I am a child from a broken home. I never had the childhood that my peers had. I never went fishing with my father, baked cookies with my mother, or enjoyed a Christmas without having to run to my room and hide under my bed until my father stormed out of the house and my mother cried herself to sleep. Countless times I stayed up at night crying for a miracle to come and save my parents from themselves. For them to come and tell me that they love me and that whatever had happened in the past between them was not my fault. I prayed and I prayed, and my prayers remained unanswered. Growing up in such a family, I had to mature quickly. I had no time for childish daydreams and fantasies as I was too busy trying to keep my sanity in the cold reality that was my family’s unfurnished apartment. I remember the exact day when the protective bubble of innocence that surrounds children was shattered. I was six years old, and it was about two weeks before Christmas break. To celebrate the holiday season, my art teacher had us all make clay pots and little green Christmas trees out of pipe cleaners. I loved working with clay; there was something uniquely calming about rolling a little hunk of cold dirt around that for a few minutes made me believe that everything was going to be all right. It was the first art project I actually enjoyed, so after the clay had hardened I proudly brought it home and placed it in the little crystal bowl that held car keys so that my parents would see it. That night my parents fought again. I’m not sure which one of them threw the crystal, but one of them decided that they needed to vent after all of that yelling and lobbed the crystal at the wall across the room, shattering the bowl and my little clay pot. When my father had left the house and my mother gone off to bed I snuck out of my room to see if my pot had survived. Foolishly I had brought some scotch tape with me and, as I tiptoed my way across the minefield of broken glass, I thought of how to fix my little pot. It was when I started clumsily gathering the broken bits of clay that I pricked my finger and drew a bit of blood. The pieces of clay dropped out of my hands as I turned my palms upward and counted my fingers. Nine. In my dreams I always had ten. This was real. The fighting, the broken glass, the shattered pot, and my crushed hopes of a happy family were all I had. That was the day I learned how cruel and unforgiving the world can be. Not just for me, but for everyone else as well. There’s no one out there looking out for you, no one out there trying to make sure that things work out to be all right. But that’s ok. That leaves room for me to reach for my own dreams and make them reality. It motivates me to help others when no one else will. Reality is harsh, but a little human spirit can make it all the better. The day I reached maturity was the day I realized that no one was going to come to my aid. That no one was going to come and solve my problems for me. That was the day I decided to become the master of my own fate, to take my life into my own hands and try to make it a little better. The day I reached maturity was the day I saw the cruel nature of the world and swore to challenge it. A righteous man may fall seven times, but he always rises again. Sitting in that cold, unfurnished living room, I left the pieces of broken clay on the ground and I rose again.