birthday!" "Feliz cumpleanos!" "Kol sana wa enta
tayyab!" After my family sings me happy birthday in English, Spanish, and
Arabic, I blow out the candles on my cake amidst thunderous cheers that reverberate
throughout the five boroughs of New York City. My birthday
celebrations, likened by my friends to United Nations assemblies, feature my one, cohesive, yet ever so dissimilar, family, stepping out of their respective Ecuadorian and Egyptian roles to further thrust upon me their expectations. Some would fold under this pressure, but I embrace this trust. While they have not always been able to put me in optimal positions, it has all congregated to a driving force in my cultured and diverse mind.
My never ending quest to achieve success for my family began at a young age, through my trips to Ecuador and Egypt. I not only grew fond of their eloquent languages, but of their modest values. On my first trip to Ecuador as a toddler, my Uncle Guillermo was found dead in an alley one morning, no cause, no explanation. Instead of shielding me from the forlorn passing of one of my heroes, my relatives used this as an opportunity to develop my value for awareness. They told me that Guillermo's death was linked to his severe alcoholism. He had been afflicted for decades, all while selling away the family's possessions to fuel his addiction. He, like many from the impoverished, drug ridden country, knew no better. Some would view a traumatizing event like this as an excuse to end up along a similar path, but it immediately ingrained in me the farsighted principles that I maintain to this day. There are no excuses for me to approach education halfheartedly, for I have witnessed the malevolent effects of ignorance.
When my grandma, Anisa Saad, told me that she views my future with the same reverence that she views the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, I finally realized how delicate my actions are. I knew that making something out of myself meant just as much to my family as it did to me. The Egyptian Revolution was the first time since 1981 that Egyptians had a voice. As they overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, they created an irrevocable identity. They proved that regardless what comprises your past or your background, your impact on the world is only what you make of it. My grandma told me that all she could think about as she cast her vote in the first ever democratic election was that she was changing the world. She said that if a 78 year old widow living with 3 of her children and a bad back could change the world, a prioritized pupil with a keen understanding of different societies has boundless potential.
In New York City, the quintessential hub of culture, I found it easier to expand on my expectations and values. I am most people's culturally passionate friend rather than the kid whose ethnicity is indeterminable. I am a New Yorker's idea of a New Yorker; an assiduous product of the "melting pot". No idea is to farfetched to believe, no goal too unattainable. With my grandma's words in mind, I face any problem that the Concrete Jungle throws at me. I seek to make sure the Salazar's of Ecuador and the Badran's of Egypt finally have significant names in the world. I want to blow out my birthday candles with a family proud that I made it, not hoping that I do.
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