2018 Winner

Kyana Morgan

Playa Del Ray, CA

At a young age, I began naming each of the houses I lived in as a way to make the stress of moving less prevalent as a child. First, there was “the box house.” It was a tiny house, hence the name. It had only one room with a kitchen and bathroom connected to it, leaving space for one bed. Next came the “hotel house,” a huge apartment complex with a large pool and gym in the back. Later, my family lived in the “spider house,” a nice house that, for some odd reason, had spiders in every room.

I could tell you of so many different stories about moving around the Los Angeles area--9 different houses to be exact--yet I’ve decided to tell the story of the one moving experience that would change my life forever.

In July of 2011, my mother was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. As she began to undergo treatment, her immune system hit rock bottom and she no longer had the strength to get out of bed. Her hair began to thin, and all my sister and I could do was help her sit up and eat. Of course, my mother became unable to work, leaving the child support we received from my father as the only method to pay for meals. Life became a constant worry about money, and my mother felt helpless.

In October of that year, my mother slowly regained her ability to walk and function. As soon as she could stand on her feet, she came to the realization that the place in which she lived could no longer suit her needs or financial situation. Consequently, she decided that the best thing she could do was go back home. After 20 years of living within the United States, she was ready to move back to the silver country: Argentina.

There were only about four weeks to mentally prepare for the change and pack our essentials. By the next month, on November 11, 2011, my sister, mother and I were on a plane to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. On the way there, my sister was anxious, my mother was relieved, and I was nothing but excited. Our emotions all differed, yet we all shared one attribute: courage.

Upon our arrival, we carried our luggage to the door, tracked down a taxi, and drove to my uncle’s house--my new home. He had a moderate sized house with a small room in the back. In that room, my uncle placed a mattress on the ground giving us a place to live for a few months. After those months had passed, my family moved into a small apartment that lacked light and water for several weeks at a time. Although we had a place to sleep, we weren’t able to bathe, cook, or do homework inside once the sun had gone down. We didn’t have the ability to live a lavish life, yet a lavish life was not of our concern.

Puerto Iguazu, Argentina did not mirror Los Angeles at all. In Los Angeles, freeways were the norm. In Puerto Iguazu, dirt roads and cobblestone streets were most common. In Los Angeles, streets were organized by stop lights and stop signs. When I first moved to Puerto Iguazu, street lights and stop signs didn’t exist.

In Los Angeles, kids played outside during the daytime and went inside as the sun went down. In Puerto Iguazu, kids started going outside during sundown as a way to avoid the heat. The list goes on and on. Nothing was the same.

A few years passed as my family lived in endless heat and humidity. Years of washing my clothes in a cement tub outside; years of walking two miles to school; years of living in an impecunious city. The new culture and ways of life that I had become accustomed to in this tiny yet breathtaking city were unlike any of the United States. Without wifi, the newest iPhones, or even warm water, I slowly moved away from the notion of fortune.

In the United States, my life was a constant subconscious engrossment in money and wealth. But when I moved away from this ideology of technological advancements and industrialization, I came to the realization that it held no importance. Our belongings may demonstrate the cash we carry in our pockets, but they do not mirror the desires we hold within our hearts.

I began to look at life from a different perspective. I pushed myself into new things that I had never thought of before.

I learned to play the violin in an Argentine orchestra, gathered near the river with friends to drink “yerba mate,” and played volleyball on an outdoor cement court for hours at a time. Despite not having what we now consider to be essential to our lives, my life was astonishing.

Throughout the years spent in Argentina, I grew as a person. My focal point shifted from my future success in the so called “rat race” to the discovery of my purpose in life. I learned that if anything, my purpose was to be my best self. Surely, it’d be wrong of me to say that I am my best self every day, but working towards that goal has given me direction in my life.

By facing the shift in culture, values, and living conditions, my life changed forever. I was able to experience life through new eyes and realized that life is what you make it, so I chose to make it beautiful.

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