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.



Aaron Rau, age 13
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.



28 thoughts on “A Young Bad Ass – Go Aaron!

  1. Nicely written. I just read it out load to my husband and he too agrees. The compassion displayed by Aaron’s grandmother & his teacher surely have changed this young man’s opportunities for the future.

  2. He reminds me of one of my girl scouts who also lived at that campground for a time. Everyone who has given excuses could learn from this young man. Why is it that those who have real challenges focus on “how do I succeed” instead of “why I can’t”?

  3. Congratulations, Aaron! You are overcoming a tough beginning for your life, with the help of wonderful people, your grandmother, Mrs. Green, and Trish Wilkinson. God rescued you by bringing generous and compassionate people into your life! Maybe someday, when you are a successful video game designer, you can help a young child starting out in a tough situation too and make a huge difference in that person’s life. Your writing skills are just great, based on your blog!

  4. Great post. Aaron, you sound like a really terrific person. Best wishes for a life full of health, happiness, and purpose.

  5. Great work, Aaron! Full Sail is not too far from me, and I know a few people who have gone there and LOVED it! Keep working hard and set your sites on that goal. I know you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to do.

  6. Impressive writing Aaron! Keep looking forward and focus on the goal. Your success is the best thank you gift you could give to Ms. Green and your grandma! Great job! I look forward to reading more from you! (Note: paragraph 7 is a duplicate of the one before)

  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone, and thanks for the heads up on the repeated paragraph, Jenise. I had a difficult time getting the photo to imbed properly and got a little overzealous with cut and paste. Ha!

  8. Hi! Thanks for sharing your story. It takes courage to share. Please know that when you share your goals and dreams with others, the universe will do everything to help you accomplish them and succeed. Idk where you live, but if you are in SD there are a lot of non profits who can provide additional guidance and support. Check out

  9. Wow. Congratulations on coming out of such a difficult background with such a positive outlook. I hope you accomplish all of your goals! I look forward to playing your video games someday. 🙂

  10. Wow Aaron! Keep up the GREAT work! Your grandma is right…you can definitely do anything if you set your mind to it. Keep us posted….I truly believe you will reach your goals.

  11. Aaron,

    Your story reads like an American classic, summarized as: “Out of adversity is the call to greatness.” Reading your interesting narrative reminded me about “The Great American Heroes” who are everywhere, yet so many miss. You see, most people seek a hero or heroine that is like those they see in the movies, often never perceiving that a person of great character and consequence was right before them, in their own lives the whole time.

    Your grandmother such a heroine, and from reading your well-written narrative, it seems you are well on your way to making her VERY proud of you! She sees that you have terrific potential and a bright future, and it looks as though she’s helping you become a skilled student and writer. Heck, I admire her without having met her! How lucky you are to be doing so well and to have such a fabulous woman helping you!

    Your tale may encourage others that they can overcome their challenges, too, and in that you’ve done everyone a huge favor. Thanks for sharing your story, and here’s wishing you the best of luck in becoming a game developer!

  12. Aaron,

    This is a raw and powerful essay. Many successful individuals can come from difficult backgrounds – I just saw an interview with former President Bill Blinton talking about his challenges growing up very poor with a single mother and an alcohol addicted step-father in rural Arkansas. Your ability to see beyond the circumstances, and the love of your grandma and your efforts to excel at the opportunities she is providing for you will take you places! Keep in mind there are GREAT schools besides Full Sail that teach video-game coding and design. There is a very good college where I live in Georgia called Savannah College of Art and Design that even has a video gaming design MAJOR! Please look into the many schools available as with your talent and drive, as there are scholarships available to help you pay for college and earn your way into your career!

    Best of luck, and keep writing to your fans here. We’ll be watching and tracjking your progress!


  13. Aaron,you’ve written an excellent essay.Your positive attitude says so much about you and the influence from the people who care for you. Your grandma is truly an angel but I think you must be pretty terrific to make people want to help you. May you continue to grow, dream and continue to positively influence the lives of those around you. I hope I get to meet you or see your video games someday!!

  14. Aaron, you are very articulate for an eighth grader. You tell your story with heart and will a telling gratitude for those who’ve helped you along the way. Stay focused and continue to hone your skills (and gratitude), and I have no doubt that you’ll attain your goals. Remember, with success comes the responsibility to ‘pay it forward’. Your story is an impressive example of ‘rising above’, and I wish you great success and happiness.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Aaron. Your narrative moves along very smoothly from one time frame to another and the details give me a quick but clear glimpse of each scene. I love how you implement the classic writer’s advice, “show, don’t tell.” Best of luck with your goal to become a video game designer – I’m sure with your determination and a clear goal in mind, not to mention the support of your grandmother, who sounds like a wonderful person, you will make it!

  16. Aaron,

    Without a doubt, that was an extremely well written piece. But beyond your writing style and technique, what truly is amazing is your courage and determination. You have persevered through challenges that others might not have the strength to endure. You should be proud and I can assure you the best is yet to come!

  17. What an incredibly touching story (and well written to boot)…I’m so sorry that any child has to have such experiences and how amazingly he has navigated his adversity. I hope he knows how proud he should be of himself for his accomplishments!

  18. I really enjoyed your story Aaron. It reminds me of a young man I knew who grew up much like you. It’s admirable that you haven’t let life’s circumstances get in the way of your dreams and work ethic. Your drive is evidenced by the fact that you are not complaining of your situation – it is what it is – and you presented it well. You have accepted life and you’re willing to work toward success. You appreciate those who mentor, and you have a natural drive and ambition – that’s a gift. Your circumstances will only make you stronger; and you really know how to write! Hang in there with Boy Scouts. I can tell you from personal experience that you will learn many life skills with the Scouts. Good luck and God bless.

  19. Great job, Aaron. Not only the post–which is well written and interesting–but also with the hard work you’re doing on your own life. You’re lucky to have had a helpful teacher and a wonderful grandmother, but you’re working to make the best use of the opportunities they’ve given you. Bravo!

  20. Such a moving narrative, it was hard for me to believe the author is only 13. If the game design thing doesn’t work out, I think Aaron should consider writing.

  21. You’re a brave young man with a lot of heart and determination. You’ve taken the difficulties life’s given you and risen above them to claim your future and your worth. Keep after those dreams, if anyone can reach them, you can. I wish you all the best.

  22. Hey,people.I’m glad you enjoyed the personal narrative on my life. As it wasn’t really difficult to sleep on cold floor.infact I enjoyed it and quickly accustomed to it once we moved into the cramped garage we called “home”. Either way, I’ve learned over the years of worry and diffuculty, I’ve learned to grab life by the horns and shake it until it moo’s…is that how you say it? I don’t even know. Anyways, As for everyone who enjoyed reading and commented on this article I thank you for the support guys! I appreciate it!

  23. Shout out to Amanda, for the the fantastic link she sent me. I appreciate the support, so thank you and have a good one

  24. If you guys wonder why my grammar may be off is because without the help of Trish, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. THANK YOU TRISH! Now I just gotta buy a bundle of balloons and a cake. And we should be ready!

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