Branches and Bark: Climbing To Success

In the eyes of an exuberant nine year old, nothing can instantaneously wreak more havoc on a Saturday afternoon than a thirty foot tall tree engulfing her colorful kite. I stood at the base of the oak and craned my neck upward, flabbergasted by its stature. My kite struggled between its two apical branches, shackled in the tree's grasp by the legion of bright green leaves surrounding it, seemingly rendering it impossible for even a hurricane to dislodge it. Only one viable solution remained; despite having never climbed a tree in my life, I assumed a squat position and leapt upward with all my might. After missing my target twice, my small hands finally grabbed the coarse bark of the lowest branch, suspending me a foot off the ground. I thrusted my body weight to the left, pressing my worn Skechers against the tree trunk to stabilize myself as I half-crawled, half-pulled myself up to the first branch.

"She's five years old and doesn't know any English yet, how can she go to school like this?"

"Mommy, I will learn. I'm not scared. Send me to school, please."

Utilizing the same method, I secured the next branch, and the one after that. Pausing to catch my breath, I scanned the maze of bark and leaf above me to seek out the nearest branch, and frowned when I saw its location three feet overhead. Basic arithmetic proved my petite frame insufficient to reach it, and a fall from this elevation would be detrimental. However, my kite remained ensnared - falling was an acceptable risk. Toddling on the thin branch, I gathered all my strength and soared upward. My heart plunged as the rough limb escaped my clutches and I plummeted, slamming into a lower bough.

"I asked Emily to be my friend, but she didn't even want to play with me. I think that she can't understand my English."

A sharp, numbing pain throbbed in my lower back. Nevertheless, I slowly stood up, regained my balance, and resumed my ascent, somehow discovering crevices and knots in the tree to serve as footholds. Every breath proved laborious, and the abrasions from the textured bark on my extremities began to inflame and bleed. Despite the agony I felt, my limbs seemed to advance on their own.

"You read 79 books this school year?!"

"Yes! My favorite series was A-to-Z Mysteries. I couldn't put them down!"

Three more branches. Two. One. Gripping the trunk for support, I teetered on my tiptoes, extended my arms, and closed my fingers around the kite. Taking a deep breath, I tugged harshly and wrestled it from its restraints. Finally...my prize was in my grasp. My vision became hazy as I peered down through the network of leaves and bark at the ground thirty feet below. No longer was I a girl on the earth, gazing longingly at my goal - I sprung into the sky and sought heights I never thought possible.

"Congratulations! The speech you submitted was absolutely beautiful...we've chosen you as the speaker for the 8th grade graduation ceremony!"

Throughout my life, I've learned that determining a solution to overcome an obstacle sometimes means testing the boundaries between what we know is possible and what we believe to be impossible. Occasionally, risks must be taken despite the improbability of triumph, and success cannot be attained without remaining pertinacious in spite of adversities.

The journey to success is NOT straightforward.

Scaling that tree and retrieving my kite made it evident to me that anyone can accomplish even the most daunting of tasks with the right strategy. Immigrating from India to America at the age of five and knowing only Telugu, I struggled with attending school. The culture shock made assimilation incredibly distressing, and I endured many challenges socially, academically, and mentally. Nevertheless, by immersing myself in the world of literature, television, and writing throughout the years, I overcame my seeming lack of capital when I came to America. I successfully became an Indian-America, and today, no one would be able to discern my history of academic struggles.

We should all attack the challenges in our lives with optimism and determination. Instead of feeling deterred by hurdles, see them as opportunities - both for growth and developing everlasting experiences.

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