One of my writing students, an eighth grade boy, wrote a personal narrative about his challenging life, and he wanted to share it with you.
AGAINST THE ODDS
Aaron Rau, age 13
Growing up in a garage from age 4 (unsure of where I lived before that), we slept on mattresses on the ground. My parents usually slept, so I had to feed myself, which meant I had to pry off the pop-tops from canned foods with my small fingers. If I got thirsty, my one choice was to grab a bottle of Pediasure, and the only thing I had to entertain myself was a Nintendo DS.
When I got to kindergarten, I realized for the first time how different I was than other kids. They could sit on the carpet and listen to the teacher without their legs twitching, ready to take off running. They seemed to understand directions that I couldn’t listen to long enough to be able to follow.
By second grade, I lived in a motorhome at the Sweetwater Campsite with my mom and dad. I used to go from trailer to trailer asking if anyone had a child my age to play with. Usually, the other campers would spend a week or so, and most of them were elderly, so I was lonely a lot. My teacher that year, though, was an angel in disguise.
Mrs. Green wasn’t too demanding, and she didn’t seem to care that I couldn’t sit still. Instead, she suggested my mom take me to the doctor to see if I had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sure enough, after several appointments, the pediatrician diagnosed me with ADHD. No wonder I hadn’t been able to keep my mind or body in one place for very long. When I started taking medication, focusing became less impossible, but I could tell people knew something was different about me. They didn’t say anything, but the other kids had no interest in playing with me.
In the meantime, my family left the campground after the 30-day limit, and my parents parked the motorhome in a friend’s front yard in National City. Shortly after we moved, I woke up on the couch in the friends’ living room to see a bunch of cops. I ran outside to the motorhome to hide, but the door was locked. When I tried to get through the back window, a tight grip on my ankles stopped me. I looked over my shoulder to see two police officers, one holding onto each leg. They pulled me out of the window and carried me to the police car across the street. The next thing I knew, I sat alone in a room with kid-sized chairs and an adult-sized desk.
The police had brought me to the Polinsky Children’s Center in San Diego, which is supposed to be a safe place for kids in danger. I found out later that someone at the house called the police when one of the adults got drunk and pulled out a gun. For a month, I lived at the center until my grandma rescued me. If it weren’t for her, I’d be living in a foster home. The truth is: I’m not sure what the deal is with my parents, and I don’t think I want to know.
When my grandmother enrolled me in the elementary school near her condo, we discovered my academic skills were far behind my third-grade classmates. Since that time, she has done everything to help me become successful. She got me on an independent education plan (IEP), so I could catch up in my studies. She contacted Mrs. Green, my teacher from my old school, who gave me private math lessons. In sixth grade, my grandma hired a writing coach (Trish) to teach me how to write essays and short stories. To help me fit in with other kids, Grandma got me into Boy Scouts. Most important, my grandma has taught me about responsibility, integrity, and how I can do anything I set my mind to, including be the first in my family to go to college.
I want to become a game designer because with a video game, imagination is the limit. Developing characters and storylines to challenge players’ minds and reflexes would be the ultimate way to make a living, and I would actually have Fun while working. Going to Full Sail University, a school known for programming degrees and game design, is one of my major goals in life. For practice, I like to plan plotlines, new characters, and equipment or abilities for fending off evil. By the time I graduate from high school, Full Sail will accept me for making my own characters and environments to incorporate into games or graphic novels. Someday I will be a video game designer making games for the community to enjoy.