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Tattooed in my memory are the shrill rings of my alarm clock set to exactly 6:00 AM every day, submerging half my 110 pound body into the sub-zero water, fish half my size splashing muddy water onto my pale face. Most kids enjoy the freedom that comes along with summer vacation—having fun, sleeping in, and just relaxing—but for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent every summer working nine hour days helping my family manage our fish farm. I’ve never seen this as a burden, however, but rather as an opportunity. While others go out and enjoy temporary fun, I am learning something far more permanent—the hard work behind every dollar earned. As a result, I am more conscious of every dollar spent. I don’t envy my friends who can go out and lavishly spend their parents’ money. In fact, I hope that they too can experience the process of helping their parents earn money—as I have done every summer.
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Coming from a family that’s always been financially unstable, I’ve seen my mother and father work upwards toward twelve hours every day, exerting strenuous, manual labor in exchange for a decent living. I learned from a very young age the meaning of hard work and the value of each dollar it yields. But life hasn’t always been like that for me. My parents immigrated to America almost 24 years ago where my father started a restaurant in Missouri that was extremely successful. At that time, money was not a concern for us. The long hours he spent at the restaurant resulted in a deficit of hours he spent at home; therefore, my father decided to move the family to California to start a fish farm business in the hopes of becoming the family man he never had been before.
However, ever since we moved to the fish farm 12 years ago, life has been anything but pleasant. We’ve suffered many heavy losses financially, and instead of spending more time with his family, I saw my father less than before. When my brother turned 12 and was old enough to work he helped my parents out as best he could, and when I turned 12 I had the same fate. It was hard work but rewarding, nonetheless, knowing I was helping to support my family even in a small way. Working on a fish farm isn’t the ideal life for a teenager, but it’s given me invaluable experience in the real world, where everything’s not just fun and games, where you need to work hard to get ahead.
It is this experience, this knowledge, by which I live my life. I apply my work habit to school, always working my hardest to make my parents’ sacrifices count, to make my parents proud – and most of all, to make a future for myself that involves no fish-catching in sub-zero temperatures at the crack of dawn.
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