I was raised by a Filipina mother and a dad that worked in the foundry. I grew up in a biracial home, but I didn't realize how much that would impact me until many years later. Some of my earlier memories involve being traumatized by food. In the Philippines, the most common things people ate were the fruits that grew in their yards. This included bananas, papayas, and mangoes, but these items were not readily available in the States during this time. The other things my mom grew up in were the left over parts of animals, because that was all they could afford. She would cook some kind of fish that smelled so bad we all had to leave the house. She didn't make me eat this, but I did have to eat some other things. Special occasions in the Philippines were celebrated by eating lichon. Americans would call this a hog roast, but for some reason my uncle, who knew a lot of farmers, bought us a pig that was completely unprepared. We shaved it with Bic razors. My grandma talked about how yummy the ears were going to taste, and all I could think about was shaving that pig. I didn't eat anything that might have come from a pig for years. Of course, I didn't realize hot dogs came from pigs. During this time, the mother was responsible for keeping the house clean and feeding the family, so I had no choice but to eat what she gave me. Some of my happiest moments were when we would go to a Chinese restaurant, because my mom would just let me sit and eat sugar packets. I guess she figured that at least she didn't have to pay for my food or fight me.
Food was not my only battle ground. I knew I was going to go to college, but I had to figure out how I would pay the bill. After my freshman year at the University of Illinois, my dad lost his job, and he made most of the money for our family. In order to continue with my education, I was a subject for psychology experiments, I worked for a catering business, and I joined Army ROTC. I took out loans. A lot of loans. I'm still paying them off, but that's another story. Eventually, I got my degree, and I went into teaching. I had dreamed of being a teacher, but I was never taught how to deal with the police coming to my classroom door to take a student away in handcuffs. Teaching was not what I expected it to be. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I love it, and I now have 16 years of teaching experience after earning my bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I had stopped being a student for 12 years when I decided to continue my education. I now had to figure out how to take classes while I worked full-time and raised two kids. On-line learning has become popular, and through this option after two years I earned my master's degree from Concordia University. I hope to continue on to earn my doctorate's some day, so once I retire from being a high school teacher, I can become a professor at a university.
My mom still tries to get me to eat gross things, and I still refuse. She entertains herself by telling me stories of eating chicken intestines and other chicken parts people just shouldn't eat. Life is full of things that are hard, but there are some awesome rewards on the other side of the challenges if you can just survive them in the first place.
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