Can young people lead a constructive life without healthy relationships with elder persons? I do not think so! Relationships play an important role in the lives of young people and whomever they interact with develops their personality in some way (Holland and Crowley 58-60). Jeanette Walls in The Glass Castle suffered due to her turbulent upbringing but ended up to be a successful columnist (1).On the other hand, Liz Murrays story of courage and determination which enabled her to overcome many obstacles in Breaking Night and it shows that misfortunes to children sometimes bring the best out of them despite the painful scars such misfortunes inflict on them through relationships. Liz narrates how she witnessed her parents use drugs, how she stayed hungry for hours for lack of food, and how her mother ran away from home at the age of 13. Liz narrates with sadness that, shed left home to live on the streets when she was very young(30). The essay highlights the challenges I faced in childhood and how my grandfather helped me learn that hardships in life are meant to bring the best out of young people.
As noted in the previous paragraph, my childhood life was not an easy experience. Living in an African-American low-income household in one of the most populated counties in the United States had a heavy toll on my life. I grew up in a low-income family of two kids- a boy and a girl. Up to date, I have never seen my dad, and it is a topic my mother abhors engaging in a conversation. I vividly remember our residence: a poor neighborhood with ramshackle houses, few social facilities; inadequate security in the area; and youths always hanging out on the streets till late at night. My elder sister was hardly in the house-she was easy to spot in the streets- with lovely round sad face with shining eyes and always vocal in street fights. This gives you a glimpse into a disjointed family, doesnt it?
I remember the first day I attended the nursery school. On a Monday morning clad in a new uniform, I boarded the communal school bus and sat near the window trying to comprehend my surrounding and why the houses and trees on the road were moving fast while our bus was not moving. I was surprised to see it stop or rather the surrounding stopped moving and we alighted though with a heavy heart. My new surrounding comprised of very many kids running up and down in the compound: I did not feel comfortable; I kept gazing at the gate hoping the bus would come back and relieve me of the torture of the school environment by taking me home. The matron was friendly and tried frantically to persuade me to follow her to class, but I stood there gazing at her. She had a slender tall, body with those pacific blues eyes and a generous smile.
The matron tried to improvise ways of communicating with me and eventually she won me over. She brought me a big toy and promised me that if I followed her and we talked, the toy will be mine. I followed her timidly to a room full of noisy children. The moment I entered the room, I realized I was in a strange land- there were many kids around me, and I knew nobody. I sat down silently facing the wall since the presence of other people rattled me leave alone the puzzled of strangers. In the well-illuminated class, better than our house, I found myself falling into an imaginary world where I was alone with my mouth and eyeless Spiderman- giggling at each other though I could not tell if the Spiderman saw me since I had gouged out his eyes. The matrons pleas to accompany other kids and be friendly with them fell on deaf ears. My moods never improved throughout the day. When I look back, I wonder why the matron and the school at large could be friendly and welcoming to someone with such intolerable mannerisms.
On a chilly Tuesday morning, having torn my school uniform on the previous day on the school bus when we were going home, I decided not to attend school. However, my mother did not agree with my position - she took it upon herself for the first time to take me to school. After she left, I was torn between following her and remaining at school, but I could not go back and I no idea about the route to our home anyway. I sat down gloomy wishing I was alone at home. Then, a group of kids came and started making fun of me. Look at the way his short is old; he is walking naked!They shouted while issuing a ridiculing laughter at me. I was mad, and in a split second, I ran towards them and, wrestled the one who was their cheerleader to the ground and started beating him up. I hit the girl in the face so hard that blood was sprouting all over but I kept hitting her even against her pleading cries. Shortly after the scuffle began, I found myself being pulled up and taken to the office by the school guards. Later, my mother was summoned. That day I was suspended from school. I was so happy despite the fact that my mother was so mad at me.
My mother tried to look for schools around for me, but I was adamant and determined not to go to school. Since she had a huge family responsibility, she resigned to her job, and I was left alone at home. I was very happy during the first months of the sabbatical leave from school. When I reflect on those days, I remember I became unruly and arrogant; my mother had to seek help elsewhere. And the much-needed help came from my grandfather.
I do not know whether it is because I lacked a fatherly figure or the absence of two parents, but the first time he walked in, I fell in love with him. He was a tall, fat man with a pulpy face and grey head. He was smartly dressed. The interactions that followed his decision to stay with us were fascinating. He was persuasive, and it was not long before he started teaching me letters and numbers. I regain interest in reading my torn picture books again. My grandfather was a war veteran who had traveled a lot as a military officer and fought in the Vietnam during the Cold War. The anecdotes of the war and the gambling spree after the war made me happy; we had a connection, and he made me feel valued as a child.
My grandfather was very passionate about life and taught me the essence of discipline and education. He woke me up every morning, made me recite a prayer and together we could walk to the milk store to buy milk and bread. Amidst of our conversations, he raised the issue of going back to school. He explained to me innumerable reasons for the need to reconsider my decision of refusing to go to school. To make him proud as a friend, I agreed to go back to school. I dreamt of becoming a soldier like him then. However, one of my grandfathers favorite luminaries was the late Steve Jobs, and he encouraged me to read about him. He always reminded me to emulate him and work hard to become successful in life. In a few days after the conversation about the school issue, he informed my mother of my acceptance to go back to school. Her reaction was full of joy and pain at the same time. Armed with his advice, I went back to school. Appreciation of his counsel and that of the teachers gave me the impetus to embrace academics. Since then, I never looked back. My current level of education is solely a product of my grandfathers friendship and advice.
In summation, through the experience of Jeanette and Liz, one can deduce that relationships shape peoples destiny. They were born in broken families with parents who had alcohol and drug problems but worked hard to overcome their adversities. Relationships are meant to shape the lives of young people positively. I can attest to this eventuality as my relationship with my grandfather changed the way I used to view the world, and in the end, I changed my attitude towards school. The moral lesson learned from the story is that young people should not blame parents but work hard to emancipate themselves from poverty and become successful in life.
Holland S, and Crowley A. Looked-after children and their birth families: Using sociology to explore changing relationships, hidden histories and nomadic childhoods, Child and Family Social Work, 18(2013): 5768.
Murray, Liz.Breaking Night. A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard. U.S.A: Hachette Book Group, Inc. 2014.
Print.Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: a Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print.
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