Reflections on the Road to Harvard

Justin Porter in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_261 Aug. 04 13.24I have discussed the rise of China with Larry Summers over a few slices of pizza, taken a genetics course taught by one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive (shoutout to Kevin Eggan), and sat in the front row as one of my favorite writers, Atul Gawande, gave an astonishing talk on the difference between coaching and teaching.

Still, my freshman year was probably one of the most troubling of my life.

I was born and raised 1,500 miles away, in a small apartment in Jackson, Miss. For my entire life, it has mainly been just my mother and me. I have a loving father, but he and my mother broke off their engagement shortly after my birth, and since he worked odd hours as a bus driver, I rarely saw him when I was growing up.

I am an only child, so my mother overpowered me with her love. For someone who sees so much beauty in the world, she worked awfully hard to protect me from it. Television, rap music, even basketball with the kids on the block were beyond consideration. It left me a bit resentful as a teenager, but I grew to appreciate her enormous sacrifices — walking me to the library every afternoon, laboring at multiple jobs to keep food on the table, telling me stories late into the night.

When I announced the summer before my senior year of high school that I had decided to apply to a school in New England, I noticed a hint of hesitation before a warm smile enveloped her face. I pretended not to see, but I was never able to forget it.

More here.