2017 Ashwood Recovery Scholarship Runner Up

by Josh F.

In quantum mechanics, according to the "many-worlds interpretation" of the Schrödinger's Cat paradox, there exists an infinite amount of universes in which each and any possibility is a reality. If this is true, then we are lucky to exist when something else could have existed in our place. Consider this: I'm alive. It doesn't take a genius to tell you that, however, it does take a genius (like Ali Binazir) to tell you that the odds of me being alive are 1 in 10^2,640,000.

The odds of me being here are incredibly against my favor. Growing up, my future looked as dismal as the sunless pits of Tartarus. There had been days when I would come home to glass shattered and blood splattered everywhere, but that was normal at the time. There were days when pill bottles were strewn around the house, uncapped and emptied. There were days when my mother's bipolar disorder would act up and she would take it out on me and my sisters. There were days when I had to lay in darkness for hours because of unfair punishments. There were days when screams between my mother and stepfather invaded my dreams, nightmares disguised as my nightmarish reality. There were days when my mother wrote suicide notes and swallowed an obscene amount of pills until somebody found her.

There were days when the cops had to come to stop them from fighting. Eventually, child protective services had to come and take me... I carried myself well, but the pain of the words that have been said haunted me still. Whenever I would hear anyone yell, I would tremble... I couldn't speak loudly because loud noises traumatized me. Sometimes people told me to speak up because I had become inaudible; that pain is one that cannot be easily understood. The pain of hearing yourself speak. My own voice was one that I hated because the timid, quiet nature of my own voice was a product of my mother's verbal lashings.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." A huge lie. I will pulverize all 206 bones in my body into and extrude them through my pores before having to be subject to that kind of screaming, that kind of branding of awful names that I can't even bring myself to repeat. And just like that, I was moving in with a practical stranger and leaving behind everything I had ever known. People have always told me that I am mature for my age, and that's the reason why; it was either grow up or slither into depression. But now my words are strong: I have inculcated in myself a vocabulary with the capacity to compliment, insult, woo, and even render myself esoteric to my audience. Now, my voice can boom as loudly as Zeus's thunder. My writing is where I can express myself; my space is limitless, and my thoughts are infinite. The odds of me having escaped such a situation and becoming who I am today seemed slim. Now, I have become a student at the University of Chicago, the president of my dorm house, an extremely proud poet and writer, and most importantly, I have become happy. The road behind me is dark and paved with misery, but the end of the road is as bright as Apollo.

Unfortunately, I don't quite know how to calculate the exact odds of me being where I am today, but I am sure there are tons of zeroes. I would have estimated a cliche one-in-a-million, although I'm sure it's greater than that. The odds of my life being where it is today are 1 in 10^2,640,006. Despite being as happy as I am, I am still taking out loans to pay for college with no input from either of my parents. I am seizing my own life and it has been the best decision I ever made, but I am struggling to pay for day-to-day expenses even after obtaining two jobs. My school’s financial aid still requires me to take out thousands of dollars in loans, and a full-time nineteen-year-old student just cannot pay that. It has become harder and harder, even affecting my grades. I have overcome much before, though, and I know that I can overcome this now. This is my step to overcoming this adversity as I have in the past, and promising to give back if all goes well. Through this universe, I've made it past much more doubtful situations, so why stop now?