School is important, but family matters more.
Growing up in an affluent city with a strong public education system, I have always been accustomed to putting forth all of my effort in every task I’m assigned. Even in elementary school, I’d study weeks in advance for tests, crying when my grade rounded out to a 99 percent instead of a 100. As I began to grow older, I grew calmer, but I still put school ahead of everything else. Coffee with mom? There wasn’t time. Family dinner? I couldn’t make it; I had a math quiz the next day. My work ethic wasn’t my problem. It was my distorted list of priorities that was.
My grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was a freshman in high school. I’d been close with her all my life, taking the 10-minute bike ride to her house as much as I could, spending days on end watching Jeopardy with her when I was sick. Since I’d entered high school, though, we’d grown apart. My schedule didn’t permit for regular visits. The most I’d see her was every other week, when she’d make her usual unannounced appearance in our living room. Even then, I’d only be half listening to her, usually doing math problems and nodding halfheartedly along just to prove to myself that I cared more about her than my grade in geometry. Her diagnosis was a wakeup call that changed my way of life.
I no longer brought homework with me to family gatherings. I put replying to my grandma’s emails ahead of answering my teachers’. In a few months’ time, I came to realize that I was’t any worse of a student for deciding to put my family first. It took a terminal diagnosis to show me what mattered most in life.
My grandma passed away in October of my sophomore year. Though the shock of the news left me in shambles, I was grateful for the amount of time I’d been able to spend with her in her last few months. From the visits I paid her and the emails we exchanged, I knew that what I\’d built up with her within that time was worth more than a 4.0 grade point average would ever be.
It hurts me to know that there was a time when I’d consistently choose my schoolwork over the people I loved. I still take immense pride in my grades, but beneath my drive to achieve is a core belief that I’ve finally learned to embrace: the belief that those we love, and who love us, should never be put on the back-burner. I deserve this scholarship because I deeply value education while still having my priorities in order. We just never know when those have to leave us for good; coming to accept this has allowed me to become a wiser, more gracious, and more deserving individual.
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