Why do I try so hard? That’s something I’ve been asked for as long as I can remember. Every time I’ve lent a hand. Every time I’ve aced a test. Every time I’ve won a game. And the list goes on. Now and then, the reason I try so hard is a mystery to me too. Because, honestly, who’s going to remember five years from now if I make a 98 on a test? Who’s going to care about all of the games? The truth is, for me, being a “try hard” goes a lot deeper than some measly report card or an unmemorable victory.
It feels like yesterday. The day my three-year-old self raced into our house in Nepal from playing outside and heard whispers behind the living room door. Of course, being a curious kid, I eagerly walked towards the voices, and I took in a breath as my toddler mind sensed something was about to change. The past few years of my parents leaving their jobs with a newborn child, facing countless rejections, studying late at night for the TOEFL exam (Test for English as a foreign language), and filling out hundreds of graduate school applications, all with little money, was in hope of one goal. The goal of going to America.
I laid my head against the door as I discovered that the hard work and struggle had all been worth it.
That’s when being a “try hard” child took its form. Because I saw, even at a young age, that anything was possible with faith and effort. Regardless of where you start out. And regardless of people who don’t believe in you.
A year later, after getting off the plane in Austria where we almost got sent back because of the corrupt immigration system, we finally arrived in Chicago, and we got our first taste of American life. And, no, it didn’t include Starbucks. Little did I know that my family’s struggle of creating a new life was only beginning. It was like we’d opened a box of puzzles, but opening it did little in putting the pieces together to form a picture.
The next decade of our lives consisted of hard work and simply learning. Learning stretching from how to use a refrigerator and microwave for the first time, figuring out complicated bus routes because we didn’t have a car, and (verb) intimidating first days of school every time we had to move state to state.
Moving alone was never the hard part because I loved seeing the world. The hardest part came with every trip around the school cafeteria alone. With every new relationship I had to build from scratch. With every gut feeling that would tell me I had gone back to square one. What I didn’t see all those years ago is that I was never truly alone. I never really started back on square one.
Every time I moved. Every new relationship I built. Every hardship along the way. They all formed me into someone who can adapt easily to new environments. Someone who knows how to read peoples’ emotions and intentions. Someone who never takes what she doesn’t earn. And someone who is grateful for everything that life, and America, has to offer.
As cheesy as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is the most accurate thing one can hear. Like everyone, I also have a cover: The daughter of a mathematics professor. The student who never fails to do an assignment. The girl who has a passion for volunteer work. And the girl with Ivy League school pennants on her bedroom wall.
What I don’t say aloud is how the path to where my family and I currently are started from the bottom up. That behind my cover, I’m from a background where getting to school meant walking miles in the Himalayas with either flimsy sandals or barefoot (Which is how my parents grew up). Where life meant growing enough food every harvest, and studying, if any time remained after working in the fields, was done not by the strong light of a lamp, but of a dimming candle.
Now, to answer the question from the very start. The true reason I try so hard is because putting in effort is all that I’ve ever known how to do. It’s what pushes me to want to make a difference. To this day, I live by what my parents always remind me: “Everyone faces hardships, but it’s all for a reason. Let it be the reason you try harder. Because struggle is the most meaningful when you can use it to make a difference in other lives.”