A Piece of Life

Sitting in the classroom, bored, you look at the clock after some doodles. Suddenly, an unsettling feeling crawls up under every thick of your skin. You realize a mundane, horrible fact: you’re in college. Now what? To Sarah, “growing old” should always accompany “growing up”- the one thing school never teaches us.

I got to know Sarah through a course at UIC. She has a sweet and lively personality that one can immediately feel the warmth just by interacting with her. Three third of the semester passed by, I finally got a chance to hang out with her. As spring is lurking around the corner, we decided to get ice cream at Scoops on a sunny afternoon after class. She seemed excited for a cup of coffee to chat about school and healthy lifestyle.

“I want to get my bachelor’s degree as soon as possible so I can progress on higher education in the far future. I’m running out of time,” Sarah told me about her plan in the near future, “Still got 2 more years to go though. I will be thirty years old by the time I graduate college”

Sarah just transferred to UIC from a community college this spring semester where she majors in Criminology. For scholars like Sarah, there is not much sand left on the other side of the hourglass.

“When I was in high school, I was so motivated. I wanted to get ahead of my game, graduate college early, get a degree, build my career, earn some ‘monee’, you know. But life is never as expected.”

I noticed a slight change in her tone. She tilted her head and free her sight through the window.

“As a six-teen year-old, I never knew that my life could fall apart before my eyes so easily.”

Sarah’s mom was an addict since Sarah was born. Her grandparents raised and supported her through out her life, until they passed away when she was in high school. Knowing the situation, Sarah started working early. She got a job under the table at an Italian restaurant at the age of fourteen. Her high school education was disrupted with financial issues and family problems.

“It was quite an experience, actually. Instead of tasting every ice cream flavor there is in an ice cream store, I tasted the flavor of life,” Sarah busted out laughing talking about her grade school time, “To be honest, it was nowhere sweet, but it sure did open my eyes a lot. I got to learn things that kids my age would never have been able to understand. Things that could take people a lifetime to figure out.”

For Sarah, she must try harder than an average person to be able to build up a comfortable or, at least, sustainable life when she grows up. She was forced to be independent at a very young age. She must learn the hard truth that no one is going to look after her, but herself. While in grade school, most of us were busy complaining about how dinner does not have chicken nuggets, Sarah had to take care for not only herself, but also her grandparents.

“In the cafeteria I worked at, there are middle-aged women still setting goals of getting a Master’s Degree and living a better life. I feel empowered and motivated by those people around me. If they are still capable of doing it at their age, then why couldn’t I be?”

Everyone has their own pace in life. There is no need to worry about what is to come or what has passed. What we need to care for is the present and what to do in the near present. Things are as easy as getting down to do it.

Now that’s life.

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Just a puzzle piece finding her place in the world's jigsaw.

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