Profile headshot of Grace

All Grown Up

Grace, Long Reach HS, Class of 2020

Shaped by an immigrant father who scratched and clawed to provide his daughter with the life that he never had, Grace has developed a very clear perspective of what is truly important.

People like to say that you’ve never really experienced life until you get older and understand things a lot more better so as a kid I never worried about “adult” things. I kept to myself, played with my toys, ate my vegetables, did my chores, I played my games, cleaned my room, and even did my homework even though I despised it. I lived the perfect middle to lower class life, I mean yeah my family was never “rich” but we managed and had things we needed most. I never worried about problems with money or my education, being nearly 7 I knew no better and figured life was all unicorns, puppies, and rainbows and figured there was no better way to live than the way my family was getting past.

But of course we all have to learn at some point.

I would say my experience could have gone a lot more smoother and nicely. Everything happened over time, the clocks just ticked away and I continued to grow. Things kind of just, move along, with or even without people in my life. Seeing dead people, getting robbed, and even being harassed in multiple ways. Honestly, what more could be said to “take” someone’s innocence? The new emotions I learned and gathered over time, the amount of times I would be told to make sure water never runs without reason, or that the lights aren’t to be on unless needed because we never had the money to pay the bills. We never had the luxury to just not worry about those things when I was younger and just play it off as no big deal because for us it mattered too much.

I know that my life wasn’t as bad as some others and many others could have had it even worse which I couldn’t imagine people having to go through. My family had food on the table every night and clothes and even a roof over all of our heads which was enough of a blessing even though we struggled to keep it all. See the most important experience of my life that helped me comprehend and understand the complexity of life wasn’t actually fully my story.

See my dad came from Guatemala - a state right under Mexico. I guess that’s what people would call an immigrant and just in case you need clarification, an immigrant is defined as someone who lives permanently in a foreign country and that’s it. Yet over time the definition has grown to many people and people have many other ways to describe people like my dad who did nothing but struggle to make their lives better. Actually, most recently with the new president immigrants have acquired new names like rapist and dirty, although people who do crimes as such cannot be classified by race or by where they have come from. Somehow they end up under the exact name and title as if they had done something so wrong.

My dad struggled to get where he is now in time. From swimming to walking he really did it all, and then just to get judged and try to be forcefully pushed out of a country he worked so hard to get his way into. My dad never asked to be born where he was but he couldn’t be any more proud. He never complained either, he fought to get his way here just to be judged over and over, called names, and being told disgusting things. Ivan, or of course my father, never got to finish school, he dropped out around 16 to help his grandmother with money and paying bills and got a job. Year after year and job after job he never got a break from his struggle. He painted houses, fixed them, and even cleaned them yet he could never afford his own house for his family, or again, my family.

This isn’t to say we had nowhere to live, just nowhere my father had been proud of. My father also fixed machines, computers, and even hopped on roofs to do a job people couldn’t, not that he had a choice in doing so. He would always tell us stories of his life as we asked. He talked about how he would work so hard all his muscles ached so much he couldn’t move, but always consumed in providing for his family he never cared the extents he had to go. It wasn’t all work though, somewhere along the way he found himself involved in gangs, going to parties, doing drugs, selling drugs, carrying weapons, getting in fights, and almost getting shot in the head a couple times. My father being the man he was found his way out of it all before he could have his kids and his first born.

Further into the future he continued to gather knowledge and the ability to do new things. My father was always a smart man, and you wouldn’t believe me if I said so because he had never finished school, but that doesn’t mean he never could. When my father was in first grade he ended up skipping three grades from there because he was too advanced. It was as if his amazing gift had just gone to waste and down the drain because he decided to care about the ones around him instead of himself and his future. I’ve watched him struggle left and right and was always upset at the fact that I hadn’t the ability to help him in the slightest way.

My father continued with jobs at dealerships, working with phones, and even more. Eventually as I continued on around being 12 or so my father decided to finish schooling at a building revolving around technology and its makings, he ended up graduating with honors and couldn’t have made me or my family more proud. It all seems like a short story but the way I explained his story isn’t anything compared to what I watched him go through, watching the strongest man and male figure in my life break down and cry because he thought there was more he could be doing to provide for the ones around him.

What always did amaze me is that he refused to treat his family the same way they had treated him. He acts as if they hadn’t betrayed him and left him when he needed them most. He acts like he’s forgotten what they’ve done but we all know he hasn’t. Somehow it can’t pass me how they left him out in the cold with nowhere to live and nothing to eat and even still he ends up supporting everyone on his side of the family more than anyone ever has. He’s always there when they need him, to lend money, to offer a place to live, to provide food, to give a helping hand, or even something as simple as giving advice. He had always been there a dial away without fail, the exact opposite of what they had been to him. It’s clear to me that he hasn’t forgotten his struggle and remembers everyday how he was treated because the one night he did breakdown he spilled it all without intention. He told me that he lives for his wife and his daughters and that his only wish is that we have the advantage he didn’t in life, to be able to finish school, to finish college, to get an amazing job with amazing pay, and just to be someone that he couldn’t because of how he threw his life away and let it get to him multiple times.

From everything I’ve seen and heard from just my dad, I can truly say that I’ve experienced life at its highest and lowest with its ups and downs at an early age and I now know, and for years have known what to expect in the future.

So by the end of this story you know exactly what keeps me going and who, you’d also know why I tend to be a lot more realistic than others, like kids my age worry about boyfriends or homecoming and I’m just way more worried about what I’m gonna do and who I’m gonna be as an adult. Everyone who’s met my father and I has told me that I do everything like my father, I look like him, I eat like him, I argue like him, I dress like him, or at least try to before my mother pushes me into dresses and girly things, and I also love to play the same sport that he does and coincidentally love to play the same position.

My family loves to mess with me and call me a “mini me” of my father, but it never bothers me because I couldn’t be more proud of the obstacles he’s overcome to put my family and himself in the place we are now where his boss at his job gives him a raise every time he even thinks about quitting because he’s just THAT amazing. For these reasons exactly and because of the life I live I refuse to have friends, socializing, high school drama, and relationships be my center of focus because I don’t want to let my father down the way multiple others who were supposed to be there for him have already.

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