Photo by sophiadphotography on flickr.com.
Shout out to the kids who at age 22, make more money than their parents. At the age of 18, 16.
Shout out to the kids who have always made the same amount as their folks under federal law.
Shout out to the kids who weren’t paid, working alongside their parents at counters and grills.
Shout out to the kids who grew up privileged, because they had papers.
Shout out to the kids who don’t even have those.
Shout out to the kids who ate free and reduced lunch every day. Your lunch was only 50 cents to their $2.00, but you still go hungry. White bread with ketchup and Hot Cheetos when the meat spoils. Your classmate buys you instant ramen even though it’s your dinner later today.
Shout out the kids who held parties with 99-cent streamers. Your parents don’t read English so they read “Happy Anniversary!” instead. Flat Coca-Cola in paper cups and an old stereo crooning Radio Disney in your backyard that hasn’t been watered in years. Your classmate’s mom takes work off the next day, handing you and every classmate a slice of pink cake.
Shout out to the kids who don’t have a mom to wrap presents for them. Her hands are too knobbed from working 12-hour shifts, or she’s in the Philippines, or passed out at the table. Shout out to the kids who have superhero parents that do not one, but two jobs – always multitasking but never at home.
Shout out to the kid who didn’t get to go to Rome. Even when Mrs. Weiss-Lee said you were the best and brightest. You already knew this! You already knew this! But you had to ask anyway. Why can’t you have a quinceañera too?
Shout out to the students to had to be twice as good. For the SAT scores without the classes, the student tutor that didn’t charge you after school. Shout out to the prom dress you bought at Ross, thrift store shoes that cut your feet, the boutonniere they said you were “supposed” to have. But you saved it instead for the applications, why did you have to grow up so soon?
Shout out to the kids who became scholarship ninjas. Raking up 6 or 9k because your folk’s 9 to 6 can’t pay for it. Shout out to the kids who worked a job through college, even when you slammed that blender down crying because you weren’t going to pass that midterm. Shout out because you said “no” to orgs and internships that wanted you for free. For ending the call to the counselling office when you heard about the co-pay.
Fingers up to the ones who suggested that somehow – the draw of the dice – was responsible for the school to your name.
When you walk on that stage, some will see you for your achievement.
But the rest of us see you for your success.
We didn’t ask for this. Some people accomplish what they were always expected to. Some people go above and beyond. But aiming for the stars is always more incredible when you couldn’t see their sparkle from below the ground.
22, you’re buying your parents an appliance that costs more than their two week’s paycheck, smiling from ear to ear like giving a toy to your first child. You don’t show them the price tag, there are more fancy features than they could learn to understand. They feel its hard metal doors with their hands, mouths stretched in glee at the ice machine. Maybe they understand, maybe they don’t. Even if they don’t say it, you outshone the hope they wished in your bright eyes.
And if you can pull them out of how you found them – with your blood, sweat, tears, rage, loneliness, hunger, and pain,
Then take my hand, my foot, my everything,
I can trust each you to do the same.