I Am a Survivor

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We all have dreams of making a better life for ourselves. My dream is to become

the first person in my family to get a college education. I want desperately to become a

Radiological Technician. This goal may not seem like a big deal to some people but for

me it would be a way out of my oppressive heritage. In my family, the highest level of

education is barely a high school diploma .This is not because my family is not intelligent

enough to get a high school diploma or a college degree, but growing up in a home with

only one parent, we didn't have a lot of resources. I would like to put an end to this

vicious cycle and to prove to my family, my children, and myself that it can be done.

However, life has taken me down a path filled with obstacles. These obstacles have at

times caused me to become discouraged and frustrated in my quest to better myself.How-

ever, they have also made me into the strong, courageous, and determined woman that I

am today.

The first obstacle that I had to overcome was my family. I come from a large

Italian-Catholic family. There are seven of us, and I am the baby. Four boys and three

girls. My mother, who by the time she had me, was forty and worn out, and was tired of

kids. Therefore, she neglected me. In addition, she was not a very affectionate person.

There were no hugs and kisses, nor any words of encouragement. However, in her

defense, she had endured a lot by the time I was born. She had no education, her marriage

to my father had failed because he was emotionally and physically abusive. He also did

not support the family financially, so mom had to shoulder this burden on her own. She

worked the graveyard shift at a nursing home as a nursing assistant. So, needless to say

she slept all day and I had to basically care for myself. My siblings, because they are all

older than me, were either at school or their job and too busy to worry about me.

Sundays, were the only good days. This was family day. We went to mass in the

morning and mom would spend all day cooking a big meal, which usually consisted of

pasta. Although, it was family day, it sure was not a day of love. My siblings would take

the time to fight among themselves and subsequently, torture me. The only part of the

day I really enjoyed was mass. I loved the smells of the incense, and the sounds of the

organs. I loved the feeling of peace, and I would get the strength I needed to survive

another week with my family.

The next obstacle was school. When I started, I did not know what to expect.

I had no idea who I was or what to expect. Living with all the negativity, lack of parental

guidance, and lack of love, had made a huge impact on my self-concept as an individual,

I did not have one. Furthermore, because I was not raised in a positive environment with

sensitive and loving caregivers, I had no basic trust. I was petrified of everyone and ever-

ything. My world was all about fear. Consequently, I had no self-esteem and latched

myself onto the "wrong crowd". In seventh grade, I started smoking and drinking. I was

only thirteen, and I thought I was cool. It was the beginning of the end for me. I did not

realize this until years later, but I was trying to cure myself; I was self-medicating. When

I was drunk, I felt good about myself. Then, I had all the self-esteem I needed. Most

importantly, I had friends who cared about me. I did not have to worry about them

judging me, or ignoring me, they liked to hang-out with me. However, I knew that if I

stayed on this path, I would end up exactly like my family; poor and un-educated. I was

at the point that I did not care though. This was the first time in my life that I felt good

about myself. I was not too concerned with the fact that it was not the right path.

The day I turned sixteen, I quit school. Yes,...
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