Safe Haven

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

When most people think back to their early childhoods, they tend to remember the play dates, scraped knees, and carefree feeling that comes with being a kid. For some reason, my mind is mostly filled with the memories of drowsy, everlasting car rides in the backseat of my parents’ minivan. The sky is always a perfect swirl of cotton candy pink and a soft, fading purple, with the sun slowly setting before it. The trees on the side of the road are quickly pixelating into blurry, green splotches; they can’t seem to keep up with us. I can still feel the gentle acoustics of “Yellow” by Coldplay filling the air and replacing the worries that travel with us. Nobody says a word—the moment is too serene to be broken with speech.

This unassuming minivan was my little safe haven. Yet the relaxation, stability, and euphoria those tranquil trips on the road had offered quickly vanished at the sight of the eviction notice taped on our front door. I felt my stomach grow tight and my lungs gasp for a sliver of fresh air unpolluted with the poignant stench of anxiety and displacement. I shut my eyes and tried to pretend like I’d never seen the overdue bills, heard the landlord’s frequent and impatient knock on the door, or felt the cold water trickle down my back as I took another shower in the dark. Adulthood forced my pre-teen eyes open, revealing my new reality. The car rides with the rapturous skies grew further and further away from me; I could feel my childhood slipping through my fingers, my safe haven with it.

It didn’t feel real—walking into a distant relative’s small, crowded apartment, placing my disheveled bag of clothes in a corner, and meeting the green, springy futon my sister and I would be sharing for the next few months; yet it was the realest thing that had ever happened to me. I may not have known this at the time, but this event sparked a change in the inner workings of my brain and the depths of my heart; it sparked a maturity beyond my years. I no longer worried about childish trivialities, but instead focused on ways to help my parents and make the best of a difficult situation. Yes, I have known what it means to struggle—to be on the verge of living in absolute poverty, to have my peers look down on me for my lack of privilege, to feel utter helplessness and inadequacy in every aspect of my being. Yet these experiences keep me vigilant, ready for any other obstacle or curveball that life throws my way—whether it’s trouble with schoolwork, disputes with friends, or difficulties in performing well on my soccer team. Typical high school and teenage problems are no problems at all for a girl who’s faced real world setbacks. I no longer live in fear of what’s to come; I embrace the uncertainty of life and sing in the face of adversity. I don’t seek my safe haven on the open road anymore, but look at it as a distant memory and, at times, use it to steer me north.

Now here I am, ready to take on a world of rigorous courses, innovative thinking, and personal fulfillment—all in the hopes of one day having a platform to help those in situations similar to what I experienced. I intend to major in Political Science. As the child of striving Colombian immigrants, I used to think the odds were against me, that my background would harm any chance of success. However, I have now seen that this supposed ill-fated background has actually opened up the opportunity to relate to minorities, immigrants, and the underprivileged, and give them a strong voice that will honestly and wholeheartedly advocate their needs. I never want a young girl to know what it’s like to lose a home or safe haven.

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