Flora Lao's Personal Statement

My favorite place to sleep is on a cardboard box surrounded by sawdust and the blaring sound of my father’s drill. My nose would tingle every time I breathed in and out the specks of sawdust. The ever passing sawdust provided a light, thin blanket for me as well.

My father is a construction worker, a craft that many would categorized as “unskilled,” but they would change their minds once they shook his hands. Through the endless years of toil from handling nails and paint, his hand’s crevices are as deep as the chasm of the Grand Canyon. These are hands that can endure the endless hours of cuts and bruises from sanding down the wood to unclogging the drains. I was his “apprentice” and accompanied him to extravagant houses with rooms designated for playrooms just for dogs. My father would take me along to his job while my twin sister went along with my mom to her job as a seamstress. I would spend most of my time curled up on the floor. As a first generation child to be born in America and to go to college, my only job was to perfect my craft in education. I was also not willing to lose the softness in my hands.

One day, I was sitting in the backseat rubbing lotion in my hands when my body jerked forward, but the tight seatbelt pulled me back in place. My father was parking his friend’s car into a narrow space and knocked over the ticket meter until it was bowed over like an actor receiving applause. His friend told him to drive away, but he took out his tools: a cement bucket and smoothing paddle. This machine is responsible for a service, and my father understood that he had disrupted its ability to carry its function. He kneeled to the ground. I watched from the sideline as his hands were covered in the grey, mushy substance. As he spattered on the cement to reposition the meter, I watched Times Square. Awestruck tourists stopped and took pictures, while men in suits sped by only to shake their heads with looks of pity and disdain. I was embarrassed, but in that moment I could not retreat to my usual routine of sleeping while he worked. I knew that my parents had sacrificed their comfortable lives in Macau for my family. I thought that I could just repay them with my dedication to my learning, but seeing my sweating father kneeling in front of everyone to examine him as if he was the latest zoo exhibition made me realize that my parents have long given up their ego for the sake of protecting their dreams for me. I was now mature enough to join them in that pursuit and neither embarrassment nor ego would be my main priorities. I wanted my father to know that I deeply admired him for literally building the possibilities for his family with his own hands. I submerged my own hands into the cement: I felt the mixture seep underneath my fingernails and grow heavy over my knuckles. We fixed the meter in silence amidst the pictures, whispers and looks because in that moment we were responsible for fixing what was broken. In their minds we would be remembered as the family who worked on the sidewalk, but that was the moment when construction became my prideful craft. I reinforced the ticket meter’s foundation and reconnected it to the buzzing cement sidewalk of 42nd Street. My father used his strength and screwdriver to unbend the ticket meter to make it stand tall and proud.

I have become my father’s true apprentice by learning his craft filled with commitment, diligence and endurance. I can fix many things now for my friends and for myself; construction has become my hobby along with swimming and fishing. After each lesson, from fixing the faucet to patching up holes in the wall, my hands resemble more and more those of my father’s. However I know my hands are never going to get as dry and cracked as his. There is always something to fix in the world, but I am focused on social problems. I want to study political science and create the policies to ensure that issues are addressed with the same kind of commitment and integrity that my father demonstrated to me every day.  My father’s craft is built upon his passion for using his creativity and knowledge to find long lasting solutions to work, but my craft will be built upon my passion for communicating with people to find long lasting solutions to world issues. I will always be perfecting father’s my craft of commitment to my beliefs and integrity.