Statement of Purpose: Finishing My Foundation
Growing up, I never believed college was an option. My parents were illiterate, uneducated, and poor. Nevertheless, they taught me from an early age both the difference between and the importance of common sense, knowledge, and education. When I was five years old and lost my hearing, I recall becoming very lonely, depressed, and withdrawn. My mother, always resourceful and industrious, snatched me from my dark brooding with the power of knowledge. She taught me how to read and write, teaching herself in the process.
“Nothing ever got done without trying,” she’d say. “Just remember, they can take away everything you have, but they can’t take away your brain,” and so together we studied on sweltering summer days while the other kids played outside. I didn’t complain, though. In fact, the opposite was true. I fell in love with reading as well as writing and I learned fast. I discovered a certain freedom in literature, and challenge became my motivation and inspiration. Good thing, too.
My hearing returned when I was seven, accompanied by the onset of comorbid mental illnesses which went undiagnosed until my early thirties. Growing up with mental illness was challenging for me as well as for my family, as my illnesses are conducive to paranoia, making it hard for me to trust people, form bonds, and maintain healthy relationships. Furthermore, because I went undiagnosed for so long, we did not have the luxury of knowing what demons we were fighting, and so I succumbed to the common cycle of psychosis, self-medication, abuse, homelessness, incarceration, institutionalization, medication…lather, rinse repeat.
Through it all, literature comforted and informed me while challenge inspired and motivated me. Books were my companions in dark, lonely alleyways on sleepless nights; writing was my therapy through adversity and insanity; and knowledge was my salvation, keeping me grounded and focused through experiences no human should ever have, but do nonetheless. I took for myself a poor man’s education from the streets and public libraries. Not only did this allow me to survive, but to happily thrive where most wither and die. I soon formed a plan to get off the streets.
It was simple: I would quit drugs, stabilize my illness, find a home, and gain employment. So, with support through public programs, I got clean, received a mental health diagnosis, medication, and therapy, and secured permanent housing, free from debt. Thus, empowered and encouraged, I focused on my writing, self-publishing three anthologies. For the experience, I helped friends edit and publish their books as well. What I learned from this early experience was that I knew nothing whatever about writing, editing, and publishing. I needed formal instruction.
So, in June 2014, I began my formal education at Southern New Hampshire University and fell as deeply in love with learning as I am with literature. Now, three weeks from graduating summa cum laude and a member of Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Sigma Lambda, I have developed a sense of duty to return to society what society has gifted me. I also realize that it is not enough to elevate myself. Rather, I know I must use my strength and privilege to build a platform from which to fight the crippling stigmas surrounding mental illness. Every book I read; every poem I penned; every fact I learned; has been a brick in the foundation of this ultimate purpose – to use poetry and storytelling to help others like me. A graduate degree will be the final brick in that foundation, and I would be proud and honored to earn that degree from Southern New Hampshire University.