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As I sit typing my final paper for eighth grade on a rainy Portland night in May, I hear my mother suddenly call, “Andrew, your father and I need to talk to you”. From her tone I know the subject of the conversation. She used that tone at the end of seventh grade, end of fifth grade, three times during first grade. When my father begins, “we don’t think Portland is the best place for us,” my suspicions are confirmed. We are ‘relocating’ again. For the tenth time in my life, I am a nomad, moving not across town, but across the country. Moving far from my house, my friends, my routine, my trips to the science museum with the ‘nerd herd’, my attendance at Timbers’ games downtown, my excursions to Mt. Hood. I angrily remember the broken promise that “Portland is our last move.”
Two hours after graduating from eighth grade, I boarded a plane to Grand Rapids, Michigan, never again to return to Portland as a student. Now, three years after that four-hour flight, I realize how every move, every change in my life, has been a growth opportunity which, although painful, has developed and defined me.
Moving means meeting new faces. Countless times I have been forced into uncomfortable situations with new people of different backgrounds and cultures. Like a mariner in uncharted waters, I have entered many school gymnasiums for orientation, not knowing anyone in the bleachers. Next, I am forced to approach the nearest island of peers, and say, “Hi, my name is Andrew, what’s your name?” These unpredictable, nerve-racking adventures compelled me to evolve a friendly, assertive personality.
After each move, my father reminded me to ask more questions than I answered, for questions yield understanding, and understanding generates meaningful relationships. I knew almost nothing about Hinduism or Indian culture, until I asked Adithya, an Indian immigrant who discussed Hindu religion, cricket, and the structure of Indian social classes during our lunch period. Our friendship blossomed simply because of those questions. Initially when we prepared to move to Roanoke, Virginia, my impression of the Southerners was, in all honesty, the kind of narrow stereotype you’d find on The Simpsons. However, after a few days, Chris, Patty, and Ethan shattered my expectations with their friendly, accepting, and mature attitudes, despite my midwestern reserve. It’s clear that moving, by exposing me to new cultures both regional and international, granted me an opportunity to develop a skeptical attitude towards easy assumptions.
Moving has given me perspective on my place in the world. I quickly discovered that I am not the center of the universe — not the smartest, fastest, strongest, best looking young man to walk the earth. Having been among Kwame, a future doctor, Shankar, a future NBA star, and Pakie, a future PhD in neurology, I understand that there will always be someone who has a particular strength greater than mine. I am not discouraged by this revelation, since it has nurtured my relentless work ethic. When I lived in Portland my eighth grade year, there were kids in my Algebra class who would take AP Calculus as freshmen, a class I wouldn’t take until I was a senior. Despite this, I received the best grade on the final exam. I learned that effort and work can play just as important a role in pursuing a goal as talent. No location may last long, but character does. That is why I seize every opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and economically, not only for my own good but for the good of others around me.
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