2018 – Elihu Ramirez – HWRA – Northridge HS
Occasionally, while browsing the internet, on the public forums that I like to comb through, to find people like me, I’ll find a post with such a question as,” What is something that people take for granted in their everyday lives?” I see this type of question presented before me more often than you would think. Sometimes it’s phrased differently like,” What types of things should people stop taking for granted?” or, more simply put,” What shouldn’t we take for granted?” Sometimes you don’t even need to browse the internet to find yourself on the receiving end of this popular question. My answer has always been the same. Never take for granted to have had parents who would support you no matter what, parents who didn’t force any beliefs onto you, or pressure you into any particular path in life. If these people were lucky enough to be born with a family life this, then I tell them to cherish it with all of their heart. I tell them to make the most of this wonderful opportunity that they’ve been given. I tell them this because I wasn’t lucky enough to have a family like that. I don’t have a family like that.
I was born into a very religious family. I won’t name the cult that they and, by extension, I have been trapped in, but it is a vicious one that I have seen with my own eyes tear families apart. It is one that views any other lifestyle as sinful. To want to pursue a career and make a life for yourself is considered selfish. This is why things have been so hard for me. My parents view my desire to pursue a higher education as abhorrent and detestable. They’d rather I spend my life trapped with them, getting nowhere. I know that this case is unique, because, truthfully, all of this is still ongoing.
I still live with these people. I still have to convince them that there is nothing wrong with me. That I still have faith in this religion. I have to apply for scholarships and fill out financial aid forms behind their backs. I have to make connections outside the cult and view my options for when I finally decide it’s time to leave them, all while they think that I am just fine. This is still ongoing. Truthfully, I don’t know exactly how this story ends, but I do know how it doesn’t. I will not allow it to be like this forever.
Luckily, as I have said, I’ve started, despite my limited social abilities, making connections on the outside. These are people that I can trust and rely on. People that I can confide in to share the burden. I urge others in my position to do the same. You will need people on the outside when you finally leave. In the meantime, another way I manage to cope is with art. I find it relieving to be able to subtlety express myself in my artwork, without putting my safety at risk at the hands of my family. I’ve also found and joined online communities that are full of people like me who were shunned by their families for holding onto different beliefs, knowing that I am not alone in this struggle has helped me greatly and boosted my confidence. I know that I can do this. If you are a kid like me out there who feels trapped. Please know that as long as you are willing to work for it, your situation will not be permanent. In my case, having my family abandon me in the end is inevitable, however, I know that the payoff will be worth the losses at the end of my days and trust me when I say that so will yours.
Editor’s note: We accept applications without parental consent when a student is 18 years of age. Regardless of age, we require two adult references one being a high school counselor.
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