Prior to June 7, 1994, my answer to this question would be quite different than it is today. A few years ago, my "defining moments" were challenging intellectual pursuits; my winning debates and presentations at national forensics meetings. Over the years, I've enjoyed so many professional experiences that have shaped the successful, self-motivated woman I am today. Yet, on June 7, 1994, my entire life changed, along with my answer to this question. The birth of Joshua, my younger brother, changed just about everything.
During the night of his birth, I tossed in my bed, too nervous to sleep. I worried about my mother's labor and wondered what my little brother would look like. Finally, when daylight came, I took the bus to school and tried convince myself that it was just a normal day. My theology exam was a welcome respite from my recurrent concerns about my mother.
Finally, at 3 o'clock, I rushed out of school and embarked upon my journey to Warren Memorial Hospital.
As I opened the door to room 116, I was shocked by my mother's pale face, tired eyes and unkempt hair. Suddenly, I noticed something next to her: a cart with a baby in it. My little brother! I gazed into his closed eyes, noting his tiny fists, red skin and small body. My mind drifted effortlessly into a fantasy state. He didn't look human to me, more like a little monster. Was this creature really my brother? Would he ever look human? When we brought Joshua home a few days later, I realized how radically my life had changed. I was no longer the only child, the spoiled one who thought only of herself. In a split second, I accepted the dual role of both mother and sister, trying to set a good example for him. Despite my lack of experience with newborns, I bathed him, fed him and changed his diaper. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the maternal role, delighted by the happiness that Joshua brought into my life. After years of solitary pleasures, I could share all my laughter and joy with him, and he could always erase my blues.
With my three-hour commute to and from Xavier Academy, I seldom have a free day to call my own, much less any free cash to spare. Yet when I am miraculously blessed with both, I share them with Joshua. We go to his favorite place, McDonald's, to share a happy meal and a medium Oreo Blizzard. After lunch, I take him to play in the park, then read his favorite books to him at the public library. We often navigate around a museum that offers free admission on Sundays, checking out the new exhibits. I answer his questions and try to discover his passions.
Since June 7, 1994, thanks to Joshua, I've discovered that life has new meaning. When I get stressed out about school, the thought of his sweet face relaxes me. When I'm tempted to be selfish, the thought of his feelings encourages me to share. And when I feel like a failure, the soft touch of his arms around my neck convinces me that I'm a hero in at least one person's eyes. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I'm happy if Joshua (the newborn "monster") is with me. My greatest joy is knowing that he feels the same.