If I’m being honest, these questions are tough to answer because I feel as though I’m being asked to fit inside of a box. My story isn’t perfect edges or 90 degree angles. Instead, it zips and zags. The corners are sharp and difficult to measure. It is constantly transforming but it continues to stand tall and strong. This shape is me.
My parents were Ill. They suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. So even before their deaths, we encountered financial instability. We mostly lived paycheck-to-paycheck. My mother never worked because it would have been impossible for her to hold a job. Her name was Karyn. My dad did work. He held a job for 30+ years. He tried extremely hard to keep the household finances in order but as their diseases progressed, the money became harder to keep track of. His name was John. My father’s life insurance expired after his retirement and he denied ever receiving money after my mother’s death. I do not think life insurance would have made any difference for us then. My father would have spent the money on his addiction, so actually, I’m glad we never received any. As for his own life insurance, it would have given me the chance to invest it and watch it grow, securing my own financial future.
I learned to be independent at an early age. I couldn’t afford not to. My parents couldn’t take care of themselves, let alone a child. When I wasn’t living with them, I was living in foster homes where everything, including food and love, were luxuries. I made this decision for myself (called social services myself), despite it being extremely difficult, because if I hadn’t I don’t think I would have had a future otherwise. School was my saving grace and the idea of attending college one day kept me going. Their deaths only made this desire stronger. I didn’t have a cent to my name so I applied for financial aid and acquired loans to make it through every semester. With my degree, I hope to live and work in Latin America, working in socio-economic development, empowering women who are forced to face hardships everyday.
Like my parents, I too have struggled with depression. However, unlike my parents, I’ve learned that it is necessary to ask for help. I’m close to graduating and I have a job in which I am proud of. I will not live like my parents did but I will live in their honor because they were my greatest teachers. In fact, applying to this scholarship is a testimony to this. This is the first scholarship I have ever applied to. For a long time, I felt undeserving of them. I have since learned that if you never ask, the answer will always be no. I chose this scholarship specifically because I wished to share my story, hoping it would inspire others. The deaths we’ve experienced do not define us. The lives we live will.