My Difficult Journey on the Way to Success: Personal Narrative Essay

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From preschool up to my last year of high school, I have gone through struggles to reach the top percentage of my graduating class as well as come to terms with who I am as a person. My experiences with inspirational figures have engraved in my mind a philosophy that if I just go that extra mile, I will obtain a victory within myself and so much more. As many others have experienced my situation of the hardships involved in being a first-generation student in the United States, as well as being bullied, there is always a constant search for answers and guidance on the journey towards success. Reaching this point in time where I’m about to graduate, I have had a sense of beauty and triumph in how this chapter of my academic career will succeed. Being a child of immigrant parents and having to adjust to the social standards of the United States, as well as exponentially improving my intellectual being by defying all stereotypes imposed upon me by being a Hispanic, I have truly learned that on this journey towards success, it is pivotal to always go the distance.

As a child, my father introduced me to a movie called ‘Rocky’ that at the time I didn’t think too much about, I thought it was just another boxing movie. As the years went by I began to see more than just a boxing movie, there was a philosophy embedded in the film which taught me that just having persistence can lead you to success. Moments before Rocky has his big fight against the very narcissistic champion, Apollo Creed, he says, “All I want to do is go the distance”; this quote left a permanent impression on me and has taught me from a young age that even though I won’t be the most intelligent or the most popular person, as long as I go the distance, I can prove that I’m not just another bum, but rather a contender to be the best person I can be. Though these films may seem like just pure entertainment to a large audience, they have been a foundation of strength for me by giving me the heart to stay on my feet through adversity in and outside of school.

Looking back at the earlier years of my life, it was difficult to express myself correctly because my English was poor. This fault in the road created a barrier that excluded me from enjoying the things most American children did, such as sports, clubs, and general enjoyment of the environment around me. Not being able to properly express myself correctly made me an outcast in my classes, from kindergarten onwards. My first introduction to an all-English curriculum would be the most difficult task at the time to get a real understanding of. To add insult to injury, it was extremely difficult to make friends that were willing to make an attempt at trying to understand me. Outside of the classroom, I spent my time in the school’s ESL course with other students my age who were going through the same struggles of learning to speak, read, understand, and write in English. My interest in assimilating into American society drove me to learn as much as I could about the English language, as well as the American culture that coincides with it.

With the dream to become the average American child everyone respected, there came bumps along the road to success. With no other students having an interest in becoming my friend, I gave up the idea of making English-speaking friends and regressed myself to the safe space that was my native Spanish speakers. The sensation of having all hope lost was embedded in my mind, and being new to the idea that people aren’t comfortable with what isn’t relatable affected me on a personal level. It wasn’t too long before I had a chance at friendship outside the Hispanic community, I met a good friend of mine named Nick. He and I always recall how he could never understand what I was saying but remained my friend for the past twelve years. This experience became a moment of enlightenment for me because I felt that maybe there are people who are willing to open their hearts to a boy who spoke little to no English, someone to whom they couldn’t relate at all. Though this experience would open me up for the time being, it wouldn’t be long before I went through the trauma of being bullied.

Being that I was Hispanic, there is an ongoing joke that Hispanic mothers, as well as grandmothers, are always overdoing the cooking, which leads to tons of food being eaten at the dinner table. My mother and grandmother are big believers in eating a lot, which led to me being a chunky child. The highest weight I remember being was around two hundred pounds, which a few individuals saw as something they could manipulate for their own entertainment. I went through the struggle of being called derogatory names like ‘fatty’. The trauma of being called these things left me insecure about my physique for a long time. Though it may seem bad, this abuse became my motivation for weight loss. Instead of playing with others on the playground, I walked laps around the field. At home, I would run and do little exercises in my free time, all of this because of words. While working on my physical and mental transformation, I had the quote from Rocky stuck in my head, I always told myself that I had to go the distance, I had to prove to those who looked down on me that I can reach their level. While working towards my goals, I lost focus on school. I began caring more about popularity rather than intelligence, which led me down a road of disappointment.

Entering middle school, I thought to myself this was the chance to change myself socially, I had lost all focus on becoming a better student and put all my attention on standing out among other students. This decision would be fatal to my grades, as well as my character. I had always lived with not having the help I needed to do well in school because my parents couldn’t understand the curriculum and teaching standards in the United States. I had completely given up on doing well in school and my mind considered myself a failure intellectually. I would associate myself with others who were popular at the time to get the attention I didn’t have in elementary school, this was in a way an outlet to be the person I wanted to be for that certain period in my life. Every year I would improve but at a very slow pace, not good enough to give my parents and myself satisfaction. The popularity would all come to an end around the last months of eighth grade, because one night during eighth grade, my father would give me the most powerful lecture that left me disappointed for all my mistakes in middle school. My father’s lecture that night was about the struggles he went through to get to this country not only to give himself better opportunities but to give me the shot at having a great education to grow to be someone in the world. This lecture would lead to a major change in my life, which would take effect starting in high school.

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Starting high school, I was ready to go the distance and take all the abuse of harder work and get to the top of my class. Focusing more on school made me less social with my older ‘popular’ friends; they slowly began distancing themselves from me, as well as me. I learned that to get to the top I had to rid myself of all the toxicity that plagued my life. In my freshmen year, I’d found myself in a group of Hispanics whom I considered a lot like family. We all spent countless hours hanging out, playing soccer, and occasionally playing video games. My friendship with them made me feel close to my cultural traditions. What I wouldn’t realize until my sophomore year is that the safety I felt within my group of Hispanic friends was swaying me away from what I was chasing all those years ago in elementary school, assimilating into more traditional American society.

Sophomore year was my introduction to more rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement, which would take me to the next level in improving my intellectual being. None of the people in these courses were relatable to me regarding my culture, which made the cycle restart for making new friends. The students in these courses were, what I thought at the time, at a higher intellectual scale than I was, considering I never knew what an Advanced Placement course was until I was placed in one. Having the impression that since these people were on a whole other level than I was, I would’ve never imagined that I’d find my best friend in one of these classes. This best friend of mine would become, in my eyes, the perfect example of what a well-balanced, set-for-success student looks like. He would be my guide towards the success in school I had been hungry for all those years back. I attribute a lot of my growth and success to my best friend, mostly for reviving a sense of pride in what I accomplished and how much more perseverance I felt within myself.

With my best friend as an inspiration and the guidance of my father's lectures, I made it certain that my junior year was when I would push myself to my limits and go the distance. My main goal during this period was to finally achieve what I thought impossible for the previous ten years, obtaining a ninety or higher in every course. Junior year served as a testament to how determined I was to achieve intellectual improvement as well as build my character up to be a stronger person. Every quarter I saw myself improving slowly but surely, trying a little bit harder every time. Finally, at the end of the year, I achieved a goal I never planned to accomplish, I got the nineties for the final grade in all of my courses for the year. Achieving a goal I never thought possible for my standards gave me the confidence boost I’ve desired nearly my entire life and prepared me to go the distance and end my high school career success in my senior year.

The beginning semester of my senior year of high school went out exactly how I planned I’d finish it, with the nineties in every course for that semester. My confidence was at an all-time high going into my second semester, only for it to come tumbling down with a sudden illness that would change my entire mentality for the months to come. In December 2018, I would be diagnosed with costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects the rib to the breastbone. This illness stopped me from enjoying anything that involved flexibility or quick movements, including my passion for weightlifting. This disability led me into a state of anxiety and depression from which I felt there was no escape. My work ethic began to decline and my fear of increasing the pain I was already in became my main focus. Under the assumption that my illness would not last more than two to three weeks, I had hope that I would be back to normal in no time.

Along the way to recovery, I went back with my best friend and rewatched the movie that gave me the amount of perseverance I have today, ‘Rocky’. Rewatching the one thing that gave me a foundation of strength was rejuvenating and sparked the fire in me that was lost for many months. Seeing Rocky get up after being beaten to his knees gave me the motivational strength to go the distance in my life and take the beating life was giving me. In addition to this, I went back and read ‘Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance’ by Joseph M. Marshall III, a book about a young man dealing with the adversities brought on by the struggles of life, seeking an answer as to how to persevere in a world when all hope is lost. One of the answers to the young man’s question was: “Each step, no matter how difficult, is one more step closer to the top of the hill”. This answer allowed me to rethink that instead of playing it safe, I have to face my fears of worsening my illness and take the first step towards improving my life from there on.

I have fallen various times throughout my life, some fall harder than others, but I have always managed to get back on my feet and keep running the marathon of life. Although I have many more miles to cover, I have learned through the adversities that come with being a first-generation student, as well as those that life brings, that even if I’m beaten to my knees and feel like I’m going down, it’s important to get back up and go the distance.

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My Difficult Journey on the Way to Success: Personal Narrative Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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