Guided By Love Why My Mother Is My Greatest Influence

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My mother has been an inspiration my entire life and remains the best role model I could have asked for. One of her strongest beliefs was always in the power of education. She’s still a voracious reader at age 92 and set an example of lifelong learning and curiosity. School-wise, I might have ended up in a different place without her influence.

I had a difficult transition in fourth grade when I switched mid-year from private to public school. For some reason, the new school placed me in all of the most advanced classes and I was in way over my head. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the reading machine in my class that projected a few words on the screen at a time. They began the year scrolling through the words slowly and sped up as time passed. Unfortunately, I transferred into the class the last four weeks of the school year.

When I first entered the classroom, the words seemed to be zipping along at the speed of light. The teacher projected a given story, then tested our reading comprehension by asking questions like, “What’s the name of Peter’s dog?” I hadn’t seen the words “dog” or “Peter” on the projector screen. I was scared to death of failing fourth grade and soon began faking stomach aches to get out of school.

Through it all, my mom remained my cheerleader. She offered me a lot of empathy and reassurance. “This is a transition,” she explained. “They still have to figure out the right level for you.” She gave me the courage to attend class every day and keep trying.

That same, awful, fourth-grade year, a teacher in a class handed out a test he’d warned us would be particularly difficult. I was doing abysmally in the class, so I came home dejected, sure that I’d bombed. But my mom told me to keep a positive attitude. She told me if I believed I’d do well, I would.

The next day, the teacher went around the room and asked every student what grade they thought they deserved on the test. Good students guessed they earned a B, C, or even lower grades. But when the teacher got to me, I remembered my mom’s encouragement and proudly announced I thought I got an A.

“Kevin,” my teacher paused, knowing I’d failed every test, “Are you sure that’s the grade you think you deserve?” I told him it was. After he’d gone through every kid in the room, the teacher said, “If that’s what you think you deserve, that’s your grade.” Thanks, Mom!

Many years later, in college, I had to make difficult decisions regarding my future career. My major was chemical engineering, but I really wanted to go to medical school and was thinking of transferring back to our home state of New Jersey. I called my mom for her guidance, and she went above and beyond the call of duty.

In the pre-internet age, she visited the library and did her research. She discovered that New Jersey only had one medical school while Virginia had three, and my chances of acceptance were much higher if I finished my chemical engineering degree in Virginia. Back then, they allowed me to claim Virginia as my home state while still matriculated. With that knowledge, I transferred from Lafayette college in Pennsylvania to the University of Virginia to complete my undergraduate studies. As a result of my subsequent change of state residency, I was accepted into the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, and I attended this medical school as an in-state student. Who knows what would have happened without her help and analytical nature?

There are a million other stories I could tell you about my mom and even more lessons she taught me. Through her, I learned empathy, resilience, hard work, honesty, confidence, and humility. One of her most impactful lessons was that people will judge and remember you by how you treat others. I aim to always live up to her standards and never forget I am where I am today because of her influence. Massive thanks, Mom!


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