We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofDelila Morales

I often felt like I was not enough. A feeling fueled by comparing myself to others, which diminished my self-worth and perception of my capabilities. My family lived in a garage in my grandmother's house with two beds and a box TV. This was a mansion in my young eyes. Although I was oblivious to my family's financial struggles, I thought our living conditions were equivalent to those of the average American family. Growing up in a garage did not impede me from living a fulfilling life. My childhood memories have proven to be far more valuable than anything. As a child, I would intently look down at the sidewalk to avoid the cracks during the magical trips my grandma and I would make to the store. My grandma would gently hold my hand to guide me through the walkway littered with debris and overgrown weeds. During these walks, she would usually point at crushed cans and instruct me to retrieve them for her. Every so often, I would turn back to catch a glimpse of her looking in the way of where the cans were. It was like she was staring at a treasure. However, I always wondered why she would collect bottles and cans. Till one day, I saw my grandmother lugging around grocery bags, brimming cans, and bottles. I realized that the cans and bottles must have had value, and this was a way for her to make money. However, I did not understand why she felt the need to collect these discardable items. How could these bottles have any value if people so easily discarded them like trash? 

Later in the day, I would join my mom to watch the Kardashians, their fleet of Roll-Royces, and their large homes. It was then when it struck me that my living conditions were dramatically different from what I watched on TV. I started analyzing how they lived, and never once did I see them do the things I did. Instead of picking up bottles, they were visiting exotic places, which left me to feel as if my life was inadequate compared to how they were living. As I got older, this comparison followed me and impacted my perception of myself. My perception of reality shifted from thinking I had the world at my fingertips in the valuable cans I would pick up with my grandma to believing that my dreams had limitations because I wasn't from a privileged background. No one was paying for private tutors to help me learn, and no one was chauffeuring me around in fancy cars. I went to a regular school with tagged doors. I was so accustomed to my financial struggle. I felt comfortable staying where I was and giving up on my goals because I never felt like they were attainable, leaving my mind suffocated with thoughts and conclusions of pure negativity and doubt.

But in the wake of it all, I remembered the bottles my grandma would gently stare at on our walks to the store. And I had started to think more about her life. She raised her ten children while having little money. She accomplished her dream of providing opportunities for her kids to live a better life. My grandma built her American Dream by doing the things many took for granted, like collecting and recycling bottles. She never allowed the situation she was in to prevent her from succeeding or leave her unmotivated to keep trying to make it in the world. The bottles I once associated with poverty now had a greater meaning. They reminded me of my grandma's determination and self-assurance. I might be from a town where the streets are not paved with gold. And I might doubt myself. However, I am Eva Morales' granddaughter. I can conquer all obstacles because her strength and determination are within me to do so.

© Delila Morales. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.