Dartmouth Green at Dusk
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My childhood trailer

Heading home for the holidays has reminded me that there truly is "no place like home." Even if your place of upbringing is in the middle of nowhere in a small, conservative town in rural Missouri. There is always a piece of me (a sizable chunk) that will always have a connection to this place. Wherever the journey of life decides to lead me, through Dartmouth and beyond, an instrumental part of my character will lie in my hometown. Driving past my childhood home seems to bottle up all of the nostalgia that comes with returning and displays it to me in one moment. Every time I look at this humble little trailer, I am filled with a mix of emotions that I can never really describe.

At first, there's a rush of a specific set of memories that always seem to stick out over the others that act to lure me into a greater contemplation of my childhood. I always look at the middle window where my dad and I accidentally knocked it out with a golf ball while playing much too close to the trailer. This never fails to force an audible chuckle out of me. Next, I shift my view to the front of the trailer where the blue and broken up blinds shield the viewer from seeing the small kitchen where my mom and dad and I ate our first meals as a family. It is also where we kept the ancient computer with which I was obsessed with playing minesweeper. Again, good and warm memories.

After a while, I start to see how the trailer has changed: how the white paint seems to get more corroded over time and how the structure of the trailer resembles an old man whose knees could give out at any moment. Noticing these flaws always brings out the not-so-memorable memories from my childhood. This trailer, much like a regrettable tattoo, acts to remind you of things that you can't help but ponder on once you see it: the fighting, the substance abuse, the fear, the bad stuff. I've learned that it doesn't pan out well to dwell on such memories. The more you think of them in an ill-fated manner, the more you can dive into an infinite pool of self-pity.

I don't know how I shifted into a different mindset, but I've mastered the skill of using these memories as the strongest source of motivation that could possibly exist. When I think of my dad becoming unemployed and drawing disability, this fuels me to pursue a good career. When I think of my family falling apart, it reinforces my choice to have a stable and loving family in the future. When I see this trailer, I know I want to better my future, and that's just what I've done.

I would like to think that I've been sculpted by these experiences. Living in this environment has instilled in me levels of perseverance that I don't think I could've earned in any other fashion. On top of this, I know I act as the biggest role model for my brother and sister. With a mix of all these circumstances, to be straightforward, I worked my butt off in high school to rise above others and succeed. Now, I'm at one of the best institutions of higher learning in the world. Period. From this dilapidated trailer to the rich walls of Baker-Berry Library. If that doesn't motivate someone, I do not know what will.

Baker-Berry!
Going from that trailer to this beautiful place is a humbling experience. Every day I'm grateful!

What's amazing about this story is that it is not at all unique to me. Countless talented kids come from backgrounds like this and find themselves in some of the best colleges in the world precisely because of the motivation that fuels them out of such experiences. You will, no doubt, encounter this at Dartmouth. Above all, I think meeting kids from similar backgrounds has been the highlight of my Dartmouth experience. Every time I hear one of these stories, it reminds me of who I am and why I stay determined, and I meet a new student that fits this bill almost every day at Dartmouth. It truly is a wonderful institution.

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