Saturday, March 19, 2016


This week, I had the opportunity to read scholarship applications for what amounts to nearly a full-ride to UC Berkeley (my alma mater).  I read through 25 application packets, some better written than others. For confidentiality reasons, I can't talk about what was in each application essay, but I can tell you that those essays made me incredibly grateful for my life.

Prospective Cal students wrote essays explaining what hardships they've overcome, and let me tell you, there were some gut punchers.

I have read applications like these over the years, but I hadn't read them since I became a mom.

I felt so many...feelings...reading those applications.

First, I clearly remembered my own UC application essay, in which I also had to write about overcoming a hardship. And I wrote about having an asthma attack in the middle of a swim meet.  It was a good essay. And having asthma sucked.  But, man, am I privileged.

Yes, we bought clothes on layaway at K-mart. Yes, my dad worked as much overtime as he could. Yes, we only went on vacation every other year, and then we always had to drive. But I mean, look at that last sentence. One of the hardest things about my life was that my parents could only afford to take a week off every other year. Come on. Talk about #middleclassproblems.

I had parents who adored me (and usually adored each other). I always knew where my meals were coming from. I went to private school to avoid the definite beating-up and bullying that would have occurred (trust me, this isn't hyperbole...I would have suffered, and my parents knew it, and they were able to save me). While they weren't in the fanciest neighborhoods, my parents always had a mortgage, not a rent payment.  We had luxuries like baseball tickets and trips to Great America. I've been to Disneyland more than once in my life.  Despite chronic illnesses and a, shall we say, messy, extended family, I grew up loved, cared for, and lacking for nothing.

As I read, I stopped thinking about myself and started thinking about my children.  I have a lot of hopes and dreams for these tiny little creatures, not the least of which is that they will go to college. These kiddos have college savings funds - I can tell you that not one applicant had the luxury of a college savings fund.  They have parents discussing what school we will attempt to open enroll in so that they get the best opportunities for their specific skills, abilities, and personalities. They have grandparents and aunts who shower them with gifts and attention.

As I read, I realized that the one thing I want most for my kids is that they have no need to write an essay about the hardships they've overcome.  I can't guarantee that. I can't guarantee the future, but I can surely hope it.

The big word in education right now is "grit." We want kids to work to build perseverance, to not be handed everything, even the instructions, on a silver platter.  We want master builders, not kids who have to follow the picture on the Lego box. But.  That says something about our community. We are in a position to provide our kids with artificial hardships to overcome.  What a luxury. What a gift.

After my hope that my children have a good life, as good as I can provide, my next hope is that they can turn around some day and say thank you.

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