What Inspires me in Life by Alula H.

What Inspires me in Life by Alula H.

I draw inspiration from various activities. However, there are few that serve me as a constant source of motivation. Reflecting on the obstacles I overcame in life is one of them.  I believe my hitherto journey has been engrained into my brain memory.  It serves me as a constant reminder of what I have been through when growing up. I leverage that memory, especially when life throws unexpected obstacles in my way. Whenever I go through difficult times, part of me automatically remembers my past journey—all the obstacles I successfully overcame. It feels like someone threw the window open in a dark room. I feel enlivened again.

Being determined and constantly inspired was my way of coping with difficulties in life.  I was raised by a single mother who did not have much in life except for boundless determination. I vividly remember what led my mother to divorce my father and to start life from scratch. I was very young at that time but very observant of how my father posed a threat to my mother’s life. He would come in late drunk with angered look on his face. I see him conjuring up trivial reasons to take it out on my mother. What started out as an argument would always end in a violent situation. He would sometimes keep on beating her until she bleeds. It slowly became a norm in the house. The only thing different everyday was how intensely he would beat her. This routine act exhausted my mother’s patience. So, one day, she explicitly mentioned to him that she could not tolerate his physical abuse anymore. She was waiting for the last straw. Not surprisingly, the next day, my father fell back to the same routine.  She saw my father park his car and saw him wobbling out of the car, drunk as usual. She decided she could only endure so much and would not continue to raise me in a such violent environment anymore. So, she had to jump through the window before he entered the living room. Next thing I remember was being strapped on my mother’s back while running away from my father. It was a window to a new chapter in our life, for both my mother and me. At the same time, it meant starting life from a scratch.

My single mother and I became homeless when my parents got divorced. and we had to seek shelter at my mother’s friend house. While staying there, my mother had to look for a rental house. Also, for me, it was about time to start school. That meant she had to look for a job to cover both expenses.  She managed to work in a few demanding jobs. After few weeks, my mother scraped up enough money to rent our own place and to enroll me in a school.

My mother’s goal was to make sure I focused on my school so I could have a brighter future. Knowing the substandard quality of public schools in Ethiopia, she enrolled me in a less expensive private school. It was a bold move considering the menial and low-paying jobs she had: mostly cleaning houses and babysitting. However, as determined as she was, my mother worked extra hours to make sure my school fee and other bills were paid. But the number of hours she worked did not match her income. She used most of her income to pay my school fees. And whenever she gets her paycheck, my mother had to make difficult financial choices –- food or bills. She would go to bed hungry, but made sure I had something to eat. In a country such as Ethiopia where there are no social safety nets, we struggled considerably. My mother never gave up; she was always thinking of ways to pay our loans and bills.

We were getting by until at some point my mother lost her job. It is not that the job was well paying. However, with the extra hours she was working, it was enough to make ends meet. We were behind on rent. With the increasing weekly late fees, my school fee too was growing exponentially at that point. As such, my mother was forced to ask friends and family members for a temporary shelter while she look for yet another job. Luckily, a family member offered us a room in a small house. My mother and I were very excited. At this point, the focus was paying my school fees and necessities. She helped clean the house, cook food for the family and washed their clothes. In a country where vacuum cleaners and washing machines are considered luxuries, it was a big help for the family we lived with. She did all sorts of household chores for the family. The living arrangement, however, did not last long. The family was no longer able to give us a room without accepting rent. With the money she saved, she again paid some of our loans and school fees. My mother did not give up nor did she accept defeat to poverty.

A pang of those accumulated memories and flashbacks is what keeps me going. My mother never lets our past journey melt in the background. Instead, she always remembers and uses our obstacle filled anecdotes to strengthen us.  I have cultivated the mentality that no matter what I face in life, it could not get any worse than what my mother and I have already been through. As such, my life journey serves me as a source of inspiration and allows me to handle difficult situations gracefully.

My other source of inspiration is the pure act of contemplating what my future holds especially when I think of the impact I could make in the chemical engineering field. I find constant drive from the pursuit of the major I am passionate about. I just completed my freshman year at New York University with a dream of becoming a chemical engineer.  As an aspiring chemical engineer, I am particularly passionate about one of its categories: Nanotechnology. It focuses on the microscopic characteristics of various chemical compounds in nature. I marvel at how working on such tiny level produces valuable results. I am fascinated by the countless ways Nanotechnology can be used to make a difference in impoverished communities around the world. Of the various researches I conducted, its potential to treat diseases picked my interests. Nanotechnology’s application in medicine, namely Nano-medicine, helps to understand blood cells and the inner workings of the human body. I am passionately exploring how Nano-medicine could be used to realize targeted disease treatment in the human body. With almost no other alternative diagnosis, people living with cancer have long been using drugs and chemotherapy despite their negative impacts on healthy cells and tissues. I am very glad that I am participating in a research that could replace chemotherapy.

The pursuit of one Nanotechnology application always inspires me to explore its other facets. That is how I got interested in exploring the ways that Nanotechnology can be used to advance alternative sources of energy. Upon reading scientific journals, I found out that there are budding researches focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of solar cells. As my country, Ethiopia, is on its way to becoming Africa’s leader in alternative energy, such technology is very important. Ethiopia, also known as the country with “13 months of sunshine,” due to a unique calendar system and year-round sunshine, can reap great benefits from solar technology. As such, I am constantly deriving inspiration from the research. The pure thought of realizing that goal for my country one day keeps me interested in what I am studying.

My ultimate goal upon graduation is to open the first Nanotechnology laboratory in Ethiopia—where I could continue to realize the various researches being done in Nanotechnology and chemical engineering in general. While keeping my life journey as my primary source of inspiration, meanwhile I have my second source of motivation: the pursuit of my major and the pure goal of realizing the potentials in my major.

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