My philosophy of school over the years of elementary and middle school was to go because my mom told me to. Grades were never really my top priority for a majority of my life. If I got good grades, good for me. My family didn’t really care as long as I stayed out of trouble and didn’t get too bad of grades—basically a C or better. My dad never graduated high school, but he always encouraged me to get that C to a B or better.

My dad wasn’t in my life that much, but decided to re-enter my life during eighth grade after being absent for a few years. I constantly had to watch him struggle in dead-end, minimum wage jobs. He’s had his highs and lows. The highest he’s reached was a construction job on a mansion with two older guys. One had a beer belly and the other was a toothpick with veins that would go down his arms like snakes slithering in the grass. My dad’s lowest point was working at Dairy Queen. He looked so misplaced when standing near his co-workers, a bulky middle aged guy with arms so hairy they have the potential to shed in your dairy product.

Going over my dad’s house was never pleasant when he got to own me on the weekends. He lived in a trailer park where the trailers have been converted into houses. Rich people use those places as their summer home, while my dad struggled to keep it as a normal home. It was nothing special. Three bedrooms, living room and kitchen combined, and the bathroom was basically a janitor’s closet. But I didn’t hate going over my dad’s house because the trailer house wasn’t that spacious. The aspect that made going over my dad’s a place of torment were the replacements I had to interact with. My dad had two more children with his new girlfriend who didn’t have a neutral state. She was either alarmingly happy or seriously angry at the world or her two sons. My dad’s two newer sons drained my dad and his girlfriend of any grit they had because they never taught these kids any basic information—like manners, right from wrong, how to talk—when they were younger. I kind of felt sorry because of the disadvantage these kids were starting at because I could have been in the same situation if I wasn’t constantly pampered by my family when I was younger. I never did anything to make these kids lives better. I was just kind of there for the time being until they dropped me off back to my house in Fitchburg.

Watching my dad survive check after check gave me a glimpse of what could be if I didn’t apply myself at an early age. His struggle showed me school isn’t this obligation that no one is going to force you to do—it’s an investment that must be committed to. So I guess in a way my dad has had a positive impact on my academic performance.