On a late winter evening, a young boy – soon to be robbed of his innocence – watches as his parents get into another heated argument. In every occurrence before, the feuding tempers would cool, and peace was restored; however, this time was different. A teary eyed four year-old watched as his father stormed out of the three bedroom, single story house, out to his truck, where he started the engine that would ultimately drive him out of his son’s life. Knowing little about the long term consequences of their decision, the police directed the boy’s father off the property. The roar of the muffler, yelling from his mother, and wails from the sirens of police cars filled the previously empty but now full street. Although no physical strife was present that chilly evening, the mental strife that the boy had to undertake quickly exchanged his childhood for an early understanding of the real world.
I am that boy. My father leaving my life was something I could never comprehend at such an early age, but as time progressed, so did my intellect. I became almost immune to the fact that I grew up practically fatherless. I was not passed down the crown, as in a monarchy, or given the position of Chief, as in traditional Native American tribes; I was forced to learn. I was forced to learn the ways of manhood far before I had to learn simple fifth grade math. The two seemed completely unrelated, but if viewed from a different perspective, they are similar in various aspects. One, they are both necessary to learn so that one may move on to another part of life. Two, they are both foundations for greater, more complex things that occur in life. Lastly, they both are extremely difficult to master, if there is no preceding information to build upon.
This is where I found my battle. I had to learn to take care of my mother, clean the house, and make sure my nieces were also taken care of, all while “What to wear tomorrow?” was the question of the century. Although the toils of being forced to grow up early seemed extremely overwhelming – which they are – they only served as a catalyst for the greater things to come. I used that constant endeavoring as fuel for my engine of success, which has led me to becoming the Class President – three years in a row – ranked 4th in my graduating class, and most of all the son of an ever-proud mother.
Life happens to different people in different ways. However, when faced with these challenges, there are only two options available, which are consistent in every person’s life. One is to prevail over the fell clutch of circumstances, and the other is to settle. One thing that my father has taught me, involuntarily, is that the latter is never acceptable if one is to be successful. In the words of Booker T. Washington, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome,” meaning that settling when obstacles are presented does not yield success; only overcoming those obstacles will define one as successful. My fatherless childhood caused my transition to adulthood to come early, yet it provided me will the charisma and mental strength needed to achieve whatever is required in my culture, community, and personal life. And I am ever so grateful.