Personal Statement: U.S. Teens Need Perspective

I’m seventeen and still a slave to my parents’ rules. The worst part is knowing there’s not a thing I can do about it. No matter how much I begged not to go to Mexico this past summer, their decision was final.  Maybe I didn’t want to go because of the awkwardness of being expected to love or be loved by people I never see or talk to. My parents would be on the phone for hours talking to family in Mexico, while I on the other hand couldn’t keep a conversation going with my relatives in Chicago.

Perhaps it was the fear of a new environment, almost like a four-year-old’s first ever day at school.  Just as that four year old had to step into a new adventure, so did I.

I had been almost four years since I had last gone to Mexico. I had no memories of it at all, which made me think more how boring this year would be. As all hope was lost, I befriended a cousin of mine name Francisco or “Franky” for short. We were an odd mix, my ambitious cousin and stubborn me, but we were a good mix as well.

My third day in Mexico I had to wake up at 6 a.m., hike up a mountain for half an hour to rip out weeds, make holes, put seeds in the holes, and the close them back up. Of course within five minutes, I was walking towards the softer ground in case I collapsed of exhaustion. No matter how badly I wanted to stop, the guilt of leaving my younger cousin to do labor alone outweighed my laziness. As I continued I pondered, “How could anyone get used to this?” Apparently anyone could.  As I later found out, my cousin was considered one of the laziest in my family. I didn’t pay much attention to it, though, because a lot of my family is quick to talk about people but slow to understand others.

My cousin was the oldest, which made him responsible for three younger sisters. I was the youngest with two sisters caring for me as a child. My cousin went to school at 7 a.m. but worked jobs before and after.  I enter school at 8 a.m. and after I’m out, I enjoy my time with friends. My cousin could go to sleep in seconds, as long as the sun wasn’t on his face.  I have sleepless nights stressing over who knows what. My cousin is always laughing and smiling; I was easily annoyed and always serious. I was jealous because even with a harder life, he still managed to be happier than me.

I noticed my cousin’s attitude was rubbing off on me when I realized my jealously towards him turned into admiration. The more I was with him, the more I learned about myself mentally and emotionally.

Since this Mexico trip, the guy that couldn’t put down a bag of chips has been eating healthy at home.  The guy who cared too much about others’ opinions doesn’t even notice when he’s around a crowd.  The guy who stayed up all night playing Xbox now stays up all night doing homework.

All this was thanks to some fourteen-year-old kid.  Although he was my only option for hanging out in Mexico, he became one of the many people who have changed my life for the better.  Even though he is my younger cousin, I left Mexico seeing him nothing less than an older brother.

By Jose Cardenas, Hancock College Prep Senior

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