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If you have any questions about this paper, please contact our customer service department at series of painful incidents moulded me into the person I am now. It has taken years to alter my psychological responses, to mature, and to appreciate the value of hardship. Each of my personal obstacles has ultimately transformed my character.
I have only vague memories of my childhood. The time I spent with my mother, father, and brother remained cloudy until only recently. I recall doing everything with my family as a young child: our time was divided between our home in Florida, a boat on the river, and our home located in Lake of the Ozarks. I had little interaction with other children other than in school, and I had no involvement in activities that would have fostered social and educational development. Sitting on my father's lap while he sipped martinis was a typical evening at home.
My yearning for friendships with other children and my brother's desire for greater independence were unfortunately usurped by my grandmother's moving in with my family. Following this transition, I became acutely aware of my need for friends. My parents maintained an active lifestyle, and became increasingly unavailable. This entailed little supervision for my brother and me. As a result, my brother began lying, stealing, and otherwise acting out. His behavior was out of control, and the only individual he feared happened to be our father. It was not clear to me why he was so afraid until I was old enough to realize that my father had been beating him for years. This uncomfortable awareness superseded any remaining desire for more parental attention; I realized that being overlooked was not entirely a bad thing. I henceforth remained fearful of my father until the day he left home.
For years I hoped for this release and relief. However, the circumstances under which he left complicated matters even more. I found out that this man was not actually my or my brother's biological father. For fourteen years, my parents had lied to me. It took the extraordinary action of my real father contacting me with the truth to find out what other people had known for years. However, my real father had no intention of pursuing a relationship with me; he only wanted to convey the truth.
My mother and father moved to our home in Lake of the Ozarks, three hours outside of St. Louis. I would only see my parents on the weekends. Despite to my family's inability to provide emotional support, they did try to make up for this lack with money. My brother still remained in constant trouble, but now that he had a constant stream of money he developed a drug problem. As his problems escalated, he ended up in a drug treatment center. My grandmother tried to assuage the resentment I had for my mother and father, but unfortunately it was too late. I began to suffer in school: I went above-average achievement to barely passing grades. I ate every meal in silence and although I had friends, I was embarrassed and unable to discuss what was happening in my life. However, in my senior year of high school I was asked to serve as a peer counselor. It was the first time I was introduced to a support group, and connecting with my peers proved crucial to my graduation from high school.
Shortly after my brother was released from rehabilitation, he began exhibiting odd behavior. It was as if he lost his mind: he talked to himself and obsessed about people being after him and poisoning his food. I was not truly scared until he began to accuse me of assisting in poisoning him. Not wanting to worry my mother, my grandmother kept silent. I, on the other hand, tried to get through to my mother, but my grandmother insisted that I was exaggerating. It was not until my brother began to threaten my life that my mom came home to intervene. Within days, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and would remain in and out of hospitals for years to come. I was sixteen when my brother was diagnosed, the same year my parents divorced. I assumed that my mother would move back home, but instead she left and rarely returned for visits. My reaction was to further alienate myself. Through my isolation, I addressed feelings of helplessness. Was I unloving? Was I cold? How do they want me to act? These were a few of the questions that plagued me and impacted my self-esteem.
When I graduated high school, I had no direction. I had not applied to college and faced the possibility of remaining at home with my grandmother and brother. This potential future was too painful to consider, so I immediately considered my options. I decided to attend a community college in Arizona and to later apply to Arizona State. This is where my best friend was studying and I needed the emotional support. Although I was out of St. Louis and on a healthy new path, I was faced with many new challenges. As a result, I performed below my expectations. In spite of my finally having left St. Louis, I continued to digest my stepfather's abuse, my mother's co-dependence, and my brother's mental illness. I was no longer able to disguise my anger or pain; I could not concentrate and became extremely depressed.
When I commenced my sophomore year, I began going to therapy, which aided my ability to get through college and to set reasonable goals for my future. Although personal change through psychotherapy was hard-won and the pace slow, I gleaned several meaningful insights. I was not yet certain how these insights would relieve the pain I still felt. However, focusing on my behavior and my past offered me greater awareness of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
During college, I learned many things outside lecture halls and libraries. I developed interpersonal skills and compassion for others in therapy. I refined my personal curiosity and thought processes. Through it all, I learned to treasure the simple pleasures of helping others. I yearned to hone and apply my personal attributes to the outside world.
Upon finishing college, I had a strong desire to travel to Europe and soon set forth. The incredible experience and compelling philosophy of other cultures deeply affected my personality and altered my perception of my own life. I gained a much greater appreciation of the environment and, more notably, of the people around me. This burgeoning awareness borne of my experiences in Europe led me to move to a city that was much more diverse than that of my upbringing. I chose to relocate to San Francisco, California.
As a communication major fresh out of college, I embraced new options and career paths. Fully recognizing my desire to assist in the development of others, I took a position as a recruiter. I enjoyed the job placement process, but it was a profession that demands a capitalist drive. This emphasis on money deterred me, after having experienced the pathological equating of money with love. Deciding that my desires did not include ascending the corporate hierarchy, I began volunteering for various non-profit organizations. At a time when AIDS awareness was growing, I took a position for the AIDS Walk, San Francisco. I discovered that giving back to the community through public service emboldened my life. While helping others is a practical endeavor, I also delighted in the smiles of understanding and looks of recognition. I relished participating in activities that can potentially reduce suffering.
Following my experience with the AIDS Walk, I held positions with several other non-profit organizations. Although I have valued each experience, I also developed grander goals: I longed…[continue]
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