2024 – Awardee – Cael Dearden – Syracuse HS

Mar 26, 2024

The Domino Effects of Dreams

What is a dream? Random imagery? I believe it’s a recollection of events that the brain stitches together during memory storage. When I remember my dreams, the first instinct in my body is to share them with anybody who will listen. Yet, without fail, there was one individual I purposefully sought out–my mom. She loved to entertain the crazy scenarios my head would produce. Whether it be a spaceship full of orange Jell-O, or a silly high school dating card game, she always listened. On top of that, my mom was the go-to for any homework problems or late-night projects I pushed off. However, just like any other day, I entered her bedroom to explain my goofy stories and… absolute silence. That’s odd. She’s nowhere to be found. Oh, that’s right. I’m on my own now. When faced with uncertainty, people deeply appreciate what they have and the memories of what they lost.

During my freshman year of high school, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a nasty chronic disease that tricks the autoimmune system into attacking itself. The myelin sheath, a fatty substance that wraps around the brain and spinal cord, deteriorates and slows down transmissions between nerve cells. This ends up causing significant issues with bodily function. There are no known cures, so patients heavily rely on treatments to subdue their symptoms. To be honest, I did not understand the severity. My mom acted tough for her kids. She ended up passing away in my sophomore year due to health complications. The earliest memories I have afterwards are a blur. Some say that’s a coping mechanism to protect mental integrity. I do remember, however, how I felt. Lost. It made me realize that children heavily rely on an adult figure to guide them in the world. My dad pursued a career in the airline industry, so my siblings and I had no parental figures for days at a time. He has put an insurmountable amount of effort into preparing for my success. I needed to fulfill my responsibilities by getting an advanced education through early college courses. As such, life would not wait for me to catch up. After restless nights of juggling homework, taking care of my family, community service, and an attempt at a social life, I decided that I wanted to grow as a person. Growth and personal fulfillment are key to being successful. As a start, I needed to find my comfort place to acknowledge my feelings. Bottling up feelings leads to emotional stress. For me, my family and friends became my largest motivator to improve. They helped me process my emotions in more manageable methods. Mainly, through the sport volleyball and blocking out time to enjoy the smaller aspects of life such as family mealtime. Similar coping mechanisms I use to this day include reading, watching TV, hanging out with friends, observing nature, and the occasional yoga session. I also started to set more realistic expectations to keep myself organized. If there’s ever a time I feel overwhelmed, I make sure to ask for help. People, especially those who have been in hard situations themselves, understand those moments. The best piece of advice I can give to others is to seek out support. More than anything, it led me to focus on gratitude and putting my efforts into helping people who are experiencing obstacles themselves. Honestly, in its entirety, life is an endless struggle. I want to become the person my family, friends, or anyone can depend on just like my parents did for me.

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