The comfort and riches of the wealthy are unimaginable to some. But at the start of my life, this was only normal. Designer clothes, personal chef, and a Ferrari were just the top of the bundle. I couldn’t imagine anything that I wanted that I didn’t have. Indeed, I was rich. And spoiled. If something wasn’t up to my standards, it had to be. And sometimes for the sake of it, I would pretend to hate something I actually loved. But that one day when things started to go downhill, everything changed…for better or for worse.
“GET PACKING!” he yelled. My dad shook me awake and said we were going on a road trip. I kept sleeping. I was startled, as my parents wouldn’t even complain about me. I was their precious angel of course! With a grumble, I started packing all my fancy outfits, but the ones that were worth $100 to $300 I left. My dad grumbled that he would wait for me downstairs. “I used to wear these…these rags?!?” I thought in outrage. Then I loaded my heavy suitcase and called my butler.
After waiting for 10 minutes for my butler, I was ready to pout and throw a fit when the door opened. But when it did, I saw my dad. “WHY ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOUR BUTLER?” he bellowed.
My eyes were wide open. He opened my suitcase and threw my fabulous clothes aside. Then, he grabbed the cheapest clothes I had, the ones that were $100 and less which were in the trash can, and shoved them in a ratty old backpack he was holding. He shoved it on me and dragged me to the car. Where I expected a shiny blue, red, or white Ferrari, there stood a brand I had never even laid my eyes on.
“Get in!” growled my dad.
I put my nose in the air and looked in the other direction. What would the students at St. Carl’s Private School say if they saw me sitting in the back of a beat up four-seater? When I looked to see why my parents weren’t coaxing me in, I saw my dad’s ears get pink, then red, then almost purple. Apparently, my mom sensed this too, and she jerked me inside and shut the door. There was the start of the 29 hour road trip, aka the worst hours of my life.
The road trip was quiet except for my mom’s mild coughs and sneezes, and my complaints. My dad finally stopped on the side of the road so we could eat. He probably also stopped to get the food because he was annoyed with my constant complaints. We hadn’t had anything except a pack of gum. When my dad went to the rest area to get us some proper food, I went to my mom for answers.
“Why are we sitting in this piece of trash, where are we going, and why can’t I have my clothes back!?!” I yelled.
“Milan, I know this is a big change. The truth is, your father lost his job at the bank.”
“So, well, we can’t live in a grand house. There are taxes, education fees, medical bills,” I stopped her.
“Medical bills?” I inquired.
My mother’s face got very pale. “No, no, I meant your grandpa’s medical bills, not ours,”
“Mom. Grandpa has enough money to pay for his own medications. What’s going on?” I looked at her. She took a deep breath and looked me straight in the eye.
“The truth is…the medical bills are for me. That new virus that everybody’s talking about? That coronavirus? I actually have it.”
I was outraged. I had given up my life, my belongings, my amazing house just because my mom had that virus? When my dad came back, I grumpily sat in the car, and my dad looked impressed with my sudden change in behavior. The rest of the trip went in silence.
When we arrived, I fainted. Here I was, after a one-and-a-half day road trip, expecting at least a million dollar mansion, but what I got was a broken down apartment. Instead of grand staircases, there were broken steps, and in substitute for chandeliers, there was a leaky roof.
“You cannot expect me to go into this piece of filth!” I yelled, causing the residents living there to peer out of their windows.
“No, I don’t expect you to go in; I expect you to live here.” My dad said flatly.
I was shocked at the way my parents were treating me. How could they do this horror to their darling little boy? With a “Hmph!” and my nose in the air, I trotted in behind them. But when we reached our apartment, I screamed. The carpet looked ancient, the walls were scribbled on, there were weird stains on the ceiling, and the bathroom smelled of… whatever happens in them. To top it all off, I didn’t even have my own room. I had to sleep on the floor of the living room, which had those foldable chairs as the sofa, and a cardboard box (it was pretty sturdy) to be our dining table.
“No! Just because of her,” I pointed at my mom accusingly, “carainavirus or whatever it is, I’m not going to live here! I refuse to stay here!”
“MILAN YOU WILL-”
“No Father! I am too posh for this! I won’t! I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!” I screamed.
My dad grabbed me by the collar and said, “Listen here, rich boy! You aren’t the only one whose life changed dramatically. We aren’t rich, so don’t go around strutting off your new clothes and expensive watch. You will be disciplined. Got it?”
I tore away from his grip and ran, bursting through the stained doors of the apartment. I sprinted down the street and into a quiet neighborhood. Then I fell down against a wall and started crying. How could my life have changed to this? This was beneath what I deserved.
As I was crying, I heard a sound of coins rattling. “Money, please. Please, please, money?” I looked up to see a girl, about my age, shaking a can of soda, filled with a few coins. She turned toward me and I saw that her face was grimy, and her nails were black. The girls at St. Carl’s Private School had their nails manicured three times everyday. She looked at me, and looked at her feet. They were blistered from wearing no shoes or socks, and walking on the roads. Her eyes were wide and then she got up to go somewhere else. She unknowingly led me to a fenced-up piece of land, and went to a small hut made of discarded items. I gasped, and she turned to find me.
Her eyes went wide, and she said, “No please! No say, no say gov-men! No say!” She was telling me not to tell the government.
“Okay, okay. I’m Milan. What is your name?” Something inside of me told me to help her. I realized what a spoiled brat I had been, and that there were many less fortunate than me.
She bit her lip and said, “Araceli. I Araceli.” She needed help.
I thought about it and everyday since then, I went to her hut, and helped her learn a few words. In two years, she learned a lot, and was able to get her parents jobs, who I met on an alphabet ‘expedition’. They moved in next to my apartment, and we were great friends. A little help can go a long way.
Now, as I stand here today on this stage receiving my diploma from this university, I have recognized that there are less fortunate in the world. The comfort and status the rich hold, some will never possess. But out of many of those unfortunate, one such person has taught me a lot. My dear friend Araceli, sitting there in the third row, tenth seat, yes, the one who encouraged me to try the world of Chipotle. She was homeless, but look at her now. She’s graduating from Harvard! We have planned to start a new organization, one that educates children. Caste, money, and luxuries may separate us, but education brings us together. That is one of the most important, life-changing parts of life. And we all know that the comfort and riches of the wealthy are unimaginable. But with one tiny step at a time, we can climb this staircase that separates us.