PROMPT: At Stanford we are committed to increasing the diversity (broadly defined) of students pursuing PhDs in science and engineering. Please describe how your interests and background (in terms of culture, race, gender, ethnicity, work and life experiences) would contribute to that diversity.
The day my foot slipped in quicksand and my world lost its ground I was just a sophomore in high school. I walked into my house to find my mother standing against the living room counter. I could tell she was upset, but there was something else in her eyes, unfamiliar and yet more disturbing - she looked lost. In a haste of empathy, I approached her extending my arms, but the embrace was not what I expected. Once my mother had her arms around me she began crying. She pressed her weight against mine and completely broke down. Later, I found out that that day my mom lost her job, the mortgage was due and she had no idea where she was going to get it from.
It hurt me to see her so sad, but more than it hurt it scared me. My mom raised us as a single mother. My father left Kansas when I was about seven years old. He would call occasionally, but he was always elusive about his whereabouts and had this magic trick never being available whenever we needed financial support. Despite all of this, I never saw her hopeless. Things would go wrong and without hesitation she would simply pick up, make due, and keep moving forward. Alone, unsupported, struggling, she remained our rock.
I on the other hand, buckled under the stress from all the changes at home. My mom couldn't find another job and we eventually lost our house. My grades started slipping and I withdrew socially from my friends and teachers, hoping no one would inquire about what was going on at home. I felt guilty because I was not as strong as my mother, but at the same time I felt justified because she had been weak before too.
When my behavior became too evident not to notice, my mother confronted me about it. One day she picked me up from school and began driving me home in silence. Then out of nowhere she pulled over into an empty parking lot, turned off the car, paused, and then turned to face me. For a moment, I got a glimpse of something in her eyes and I braced myself for another break down. However, I soon realized that the emotion in her eyes was guilt and when she commenced to ask me, almost pleadingly, what was going on.
I did not understand why I was having such a hard time dealing with everything, so I offered her the only explanation I could think of:
"I'm just weaker than you are" I said.
The guilt melted away from her eyes and was replaced with hardness, reminiscent of the strength I had grown to expect from my mother, she told me,
"XXXXXXX, everyone has a story, but no one has an excuse." She turned from me started the car and began driving away again in silence.
From that day forward, I realized something about my mom. I had always thought that she was so strong, but I was wrong. I realized that my mom could keep going because she never let what was going on in her life overcome her. She understood that circumstances in life do not define who you are or what you are capable.
My diversity stems from the fact that I have a mother who taught me that there are going to be tough times in life, but you have to keep going, mainly because you can. In any career that I choose I know this lesson will always reign true, but particularly in a field where even Albert Einstein admitted, "if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research." My experiences in life have equipped me with the tools to never give up, and as medical researcher, that's exactly what I plan to do.
ITS A LITTLE TOO LONG - Does anyone have suggestions on what to cut??