The Bitter and the Sweet | Teen Ink

The Bitter and the Sweet MAG

March 14, 2008
By Anonymous

The candy’s smooth wrapper crinkles as I trace its edges with my fingertips, imagining its contents. The wrapper tears like a fine fabric, revealing a corner of dark chocolate. I break off a piece and take pleasure in its creamy essence. I have always had a sweet tooth, but it is not just sugary snacks that I crave. Being raised by a single parent has been a bittersweet experience, but one that has given me resilience and ambition.

When I was young, my mother would tell me that the racks of candy in the store’s checkout line belonged to the cashier. She said this not to confuse me, avoid spoiling me, or even to teach me a lesson about earning rewards, though she inevitably did. She said it because she didn’t want me to worry because she could not afford a 50-cent chocolate bar. Nevertheless, I saw through her tactic and made a promise to myself that I would grow up to be prosperous enough to buy my family all the Hersheys on the stand.

Instead of focusing on our economic instability, my mother selflessly pushed me to strive for success so that I could lead a more comfortable life than hers. She worked long hours every night and struggled to pay the minimum due on her bills. Still, she would find time to read and snuggle with my sister, Emily, and me. Mom taught me the value of perseverance, education, and moral fiber. Although I did not have two parents, I was loved and nurtured just as much.

Not all of life’s milestones were easy; some left an insurmountably bitter taste in my mouth. Domestic abuse, divorce, and homelessness, for example. I dealt with these when my mother married a man in Maryland and moved us several states away from our roots in Georgia. The first few months were great: baseball games, family trips to the mall, dinners together, and movies. It felt like we were the perfect All-American family. Then things changed. Baseball games were too expensive, and trips to the mall were replaced with days Emily and I spent isolated in our rooms on his orders. Screaming matches between my stepfather and my mother interrupted dinners, and he swapped movie tickets for vodka.

We spent five years living in a family setting that had turned into a war zone. I remember the verbal spats became so routine that I would no longer rush to my little sister’s room to cradle her in my arms and wipe away the tears spilling down her cheeks. Emily and I grew so used to this lifestyle that we just turned on the televisions in our rooms to drown out the screams. We became immersed in the world of sugar-coated sitcoms, pretending the spiteful cursing matches downstairs were normal.

Then one evening, an argument erupted. My sister and I had begun to predict the start of these altercations. We called our system ETF, Estimated Time of Fight, named for its accuracy. Emily joked about patenting it some day. But on this night my mother swung open my bedroom door and told me to pack – we were leaving and not coming back. I could hear Emily sobbing in her room.

We loaded our things into Mom’s Ford, my step­father barking hatefully all the while. We drove for a long time before Mom pulled into the parking lot of a large store. I gazed out the window, watching people carry bags to their cars and head off to their warm homes. They were oblivious to our bittersweet tears. They had no idea how relieved and traumatized we felt, all at the same time. I was 14, my sister 11, school was still in session, and we were homeless.

“We’re not the first people to go through this, and we won’t be the last,” Mom assured us.

A friend of my mother’s let us stay with her. Each day, Mom would wake us before dawn so we could commute from Virginia to Maryland for our last three months of school. I remember looking out at the gleaming Washington Monument from the Potomac bridge, wondering how many others in the nation had suffered in silence. How many had packed up and moved on?

We eventually relocated to Texas, where Mom is still working to re-stabilize her life. And now, as I compose this essay with some dark chocolate – my favorite candy – close at hand, I realize my family and I are at the best point in our lives. I have triumphed here, both academically and personally. I ­satiate my hunger for knowledge by remaining dedicated to my intellectual pursuits – for example, the Distinguished Graduation Plan with its rigorous course of study and community service, and the learning opportunities it offers.

I savor the fact that I am not a bitter product of my environment; I am not a person who lets trying times interrupt her focus, for I know that they are learning experiences also. Success, like candy, can be the sweetest treat of all.

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This article has 107 comments.

on Oct. 1 2010 at 9:18 am
I Knew what you were saying, It was easy to understantd what you were saying. I thought this was a very good essay. You knew how to capture the reader in the begining.

Miyu_Moto said...
on Sep. 20 2010 at 7:57 pm
....i envy your writing. But wow, I was blown away. This inspired me. Thanks!

hush4 BRONZE said...
on Sep. 5 2010 at 3:24 pm
hush4 BRONZE, Highland Park, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Woah, this is great. I heard about teenink through a friend and just started today and submitted my college essay which is a lot like yours. Yours is fantastic and well written.

Miranda said...
on Aug. 30 2010 at 6:41 pm
I'm so glad I was able to help you get ideas for your own essay!

on Aug. 29 2010 at 11:28 pm
Seriously, this is the best college essay i've ever found online. It's helped me a with formulating my own-- learning to give my words meaning as you've done with yours. Thank you. (:

on Aug. 26 2010 at 12:44 pm
MercyChristine GOLD, Oak Grove, Minnesota
10 articles 7 photos 57 comments

Favorite Quote:
oh shnykeis!

I so relate- not only is dark chocolate my favorite candy, but my parents have had all sorts of fighting matches- check out A New Him if you're interested in my story

Dj_roxtar said...
on Aug. 24 2010 at 6:13 am
wow congatratez dear .. awsomework.. im proud of u.. keep up the gud work God bless u.. :)))

on Aug. 20 2010 at 11:58 am
this is a really good piece :) i can relate to slot of it :) god bless

MarinaDelRay said...
on Aug. 2 2010 at 2:26 pm
MarinaDelRay, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Your essay is so well-written. I'm trying to write about a similar situation (but not as traumatizing as yours!) and put in as much emotion as you did. Great job! This has served as a huge inspiration to me.

on Jul. 19 2010 at 8:33 pm
Alejandra Rojo, East Bosotn, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I love this piece. I have been struggling to write my own paper on a pretty similar situation. I hope my comes out this good!! Great work!

Yoki said...
on Jul. 6 2010 at 4:31 pm
Wow this is AMAZING. I really hope one day I can write like that.

Ni-Ni said...
on Jun. 30 2010 at 12:15 pm
i really loved this easy! it really surprised me how you could actually put all of your feelings, emotions, and inspiration into one essay! i absolutely loveddd it!

Miranda said...
on Jun. 20 2010 at 1:49 pm
Thank you. :) It's awesome that it's been 2 years since this was published and people still read my story.

love2run GOLD said...
on Jun. 14 2010 at 9:36 pm
love2run GOLD, Star Valley, Wyoming
12 articles 4 photos 64 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I failed my way to success." Thomas Edison
"What kind of crazy nut would spend two or three hours a day just running?" Pre
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." John Shedd

wow, this is amazing and inspiring. i really admire your ability to put this kind of feeling into words. i definitely know how you feel. great job!

OhSnapple GOLD said...
on May. 1 2010 at 12:47 am
OhSnapple GOLD, Concord, New Hampshire
13 articles 0 photos 20 comments
Its people like you who leave me with no respect for people who take their own lives, or let their lives pass b4 their eyes without experiencing all that they can, no matter their circumstance. Thank you so much for this, and I hope you have an amazing time in college! Your life is about to become so much brighter!

on Feb. 2 2010 at 3:21 pm
blanking_out GOLD, Bonita Springs, Florida
13 articles 2 photos 37 comments

Favorite Quote:
Follow the leader, but not too close, just in case they fall.

This is a very amazing article. I have never felt connected to teens that aren't struggling with drugs or family problems. But this? this is an eye opener for different struggles. Ones that i can not begin to grasp or understand. But the greatest thing about your story, your testimony perhaps, is that you are inspiring others to not let their environment shape them into a bitter person. This is such a work of true art. Thank you so very much for sharing this story. God Bless you!

on Jan. 13 2010 at 6:51 pm
oxStardustxo SILVER, State College, Pennsylvania
6 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

wow really inspiring and beautiful <3

itsk8 BRONZE said...
on Jan. 11 2010 at 3:16 pm
itsk8 BRONZE, Oradell, New Jersey
2 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." --Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

you are bothan inspirational and a talented writer. i cannot begin to formulate words that can describe how your story has moved me. continue writing, striving for success, and persevering. thank you so much.

TresVoguexx said...
on Dec. 27 2009 at 11:26 pm
This was an amazing story and essay

on Dec. 26 2009 at 3:00 pm
herdiary SILVER, Chandler, Arizona
7 articles 1 photo 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I just want to be wonderful." --Marilyn Monroe

This was amazing. I loved it. You're an amazing writer.