When I was growing up, my father told me stories about his childhood in Texarkana, Texas—what it was like growing up in a small town, back in a different time. My dad had to work hard for everything he ever achieved. He told my sister and me how, when he was a boy in the 1940s, his family packed enough food for three days and boarded a train for Los Angeles to seek new opportunities.
My dad’s parents worked very hard to support the family, and instilled a strong work ethic in their children. By the time he was 13, my father had to provide for himself. He took a job washing dishes, earning a few cents an hour to buy his own clothes and supplies. As he got older, he took on multiple jobs to put himself through college. But when his mother became ill, he took on the responsibility for her care and abandoned his studies. He held difficult jobs for the next 45 years until his retirement a few years ago, but still provided us kids with anything we could ever want.
My own childhood was privileged, by comparison. I attended private schools, and had wonderful annual family vacations. After attending Cal Poly Pomona for a few years, I decided it was my time to travel the world and went to Europe. I dined on cuisine in Lyon, the French capital of gastronomy, experienced life in small medieval mountain towns, and walked down the same cobble-stone streets that villagers did centuries earlier. At a certain point, though, the stories I heard as a child began to eat at me. I knew I had a responsibility to take advantage of the opportunities in life that my dad didn’t have.
Stories are powerful things that are meant to share, teach and help us grow. While I’d always heard of my parents’ struggles in life, it took me a long time to realize that those stories were a part of me, too. Just over a year ago, I decided to transfer to the University of La Verne in order to achieve one thing my dad always strived for? an education.
Working at the Campus Times as a writer, and at La Verne Magazine as editor, I’ve become a storyteller for others. People want their stories told, and I always found it rewarding when people welcomed me into their lives and shared a part of themselves.
As my college career comes to a close, I find myself looking forward to graduation day, and the sound of my friends and family cheering me on. I feel honored to be a part of the tradition of stories that have made me who I am, and trust that I might contribute in some way to the stories others will carry with them into the future, just as my parents’ stories did for me.