Monday, February 21, 2011

Cutting Through


Her lean body bends at quick angles as she cuts through the wind, hockey stick in hand, eyes focused on the hard white ball being volleyed from player to player.  There’s aspiration in her almost-circular green eyes.  Courtney Schembri has worked towards getting a full-ride field hockey scholarship to UC Berkeley since she was six years old.  Her ambitions have finally taken birth into reality after eleven years of soundless persistence and grueling exertion.  Her brother has already moved out, it’s her turn now and she can taste the sweet future ahead of her as a field hockey player for Cal. 

“My mom was diagnosed with cancer soon afterwards and I chose to go to San Jose State so that I could stay at home.”  Courtney doesn’t want to call it a sacrifice, but it was. 

When Courtney was seventeen years old, her mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have her thyroid removed.  As a result, she relied on her family to complete trivial and critical tasks around the house and also to drive her to far-away hospitals San Francisco and other distant cities for treatments.  Even though it was not officially entrusted upon her, Courtney wanted to take on this responsibility. 

From the day a child enters this world, crying, it’s the mother who embraces the wailing child and provides selfless nurturing for that child.  There’s no greater sacrifice than that of a mother who sacrifices her youth, her time, and her own ambitions so that her child may pursue his or her own happiness. 

Perhaps it’s this sacrifice that made taking care of her mother desirable for Courtney.  “My mom was always the one who took care of everybody in our family.”  This includes cooking, cleaning, shopping, and simply being there when her loved ones needed someone to talk to, someone to hear out their problems, someone to just laugh or cry along with them.  Maybe this is the inherent in women, putting off personal preferences because family and ties of love matter; everything can be ignored but the tug of affection and emotion.  As the only girl in the house besides her mother, Courtney learned how to cook and take care of everybody just like her mother did before beginning her battle with cancer. 

Perhaps it’s taking care of her family that guides a girl from her journey to childhood to womanhood.  For some, those responsibilities come one at a time, while for others like Courtney, all responsibilities are delegated at once, and sometimes without prior warning or preparation.  The foundation of Courtney’s adulthood lies under trying circumstances, but she certainly entered her adult life with a better sense of who she is.  Now at twenty-one years of age, Courtney has moved out and is better-prepared to face the challenges that the world will throw her way.  She has discovered her inner-persona and embraced her unique racial identity after years of denial and   intentional misidentification. 

“I’m Maltese.  Maltese is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily.  I used to tell people that I was Greek or Italian, because Maltese culture is so similar to those two cultures, but I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m Maltese and I’m proud of it.”

Pride in ones identity only comes after a startling realization that life is too precious to waste trying to hide who you truly are.  Embracing ones heritage, embracing the challenges that come in life, embracing necessary sacrifices, and embracing the changes brought about by the different seasons is the only means of living a full life and continuing as a strong contender in a merciless world.