This is 32

Author: Edwin Duarte

An inspirational story submitted for the raffle held by ASNC. (one of the winners)

one I am thirty-two years old. Thirty-two is understanding the struggles of your immigrant parents, of learning what it means to be a first generation American. At thirty-two I have realized how different the course of my life has been from that of my parents’, and how fortunate I am to be where I am today. It is realizing that the Spanish your family taught you growing up has helped you make connections, network, and has even helped you obtain a job. It has been working hard to raise your children. Teaching them to do the things your parents taught you: do your laundry, take out the trash, clean your room. It is also realizing just how painful it was for them to get you to do the very same things and hoping that you are instilling the same important values in them, that your parents did for you. Thirty-two has endured broken relationships, romantic and otherwise, creating a new appreciation for those who I’ve come to love, and learning to invest in those bonds. I have endured marriages, divorces, and custody battles and a prime age of only 32.

one Thirty-two is the loss of old high school friends and the gaining of friends that you learn to call family, regardless of the time and distance between you. It means realizing the importance of family and spending endless nights and weekends cooking dinners, helping with math homework, going to birthday parties, and springing for that Thursday night get-together with your favorite cousin for happy hour. Spending hours reminiscing on the weird games you used to play when you were kids. Talking about football, playing travel soccer, video games, and all of the other ‘feel good’ memories that you shared together.  It’s trips to Disneyland just to watch your children play and enjoy the same characters and stories that you knew and loved as a child yourself and buying them all the overpriced souvenirs your parents never got you.

one Being thirty-two means growing up and realizing that your body won’t last forever. It’s being 12 years into a military career. Spending years of your life away from your family in a foreign country to protect them. Only for them to be incapable or unwilling to understand the sacrifices you’ve made. It is being an expert at performing the duties of a forward observer, carrying out tasks that include decoding messages, operating advanced communication systems, and carrying out fire support commands for targets that are miles away (United States Army, 2018). I have slowly watched myself age from under the weight of a seventy-pound rucksack. At thirty-two you realize that you are no longer the young, agile, and bright-eyed young man that Uncle Sam took under his wing. You start to notice the knee and shoulder pain, the extra five minutes it takes you to get out of bed in the morning, and the irritation you have with not being able to keep up with the younger guys. Thirty-two has endured a medical retirement, a destroyed knee, a useless shoulder, and two hernia repairs in the name of patriotism.

one This age has also brought me a new relationship. It has shown me that even as an adult I can always be a better version of myself. I met my girlfriend at the tail end of my military career, and she has been my rock ever since. Thirty-two has shown me that you are never too old for new love, or to have silly day dates at the local glow golf arcade. This age has shown me more C-rated horror films than my mind can stand, but I watch them because she loves them, and I love her. It has been learning to love dogs, when you know you can’t stand the way they smell and the mess that they leave. I have learned that even at thirty-two there are things you can learn about knowing how to apologize when you were wrong, and how to have meaningful conversations to solve your differences. I have realized what it takes to hold together a blended family. How to introduce your children to a new person that will be a significant part of their lives. How to deal with my past relationships, while caring for the present, and all the baggage that it presents.

one ​You begin to realize all of the consequences of the decisions that you have made over the years. The numerous fast food jobs you worked, the people you hung out with, and your choice of career, and how it has led you here. You spend hours on end thinking about the career you had to give up, about your time oversees and the people you lost there. I thought about my children and how different their lives might have been had I not done the things I have. You think about your father’s accident, how one fun day at the lake became a lifetime of paralysis and what-ifs. It makes you think about how different your father might be if he could walk. Would he work? Would he still play soccer? Would he be anything like me? And even more so about how different your mother might be. Thirty-two can make you question how you got to where you are, and make you think about how different you are from what you had wished you would be at this age.

one Thirty-two had also brought hope. A new bank job after the Army, a new opportunity to excel. I had been a changed person after my military career. The new position had brought a renewed sense of pride. Thirty-two has shown me the shortcomings of dealing with the demons of my military service and handling my post-traumatic stress. However, it has also shown me how much more resilient I am at thirty-two than many of those around me. I have seen my maturity in the actions of others. Listening to people at the bank complain about mundane tasks, like showing up on time or even talking to customers. Thirty-two had shown me two promotions in nine months. And simultaneously, the denial of such because of my status in a previous marriage. Once again, thirty-two brought me disappointment.

one After the disappointment of the bank, my girlfriend encouraged me to go to school. At thirty-two, I left the bank to obtain my bachelors degree. I realized that I needed more than a teller-banker job to feel successful. I had always loved history, and at thirty-two, decided that I would pursue my degree to become a teacher. As a student I have done what I have always done, strive to be the best. Thirty-two has shown me that being a good example to my children takes hard work and perseverance. As a student now I constantly worry about learning. During school I was never the smartest kid in any class and barely scraped by in high school. Now that I have been out of school for 13 years, I was very anxious and did not want to fail. This past semester, I read a book called The New Science of Learning by Doyle, Terry and Zakrajsek, Todd, where they stated, “No one is born smart or dumb, that knowledge is malleable and therefore anyone can be taught in any subject as long as they are willing to do the work” (65). This is my motivation, to be better than I was and continue to excel in everything I do.

one Everything that has led up to my life today is a direct result of everything I have been through, and the people who’ve been there with me. Now as I get out of bed every day, I try to remain positive and be the best at whatever I do. Whether it’s work, school, my children, my girlfriend, or being with my parents and helping them out. I strive to be the best. I try and be a good person to others since that is something that is fading with this new generation. I try to respect authority and try and remain proud of my country even though a lot of citizens are destroying it.  This is thirty-two years old, a physically broken body with the heart and mind of someone trying not to fail.

one ​I wrote this paper in February 2019 when I was about to turn 33 years old while I was in English 1A. For an awesome professor at Norco College by the name of Professor Hays. I am no longer 32; I am now 34. I had the surgery that repaired the two hernias and have two more surgeries coming up to repair my knee and shoulder. I am closer to my children now that I am no longer a soldier being moved around every five minutes. We have an amazing relationship, and as they get older it gets easier, which I am sure will change when they become teenagers. School has been an amazing experience. This past June, after one academic year, I graduated with my Associates Degree for Transfer in History with Distinction. After this Fall semester I will leave Norco College with an additional Associates Degree for Transfer in Political Science and an Associates in Social Behavioral Studies, both with Distinction. I was accepted to the University of Texas El Paso and Austin Peay State University. Now I am just debating on which one is a better fit. The goal is to eventually be a high school History teacher. Oh, and my girlfriend that I spoke about, I ended up proposing to her and married her a week after graduation. I will leave you with this, no matter what life throws at you keep going. In the toughest times try and hunt the good stuff. Be patient with others, especially the ones you cannot stand, kill them with kindness and always try and take the high ground. For me now, this is now 34.