My Mom's Dream
I was born in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Caracas, Venezuela. My dad was a truck driver and my mom was working in a mayonnaise factory when they met.
Both had moved from the countryside looking for better opportunities and in a way they found them. At least they had electricity in their new house.
Neither Mom nor Dad went to school, but Dad was an avid reader and encouraged us to be like him. Mom and Dad went to great lengths to make sure we did what they could not.
I studied hard to make them proud. I was always number one in my class, teachers loved me and I loved learning new things every day.
By the time I was fifteen, we had discussed what I wanted to do when I grew up. Dad dreamed of me being a lawyer, but he was afraid corruption was too powerful in our country so he never insisted. He supported me when I decided to become a journalist.
Mom was very excited about my future, too. One day she came home with a brochure from one of the most prestigious Universities in the country, which happened to be located fairly close to our neighborhood.
She was so happy -- they had a journalism school and the tests were just a few months away. We had to get ready!
I looked at her dumbfounded. She couldn't be serious. That was one of the most expensive colleges in the country and sometimes we barely had money to take the bus.
I didn't say so though; I just told her I didn't want to study with some snobbish kids who surely had no idea what real life was like. I wanted to go to a state college, where the people were more like me.
The only problem with that option was that the constant riots and strikes made it almost impossible to finish a degree there.
People would study eight years instead of the five it was supposed to take because of all the time they lost during the never-ending political protests.
We knew I needed to graduate quickly, so I could find a job and help out financially at home.
I tried to tell her it was impossible for me to be accepted. True, I had great grades, but journalism was the most sought-after degree and there were thousands of people fighting for each place.
Mom said there was only one way to find out: by taking the admissions test. I fell back on my last argument -- money.
I explained what had been obvious to me since the beginning of the conversation. We could not afford it.
At that point she smiled triumphantly and opened the brochure she had been holding.
Among the descriptions of the courses, facilities and other information was a very small paragraph indicating that there was a scholarship program.
I decided to let her dream a little bit longer and I agreed to submit my application. I didn't pay attention to the subject until the day of the admittance test. I have to confess I took the exam to humor my mom.
The first surprise came when I saw my name on the list. I was accepted! Only one other kid from my high school was accepted that year.
My dad, who is usually the most pessimistic person in the universe, was terrified. How were we going to pay the tuition?
My mom used one of her typical answers, "I don't know, but we will. Even if we have to work day and night, our daughter is going to that college."
Her determination was so strong we didn't dare say anything. It wasn't only my dad, though -- my whole family thought we were just plain crazy. It was a college for rich people -- how did we even think it was possible?
By this time, I was allowing myself to get excited by the idea. I knew a degree from that college would open doors that I never dreamed of, but I was still too afraid to get my hopes up.
We filed the papers for the scholarship and for weeks we waited, wavering between eagerness and panic about what the answer might mean to us.
Finally I received the news. I got a scholarship that would cover eighty-five percent of the tuition for three years, and if I earned good grades they would give me a soft loan for the remaining two years that I could pay back once I got a job.
What had seemed impossible only a couple of months ago was really happening. I was going to attend one of the most exclusive Universities in Venezuela!
I won't say college was easy. I did feel out of place most of the time. I had to borrow material and books because we could barely find the money to pay the fifteen percent the scholarship didn't cover, much less for other things like books or photocopies. I had only one pair of jeans and two tops.
I did not get to go on vacation to Miami or Europe, but I met the best friends I could ever imagine. We would sit on the grass, which was always so green and fresh, and talk and laugh and study. It wasn't easy, but I got good grades.
The day I graduated, I gave my mom the medal. We walked by the campus, with everyone smiling at us, my mom beaming. She was so proud.
I remember telling her that if it weren't for her, I would have never even tried.
In her characteristic nonchalant way she said, "Don't worry about it, baby. Even before you were born I would pass in front of this University every day on my way to work at the factory.
From the window of the bus I would see the mowed lawns and the students lying on the grass, and I would think: one day a daughter of mine is going to study there.
You see? I just knew you would. I dreamed of this green grass too many times; it had to come true."
I found a good job after college, paid off my loan and won another scholarship for a master's degree.
I now work for an international company. I've traveled around the world. I'm moving to New York, and the time when I didn't have money for the bus seems really far away.
But I will never forget that it was my mom's dream that made me do what everyone thought was impossible.
Many people have gone farther because someone else thought they could and encouraged them to tarry on...
Have a great day!