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Russia had never been bad to me. My eleven years there made for a joyful, carefree childhood. I never thought of my life as wanting despite living on my grandma’s miserly pension for three years. During those last three years of my life in Russia, when my mom was in the U.S. and I lived with my grandma, I never once thought of myself as unlucky or lonely or poor. My grandma had crafted a splendid world for me, almost of fairy tale-like qualities: I was sure that love abounded in the world, that everyone was as happy as I was, and I was shielded from knowing that most of the world was immersed in warfare, that most marriages do not end happily, that I barely survived during my first year of life because my mom and grandma had to live on food stamps because of the currency default of 1991.
My grandma was careful not to expose me to these realities before my mindset was ripe enough to understand them. Hence I lived the life of Hakuna Matata—subject to no worries, my only duty being going to school, having everything else provided for me. I took that for granted, as any kid does, and haven’t come to appreciate what my grandma had done for me only until these past few years of my life. Slowly but steadily, my world view has been elucidated and my fairy tale-childhood has finally ground to a halt.
I do not regret that I didn’t appreciate the ease of life during my childhood because my grandma worked to ensure that I didn’t; sometimes, ignorance is truly bliss, and that blissfulness is the defining aspect of all the years of my upbringing. During that upbringing I had naturally come to love my grandma and hold her in high esteem. She has influenced many aspects of my life, most importantly my will to learn: day after day, year after year the idea that doing well in school will pay off in the future was being instilled into me. I value this the most, because it allowed me to come to my own understanding that my future is based on my education. I thus choose to do well in school and no longer have to be forced to.
The future that I plan to create for myself has a hint of grandma as well. Her career as a doctor had a profound impact on me. My own ambition to become a doctor is a direct result of the numerous nights I’ve spent listening to my grandma tell stories of doing four shifts of surgery or spending night after day on an ambulance. Her love of saving lives, despite being overworked and underpaid, imparted on me a desire to one day have that same amount of satisfaction when looking back on my own life.
I’ve pondered many a time how I could raise my children and have them respect and trust me as much as I respect and trust my grandma. A few theories involved having the foresight to do what’s best in the long run and not yielding to every demand; or maybe all it takes is respecting and trusting my children enough for them to do the same. I haven’t quite figured it out, but I’ve gotten the feeling that if I can endow my children with a sense of shelter from world’s realities and imbue an aura of Hakuna Matata into their lives, I’ll be off to a good start.
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