The Achiement of Desire – Richard Rodriguez *revised*

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from any cheesy television show, I learned on The Secret Life of the American Teenager that, “It’s all about acceptance – loving the imperfect makes us accept and love our own imperfections”. This quality, loving people for their imperfections, is what I feel Richard Rodriguez lacks. His eyes are closed to everything around him except one thing: his education. Through many negative emotions, Rodriguez’s life has taken a course of destruction – one that provided him with an excellent education and little time for his family.

Richard Rodriguez is a smart man. He always has been. His teachers and parents praised him for his academic success. He was always found at the top of his class. Rodriguez is lucky to come from a family where the work ethic is strong and push for knowledge is enforced. His parent’s do all that they can to send him to a great school, taught by nuns, in order to ensure that he will be more than another average person in the world. His mother, ever encouraging him to pursue education, loves how brilliant he is. Having only a small amount of schooling, his mother didn’t want to lose touch with her children as they became better in school and better at speaking English. She’d often ask Rodriguez, “What do you see in your books?” – A simple yet complex question. He may have replied in a variety of bored, enthusiastic, or pleasant answers, but instead he usually chose to ignore her. He was too young and ignorant to recognize that she was doing all she could to be a good mother and help her children be raised in America. While in grade school Rodriguez proudly announced that his teacher had told him he was beginning to lose all trace of a Spanish accent. His family was shocked! I feel that this was the first sign of how hard he was working to achieve the same level of education as his peers – even if it meant sacrificing his family and heritage. These were the beginning stages of him becoming a “scholarship boy” – what Richard Hoggart defines as a student willing to sacrifice anything for education. A conclusion he was finally able to come to and admit to himself, and realize that being a “scholarship boy” has shaped his life entirely.

What he needed to learn is that you can have whatever you want, so long as you are willing to struggle for it. Things in life don’t come easy. I’m not sure how he got by if he truly never learned this – I mean, he was reading tons of books, going to school, was taught by nuns… He was obviously wasn’t focused one hundred percent of the time. I feel like this is one of those basic life lessons that are naturally learned. Things in life don’t come easy, but they do come to those who work hard. As Rodriguez was growing up, he felt distant from his family. He recognized that he didn’t fit in entirely because he was learning and comprehending things his parents couldn’t even pronounce. Anyone could tell that the love and unity his family once shared was no longer there. Rodriguez admits that he’d frequently leave the house when relatives came over. He didn’t want to be around because they couldn’t relate to him, or he to them. There came a point in his life where he became so fed up with the divide between his home life and his schooling, that he admits that he’d intentionally hurt his family. He was angry! He was angry, yet he was aware of his actions. He was aware of the situation. He was aware that he had control over whether or not he was happy at home. What’s amazing about this essay is the way he embraces his emotions – he admits the hurt, the anger, the regrets and frustrations… He has reached a point in his life where he found himself and understood. After a lifetime of confusion – so many questions that went unanswered about whether or not he was making good choices, or if his family was backing him up in his decisions or where to even begin heading in life. He had too much on his mind too early in life.

What’s even more fascinating is that even after all that outward expression of negative feelings towards his family; we learn there’s so much more. All of the outside emotions people share with the world are superficial – just for show. Often times, they don’t mean anything. They’re just the easiest part of us to express. Things such as anger and frustration are so easy to share with people! We all know how much easier it is to complain than to be appreciative. This is where Rodriguez went wrong; never expressed thanks to his family. But how can we know he loved them when there is so much ‘hate’ being admitted in the form of this essay?

We know because at the very end of his essay, upon entering graduate school, Rodriguez gives us a hint of guilt. Guilt: the responsibility one feels for committing a wrongful act or crime. He felt guilty! But why – why would he feel guilty for pursing the very education his mother wanted him to have? Why would he feel bad for being successful and embracing all the knowledge his brain would allow? How many people ever apologize for ‘winning’ in life? Apparently – Richard Rodriguez does. With the combination of being enlightened about his childhood “scholarship boy” ways and his higher education he learned everything he needed about his life. He even knows when his change began – back in third grade.  He states, “When I reached the third grade, I outgrew such behavior [behavior meaning: blatantly rude towards everyone around him]. I became more tactful, careful to keep separate the two very different worlds of my day.” Torn between a life of education, family, and culture Rodriguez learned to rein in his childish behaviors and be a man. Through his guilt we learn of the love he does have for his family. He understands the sacrifices they gave for him and he understands their way of life. He even wishes he could have been more a part of it. Finally being able to admit it to himself, he realized he missed out on a lot of good memories.

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