But then, after nearly three years in advertising, my life turned upside down. Harsh Brutal Reality came knocking at my door and sometimes Harsh Brutal Reality doesn't like to wait until you answer. Nope. Harsh Brutal reality is not above breaking down a door or two.
On a typical bitter Monday night in January, I received a phone call that my father was in the hospital. A million and one worst case scenario thoughts popped into my head and I tried to prepare myself for the worst. Little did I know that the worst in unpreparable. They never tell you that but I am now.
Dad had suddenly passed away and I would never have the chance to say goodbye.
He would never hear how appreciative I was of his warmth and generosity but I had good reason to believe he didn't need to hear my thanks.
As the Jewish tradition dictates, our family mourned and sat Shiva for seven days in our house while hundreds passed through recounting favors my father had done for them and advice he had given. It seemed that humble Dad had a profound and noble effect on a great number of people. I could list the stories here but you ask only for a personal statement, not a personal series of books. Paradoxically, I could not attribute such wondrous qualities to myself. My admiration for Dad and an inspiration to be better grew profoundly while exponentially, my disappointment in my self-serving lifestyle increased as well. All those years of my family's encouragement to apply to Social Work school suddenly took on a weighty validity. You'd be so good at it, they would say. You love talking to people and listening and helping. It's a part of who you are, they continued. Genetically. You are your father's son.
And now here we are in the present. I am finally ready. I am ready to accept my responsibility to the people around me, those I already know and those I have yet to meet. As I get older, I acknowledge the importance of stepping out of my world and into the one at large. It's a scary place full of genocide and tsunamis. But it's also a world full of teenage boys with a lack of direction, mothers on welfare that are dealing with depression, college girls that face anorexia. I remember as a child I retreated into the introverted world of rebellion. I listened to heavy metal. I gave my teachers a very hard time. All the while, I recall I had no where to rebel to, never finding a destination for my retreat. Just running. Just escaping.
With each oncoming year, I am becoming less naive, encountering the rich complexity of people everywhere. I yearn to help them find where they are running or escaping to. I want to help them find the destination of peace and comfort, a sense of mental rest. But that's an overwhelming and presumptuous goal. Most likely, I have to start somewhere specific, somewhere like Social Work graduate school.
Ideally, I would like to focus my two-year program in dealing with teenagers. These are the formative years of a true identity development. This is when you find out what music you really love, when the hormones become full time employees, when you realize that life will only get progressively more difficult. This is when one needs listeners, people who want to understand those that are not understandable (or so teens think). Because life doesn’t always provide the ears for us or the sage wisdom that comes from the neighboring mouth. We don't always encounter someone like my dad and I think it's time for me to presumptuously fill in the large gaping hole he left behind.
And I start this bold task by submitting this application to you. The rest, they say, is in your hands.