Advanced Essay #1: Then To Now



Then To Now is a story about growing up and making sacrifices. Human nature dictates that people tend to stay with what is known, because they are more familiar and comfortable with the subjects. The purpose of this essay is to show the reader that they are not alone when it comes to making difficult decisions in life. However, these difficult decisions are the most impactful ones, and those who choose to venture into places that few have gone end up accomplishing things that a few have done. I’m proud the scenes I chose and how I made connections between two seemingly unrelated stories. Some areas of improvement are including more description in my scenes and also have more reflection throughout the piece.

Advanced Essay:

The acceptance results were in, and it was time to pick a high school. Everyone else seemed to have chosen their picks, and the deadline was the end of the day. I remember it was a chilly fall day, only weeks into my 8th grade year. 7th grade me feared the prospect of making this decision, but I convinced myself that one year was a long way to go. But before I knew it, there was nowhere left to hide.

The day started with Mr. O’s math class. We all shuffled into class with our belongings, and settled in our seats. As I went to turn in my homework, my friend Xu stopped me and asked if I had chosen my high school. I lied and sat down. When the lesson was over, Mr. O gave us independent work time, and that was when he received a phone call from our school counselor. He then turned to look at me, and signaled me to go to him. “What’s holding you up from deciding on your school?” he asked. I thought for a moment. “I’m just stuck between Central and SLA,” I told him. I knew most of my friends were going to Central High School. I didn’t want to be separated from them, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like just following the crowd. “Here’s my two-cents,” Mr. O began, “Think about like this: If you go to Central, you will be around this same group of people you have always been with for four more years, and will remain relatively the same. But if you go to SLA, you will be forced to meet new people and learn, grow, and change.”

I took his words to heart. On the outside, Mr. O may just be a math teacher, but he often shared his life experiences with us and taught us how to be better people. I had the utmost respect for him, and his words were the final push I needed to make up my mind. This engagement with him reminded me of  immigration stories my parents told me when I was younger.

I would be in my room, laying in bed while they sat beside me. My parents were born on poor farms in rural China. In that place and time, everyone had to be self-dependent: people grew their own food, built their own houses, and made their own clothes. The country was poor and they were at the bottom of the social class. My dad told me his strife: how he started taking care of my uncles when he was only 5, had two shirts to wear every year, and even a single bite of meat was rare during meals. When my dad was 25, he decided to immigrate to the US for financial stability to support his family and to provide more opportunities for his children. The Chinese government did not allow immigration to the US, which forced him to risk his life making arrangements with criminal organizations to be smuggled into the US, carrying a debt of $30,000.

It took me many years to make the connection between these two seemingly unrelated episodes of my life. But in many ways, they are two versions of one story—a story of delayed gratification where you make short term sacrifices to reap long term rewards. Just like my dad, I had to make a tough decision in a high pressure situation, and the choice we made would dramatically impact our lives thereafter. I had to choose between staying in my comfort zone where I would continue to be with my friends, or I could venture alone into uncertainty. My dad had to choose between staying with my family back in China, forever having his bloodline chained to poverty and being uneducated, or travel into a land of an unknown language and culture. In the end, I chose SLA. My dad, despite all risks and the idea of traveling so far away from everything he has known and grew up with, made the decision to immigrate. Had I not decided to go to SLA, I would have never realized who my real friends are, never made all the great friends I have today, and never came out of my comfort zone. I would forever remain that introverted boy who would always head straight home after school and play videogames on his own. Had my dad decided not to immigrate to the US, I would not be who I am today. I would never have understood the value of education, the struggles of my family lineage, or been born in a country with far more opportunities and freedom. As the saying goes, “Like father, like son,” we were able to lift ourselves out of our comfort zones to see the long term rewards that a short term sacrifice would bring, and we have never looked back since. Life is not about where you are, but where you take yourself, and if you never venture into the unknown, you will never get more than what you already have.