Blistering heat and the smell of car exhaust greeted my mother and me as we exited the Istanbul Airport terminal. I had just turned five. Excited to see my cousins, I cheerfully clenched my green Peter Pan bag and skipped after my mother towards the shuttle that would take us to the baggage claim. While clambering onto the crowded vehicle, my mom took my bag out of my arms and my smile vanished. “I do myself!” I protested. Despite her attempt to explain that she was simply trying to help, I tormented her during the ride to my cousin’s house, saying “I do myself!” over and over again until I got the chance to carry my own bag.
“I do myself” was a common refrain while I was growing up, whether I was climbing trees or solving math problems. In my adult life, this independent mindset has helped me handle the stress of balancing academics, research, work and extracurricular activities.
Growing up, I sought opportunities to pursue knowledge, activities and hobbies that sparked my interest. My family and I watched “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York during a visit in 2011. I came home obsessed with its soundtrack and soon downloaded the piano sheet music, which I began to teach myself. When I excitedly told my piano instructor about my new love for the song “Think of Me,” he told me that it was far beyond my abilities. I practiced for the next five days and perfected the piece on my own, despite his dissuasion.
This attitude of independence continues to teach me how to take control of my own life, be happy with the results and bounce back from mistakes, always striving to do better.