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

Miles inward from the shimmering white beaches of Hawaii, I trekked along beaten island roads to my destination – a small animal refuge playfully named the “Boo Boo Zoo.” As the car pulled up, a heterogeneous mix of cats and chickens inhabited the driveway. I was in the right place. A scruffy old man bearing two baby goats in each arm approached the main gate and ushered me in while fending off a horde of kittens who were trying to escape. “Welcome to the Boo Boo Zoo.”It was official; I was out of my comfort zone. Part of me was unsure why I was doing volunteer work on my dream vacation, but part of me knew this was where I wanted to be and this was where I should be. Preceding travel excursions were spent soaking up fun in the sun – the typical cliché family vacations. That was what I was used to; restaurants every night, corny family pictures on the beach, mountains of brochures for every tourist attraction possible. However, as soon as I stepped onto the plane traveling halfway across the world, I knew that not only would this vacation be different, but I also would be different. My intuition could not have been more on point. Laying out a towel and sleeping the day away in the sun was no longer on my relaxation agenda (yes, I had a relaxation agenda). I wanted to explore, to help and to learn. After a cup of coffee and roughly ten minutes of browsing the internet, I found my vocation in paradise – the Boo Boo Zoo.We entered the house, and I had never seen anything like it before – easily over a hundred cats were scurrying around at any given time. They were everywhere; on every table, on/in the washer and dryer, under every crevice and around every corner; there were even cats in wheelbarrows. The guide escorted me into a single room with its own set of furry friends. I didn’t realize it then, but walking into that room would change my perspective on life forever. One cat in particular sticks in my memory; I named him Tiger because of his orange, black and white complexion. Here, I learned that severe burns had brought Tiger to the refuge. As the man elaborated, he revealed that a group of men, who were high on heroin, threw Tiger into a wildfire. My jaw dropped. Not only did the inhuman nature of such an action blindside me, but I was also astounded by the cat itself. I’ve lived with cats my whole life, and Tiger was easily one of the most outgoing, loving cats I had ever encountered. How could an animal that has been put through so much unjustified pain be such a source of joy and happiness? At that moment, all of the puzzle pieces fell into place.Five hours later, I departed from the Boo Boo Zoo, and spent the entire ride back to the condo in pensive tranquility. My mind was rushing over what I just experienced. The picture in my mind became clearer than the sky blue waters of Hawaii. No longer would I ask, “What can I do for me?” Instead the question became, “What can I do for the world around me?” At that moment I attained what it means to be an adult, what it means to be selfless, and what kind of joy this altruism can bring to my life. Instantaneously, I stepped out of childhood and leaped into adulthood. I wanted to help not just all of the Tigers in the world, but every living being that has been beaten down and just needs a hand to reach out to them to show the kindness humanity is capable of. If a small cat could change my world, then why can’t I do the same for others?

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