Describe any circumstances indicative of some hardship, such as but not limited to, financial difficulties, personal or family illness, a medical condition, a death in the immediate family, or educational disadvantage not mentioned in your personal statement; OR describe any key academic, personal, or financial barriers that COVID-19 may have posed on you or your immediate family.
The tangible part of my life has always been to the age of twenty-four. My mother wants her three children to be independent by then, which is why I have come to look at my life in terms of a twenty-four-hour clock. Until twelve years old – noon – I did not understand anything. My only worry at that age was finding a way to style the many boot-cut jeans my mother adamantly insisted on buying me. My only goal was surviving through a dry Calgary summer without losing any of my school friends due to time and space.
At noon, the sun was at its zenith in the sky, but I had thought would continue rising. My life would then be a linear function with a constant, positive slope – structured, and predictable. At twelve, however, my life’s clock struck, signaling the beginning of a new era of struggle, one that would force depth and breadth into my life. A depth of understanding, and a depth of pain and sorrow.
The sun began its descent when my father lost his job. He was a project engineer, working on Forthills, a 17 billion dollar Suncor project in the oil and gas sector of Canada. Due to international policies, however, the oil price began to drop in 2015, leading to massive layoffs that finally hit my family on December 1st, 2016, when my father came home with his briefcase, boxes of office work, and a solemn expression foreshadowing a life that was no longer going to be the same.
The changes were unnoticeable at first. I continued attending school, leaving my family’s struggle at the front door of my house as I walked away every morning. It was like shrugging off a backpack and being free of its weight, even if it was temporary. Additionally, I liked school. I loved the environment of rowdy classmates throwing paper balls in class, the thrill of new stationery on the first day, and the naive and irrelevant gossip that seemed to be as important as political negotiations at the time. Most importantly, however, I loved weaving an ideal image of myself there, one that was free of the economic burden haunting my house.
At one point my ideal and real-world clashed, and the disconnect made me angry. It was more than teenage angst. My anger was full-blown mania, for I couldn’t seem to fathom why everyone else’s life seemed normal while mine whirled perpetually around and into oblivion. We never lived an excessively rich life before my father got laid off, but it seemed as if our world was slowly closing in, as limitations and priorities trumped present wants and desires.
At twelve, I did not want to accept my circumstances. This 2D, simplistic vision of the world did not let me see how my parents were hurting on the inside. They were good liars, but it had more to do with the fact that I was a naive and gullible child, too obsessed with my fantasies to be aware of my parent’s struggle. As time ambled on, I had to wear my backpack with me all the time, and my shoulders began to ache, my spine arching to accommodate for the extra burden on my heart.
A lack of financial stability in my household has both taken and given me a lot of things. Sure I was unable to wear branded clothes or have the flashiest phone, but my parents never spent a cent less on my education. They sent me to a school that values character and leadership, one that taught me to wield discipline and perseverance like an iron sword. Couple this with the real-life experience that turmoiled in my house and my reality became dictated by forces beyond my control. I realized that fate played a great role in my life – much greater than I gave it credit for.
The mass media has always portrayed those with a want of money as greedy individuals without any sense of humanity. But money – and a lack of it – can influence one’s quality of life greatly. I learned this the hard way. Putting aside material desires, the uncertainty is enough to disorient a person. When the wealth of one’s household withers away, it shakes one’s ground like an earthquake. When it comes to saving money, every penny counts. Even the wealthiest people in the world continue to invest in opportunities to make a profit, and we should follow their example. Financial literacy is necessary to live a life of stability and liberty. As a senior in high school, I am proactively working to reach my goal of monetary stability, efficiency, and growth.
Even though I have little support, I have been gifted with some powerful knowledge during my adolescence, a time where I am meant to find myself amidst the chaos. The most important lesson that I am learning is that life is never meant to be easy. I am grateful for experiencing hardship and sorrow from a young age, rather than being shocked by its presence in adulthood. My shoulders have grown accustomed to the weight, and it seemed as if the sun was going to reach upwards again.
Then, something happened.
Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Pandemic. Seventeen. Pandemic.
My clock began hiccuping. Even time, the one absolute in my life, began bending its laws, exponentially increasing the struggle that my family and I were going through.
The beating society that I had once known had died. In an article by The New York Times, Robin George Andrews wrote, “The seismometers that geologists use to detect earthquakes also pick up the vibrations of human activity — vehicle traffic, construction equipment, heavy machinery and the like. But with billions of people now staying home, the “thumping pulse of civilization is now barely detectable.” This world has fallen on its face, and I am behind a lot of people right from the start. The lack of financial stability in my household has made me feel that I am trying to balance elephants on eggs, while an earthquake shakes the tectonic plates of the world to their core.
I sometimes look back at myself, during the simpler times, when I watched the world through a camera lens. It was a beautiful view, but so narrow, and lacking depth. I had thought these photos to be a reality. It was still dawn, still an untouched day, naive and innocent. At twelve, I began to gain consciousness. The consciousness of the importance of money. The importance of understanding and empathy. The importance of independence and battling uncertainty. The pandemic has only cleared the lens I was looking through further.
I am not asking for sympathy – I am merely stating the facts of my life. Although I may be a few steps behind everyone because of my situation, I was coaxed into reality all these years, while many of my classmates faced it head-on and without pause. I am incredibly grateful for this.
Much of my conscious life has been shaped by these events beyond my control, ones that are neither good, nor bad, but simply there, and refusing to fade away. These events have molded my soul, and I am still in the midst of the battle five years later. Both a friend and a foe, a guardian, and a tormenter, my struggles are ones that I have learned to accommodate and endure. I am grateful for my circumstances, for everything happens for a reason, and I would have been a different person had my clock acted normally.
At twelve, I had no idea that this is where life would take me. At seventeen, I have the strength and purpose to face the foreboding darkness of midnight with unwavering hope for the future.