Essay of the Week: “Moving on Down and Losing My Shame”

By An Anonymous Student

                                             

I’m sitting at the table in my living room, trying to do my homework while enduring another of my parents’ arguments in the kitchen. This time, Dad had spent our rent money on his business. Their voices get louder and louder. I focus on my paper, trying desperately to shut out the world around me. I slam my pencil down on the table. Taking my papers, I head to my family’s only bedroom, which houses two sets of bunk beds. Mom and my sister sleep on one and my brother and I take the other.

At the beginning of sophomore year, my two siblings, parents, dog, and myself moved into a one bedroom apartment. Looking at the narrow room which I would share with 3 other people for the foreseeable future had a severe impact on me. Since then, we have lived paycheck to paycheck in an apartment too small to contain our vibrant and sometimes noisy family. It was a stark change from our townhouse, with a living room defined by a high ceiling that accommodated tall Christmas trees. I would race down the large, elegant, stairs every Christmas morning to unwrap presents. In our new apartment, Dad sleeps on the couch in the cramped living room with barely enough room for a tree.

When we moved, our parents worked longer hours, and my two younger siblings have since looked to me for guidance. Almost every night, my eight year-old sister, Farah, asks me to play basketball on the mini-hoop in our room.

At the end of the game, she usually screams: “Yes I win!”  More often than not, she beats me. After her victory, I gather the countless stuffed animals from her bed, piling them onto her, as she laughs and screams, “I won, I won!” I laugh with her, and then, pretending to be a TV reporter, I ask, “How does it feel to be the champion of the world?” She smiles from ear to ear. It’s not easy for my two energetic siblings to be in such a small apartment, but I hope that I am the role model and calming presence they need, despite struggling with the environment myself.

Being forced to adapt to this new way of life has made me more patient and resourceful. Instead of coming right home after school, I often stay in the library to get as much of my homework done before school closes for the day. I have also learned to take advantage of tough situations and turn weaknesses into strengths through tenaciously pursuing my passions that distract me from home life. Last year, for example, I played Durdles, one of the lead characters in my school’s musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I knew I was not a naturally gifted singer, so whenever I had downtime, I committed myself to learning the harmonies by listening to my character’s parts sung by Broadway actors on Youtube. I learned how the professionals did it and I put my own spin on it when I practiced on my own. My voice was not of Broadway quality, but I worked tirelessly to overcome that weakness. By the time the opening performance of our show came, I had mastered every aspect of my character’s role.

Off the stage, I eventually grew tired of playing the character of the boy still living in a townhouse with a tall Christmas tree. Initially, after we moved, I didn’t tell anyone about my new home. In my high school, there aren’t many students with families that are struggling financially. I was always “busy” when the idea of friends visiting me would arise. By junior year, our new apartment had become part of my identity, an inescapable part of who I was, and my reluctance to invite friends over faded. I realized I have nothing to hide, and was proud of myself for losing my shame.

This essay was written by a current freshman at Tufts University.