knew that the future was already set forus, we would follow in our father's footsteps and do what he did - fish.

In 1990, though, our future was rewritten; we received a letter fromAmerica saying my mother had sent for us, and we would move there within a year.After abandoning us for five years, my mother had finally sent for us.

Now I understand she left only to help us. She knew once she was in theUnited States she would have a chance to bring us here. In America, the land ofopportunity, I started school immediately and it was not just to read and write,it was to achieve any goal I set for myself. I started school in third grade,where my father had left off, and I would finish what he started.

Nowat the age of 18, I am about to achieve what my father could not and no one elsein my family ever has: I am about to graduate from high school with plans to goto college.

Thinking back to my life in Cape Verde, I realize everythinghappens for a reason. Visualizing the callouses on my father's hands and thesweat that dripped as he worked in the field reminds me that I do not want thattype of life for myself. What happened has not only made me stronger but smarter.Every time I think of slacking off, I remember where I once was and how hard lifehas been, and it helps me to make the right decisions.






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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