I am privileged many ways, one of which is having a supportive family who values education and celebrates my accomplishments. To give me opportunities, my dad worked on construction sites around the Southeast for his entire career, living on campgrounds and only coming home every couple of weeks. On many occasions, he worked a seventy hour week, then drove overnight just to see us for a day or two. He does not have a college degree, despite being one of the best historians I know, because every dollar he earns goes directly to supporting my family. To give us opportunities, my mom works a full time job and has still always managed to construct a home in which love is primary. My parents work so that my brothers and I can live and experience all we want to. They sacrifice so that we can do the things we want to do with our lives, and they expect nothing in return. They deserve to pursue their own passions and live own their lives, but their ability to do so in the future relies in large part on the choice I am making in college. The privilege of having parents who work tirelessly for my brothers and I also comes with a lot of pressure, because if I fail, I am failing not only myself, but also the people who love me most in this world and who will rely on me when they can no longer work.
The idea of being low income is not always a comfortable one. It is not something you are supposed to be proud of, but rather, it is something you are trying to overcome. It is hard to accept something as a part of your background and accept the ways in which it has formed your identity if it is something you are supposed to change. Watching my parents give all they are in order to give me all they can has defined who I am and who I strive to become
My family spent a lot of time in debt, living in a run down building in Astoria Queens, New York. My parents always refused to apply for food stamps and never asked for help; they were ashamed to do so. I remember staring at the town houses a couple streets down in front of the East River and wondering how luxurious it must be to have stairs in your house. I don’t think people truly understand what it means to live by the penny unless they’ve experienced it; you learn not to ask for anything, whether it is a 99 cent ring pop or brand name ice cream. But my parents always provided books; looking back I know how hard it was to do that, but they valued education above everything. Now that I am at UVA I am so thankful for that, I was able to develop intellectual skills that kids growing in Astoria usually didn’t. But I sometimes feel so out of place, because even though our socioeconomic status has changed in the past 5 years, the identity and culture of preservation and appreciation of every little thing remains. I still pause in awe when I have the luxury to eat out with a friend or buy an extra pair of shoes. At UVA, I often hear somewhat flippant comments about expenses made by professors, CIOs in emails, and students; I understand it is hard to monitor everything said, but to someone who knows economic struggle, it can be a painful sting and reminder of their seemingly abberational situation.