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The Colonel Chronicle

The Colonel Chronicle

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Melissa Truong: Life as a Circus

The afternoon sun blazed like a spotlight, shining on me like a performer in the circus of my life. I had just wrapped up my demanding school day, rushed through a quick Science Olympiad officer meeting, and endured an energy-sapping cross-country practice. The clock read 3:30 PM, meaning it was time for my mom’s gynecology appointment, time to translate!

With my parent’s limited English proficiency, the responsibility of translating and providing clear communication with their healthcare providers had become second nature to me. As the conversation unfolded, I found myself walking a tightrope between medical terminology and the simplicity of language my mom could understand. The two voices: My mom’s concern and the doctor’s formality. The two languages: Vietnamese and English. All these words scrambled in my head, rapidly mismatched into sentences in each language ready to be translated in real-time. 

After the appointment, I went through my to-do list in my head and realized there were still 11 tasks left to complete. 

  •  Schedule Dad’s dental appointment over the phone

    Melissa Truong ’24
  • Call the Affordable Connectivity Program for Dad
  • Type Mom’s church meeting report in Vietnamese 
  • Translate Dad’s mail for opportunities in eligibility for savings
  • House chores
  • AP Physics Packet
  • 20-item Annotated Bibliography for AP Seminar
  • Pre-calc worksheet
  • Study for tomorrow’s reading test in AP Lang
  • Put the first layer of paint on the commissioned shirt 
  • Spray paint the phone case to get ready for commission

However, I didn’t feel stressed. In moments like these, I realized the profound importance of the balance I have achieved.

This delicate equilibrium didn’t develop overnight. It was a result of years of nurturing my relationship with my parents and my growing responsibilities. My father, nearing his mid-70s, seemed to bear the weight of time on his shoulders. My mother, although younger, seemed to be aging rapidly as well. As their health declined and medical issues arose, my involvement in their affairs increased significantly. I vividly remember the early days when I was just nine years old, thrust into the perplexing world of phone calls, complicated bills, and worst of all, scam calls. Interpreting for my parents felt like an uncomfortable spotlight shining on our cultural differences. I grappled with the challenge of bridging two worlds. It was a surreal language dance I was pulled into, toggling between Vietnamese with my parents and English with a receiver. The room was filled with a bizarre cacophony of language, confusion, and internal turmoil.

However, as time passed by, my responsibilities changed, and I found myself getting better at managing them. I started to enjoy helping my parents out and felt rewarded when I would cross out a task in my head. I had learned how to balance my personal life with the increasing demands of caregiving. My schedule became a carefully curated mix of school, extracurricular activities, translation duties, and personal time. Despite the difficulty of this balance, I soon began to see these tasks as opportunities to show love to my parents. It was rewarding to give back to people who’ve spent their lives caring for me.  I’ve also grown to value the importance of preserving and cherishing my cultural roots, realizing that being a leader in my family is not just a role, but a testament to my evolving cultural identity. It was a constant juggling act, but it was entirely manageable with the right mindset.

I live in a circus – standing on a tightrope, suspended between the intricate domain that clashed my two worlds, two voices, and two languages. This juggling act is not just the spoken words but the two distinct languages coexisting in my head like linguistic acrobatics. My life is a delicate act of balancing cultures, languages, and emotions, all in the name of clear communication trying to keep pace with the rhythm of life. I found the true essence of balance in the harmonious interplay of these responsibilities and my needs.

Here’s what Ms. Ledoux said about Melissa’s essay:

 The reason I think this final version works so very well is because it effectively conveys a message about the student’s life experiences and character both through its content and style. The writing in Melissa’s essay is readable, personal and creative. Yet it’s not just the writing that affect readers, but also what we learn about Melissa’s perseverance through the story she tells about growing up in her family. Through her reflective tone, readers learn the details of her life; after thinking about these details, readers learn about the effort it took Melissa to help her parents as well to excel in school – and they recognize her positive attitude despite her challenges.

The other thing that her essay teaches us is the important of drafting! She had a vision, an idea for this essay, but she had to work through multiple drafts to bring it to the final version.  For instance, early on Melissa had the idea of creating a list of all the things she does in a day. The inclusion of the list is different than what you might see on most college essays, though Melissa was willing to take the chance in being creative. However, it took a lot of adjusting with the word limit to make sure the list didn’t overpower the whole essay. Melissa worked incredibly hard on this essay, and the result demonstrates the importance of all pieces of the writing process – brainstorming, drafting, conferencing, and more drafting!

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