From Ting and I: A Memoir
In late 2007, Phil wrote what follows in response to the MBA application question: “If you could step into someone else’s shoes for a day, whose would they be, and why?” (500-word maximum)
I would like to spend the day in my mother’s shoes, but she has not worn a pair of shoes for years. Every day my mother goes through extraordinary means just to live another day. Despite great obstacles and setbacks, she continues to live her life in a determined, selfless, and gracious way.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, my mother has slowly succumbed to the unpredictable, debilitating disease. She began walking with a cane when I was in fourth grade, moved into a wheelchair when I was in eighth grade, and was bedridden by the time I started high school. During my senior year of college, she nearly died from pneumonia. She is now completely paralyzed from the neck down, reliant on life-support equipment and 24-hour nursing care.
From one day in my mother’s shoes I would learn true determination, the kind that transcends an all-nighter at the office or running an extra mile. My mother’s determination is not only to survive despite the incredible odds against her, but to continue to live life to fulfill her purpose: to be there for her family as a loving, caring wife and mother.
She accomplishes this goal in small but meaningful ways, looking beyond her own problems to focus on those around her. For example, although she seldom leaves the house, she is still an avid viewer of the Weather Channel. As my father heads out to walk the dog every day, she reminds him to wear sunscreen or to take an umbrella. Ignoring the fact that she hasn’t been able to eat solid food in years, she always asks what I’ve had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making sure I have had enough to eat. And as a nurse holds the phone to her ear, my mother regularly calls relatives and friends to recommend a TV show or movie that she thinks would interest them.
A day spent in my mother’s shoes would teach me to live life graciously and without bitterness. In the face of tremendous personal losses, she remains thankful for what she has: a loving husband and sons, a dog that keeps her husband in shape, and a new flat-screen HDTV. Rarely feeling sorry for herself or seeking sympathy from others, she treats those around her with kindness. She politely thanks the nurses for every task they do, whether it is administering her afternoon medication or changing the channel to Oprah promptly at 4:00. Asking after the nurses’ families, she treats their problems like her own.
Early last year, I moved back to New York City to be closer to my mother and to help her whenever possible. However, she is the biggest supporter of my decision to pursue an MBA, despite the fact that it could mean moving away from her.
It is my mother whom I could learn the most from if I stepped into her shoes for a day, and it is her unflagging determination and selflessness that make her my constant source of inspiration.
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