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更新時間:2019/5/10 21:33:40 來源:紐約時報中文網 作者:佚名

Trash, the Library and a Worn, Brown Table: The 2019 College Essays on Money

We organize the money in our wallets in units of currency, dollars and cents, bills and coins.


But the money in our heads is a lot harder to arrange, lost as it often is in a haze of volatile emotions, pride and shame, jubilation and despair.


Reckoning with these feelings is hard, which is why people don’t talk about them much. Writing about them is even harder.


Six years ago, I started asking high school seniors to send in any college application essay that happened to be about money, work, social class or related topics. Immediately, it was clear that there was plenty we could learn from their writing, as they and their parents prepared to make what may be the biggest financial decision of their lives: where to spend up to $300,000 on a college education.


This year’s collection of five essays is a reminder of how rich the idea of money is for the writers who dare to tackle it.


A plumber’s daughter and a young man fascinated with garbage trucks take on jobs that few of their peers would want. A dish washer rides home in the middle of the school night, flashcards in hand. A family gets smaller set against the tableau of its aging furniture. And a Minnesota teenager finds her way, over many years, to a new role in an old place of refuge.


Los Angeles


‘I got the usual looks from people fresh out of bars or parties, either because of the stench of a hard night’s work on my clothes or because I was muttering to myself while feverishly flipping flashcards.’


—Mark Isai Garcia

——馬克•伊塞•加西亞(Mark Isai Garcia)

“No more broken plates, you understand?”


I could make little sense of the broken English that spat from his mouth but his scrunched-up face spoke a universal language. It was a Friday night in Little Tokyo, and while families were eating five-star meals in the front dining room, a 14-year-old boy was in the back washing their dishes.

他嘴里蹦出的蹩腳英語我听不大明白,但他緊皺的眉頭是通用的語言。那是在小東京(Little Tokyo)一個周五晚上,外面的餐廳里,一家家人享用著五星級大餐,後廚里的一個14歲男孩在洗他們的盤子。

Wash the plates by hand, dump them into the sanitizer, place the plates into the machine, dry the plates off, return the plates to their designated spot and repeat — hopefully without damaging any. On this night though, a porcelain plate slipped through my soapy fingers and shattered onto the floor in five pieces. My face flushed even as I tried to keep my composure, but inside I was screaming, “Why me!?” as if my scream would make the plate whole again.

先用手洗盤子,後把它們泡到消毒劑里,再把盤子放入機器、烘干,然後放到指定位置,接著再來——但願別打破個把。但這個晚上,一只瓷盤子從我打了肥皂的指間滑了出去,掉到地上摔成了五瓣。我竭力保持冷靜,臉卻還是通紅,心里在尖叫,“為什麼是我。俊焙孟竇飩謝崛門套踴指叢 此頻。

The shattered plate was only one of the many worries fighting relentlessly inside my head for attention — there was the Advanced Placement United States history midterm, a low grade in calculus, the eviction notice, a little brother getting into trouble and a dozen other smaller but pressing concerns.

破碎的盤子只是我頭腦里不住按耐著的許多憂心事中的一件——先修課程(Advanced Placement)美國歷史要期中考試,微積分成績太低,收到住房清退通知,弟弟惹上了麻煩,還有十來件相對瑣碎但也很緊迫的掛心事。

For me, there was no calling in sick to clear my head, getting some much needed rest or carving out study time before an upcoming exam. I had to contribute to the necessities. I shut up, got back to work and pushed with all the energy I had left. I knew all too well the symptoms of bottling up my emotions — the bitter taste of salt in each drop of sweat, losing myself in the background music and the muscle aches were nothing new to me.


It was 12 a.m. when my shift finally ended. I boarded the bus home and took out my notes to study. I got the usual looks from people fresh out of bars or parties, either because of the stench of a hard night’s work on my clothes or because I was muttering to myself while feverishly flipping flashcards on a bus in the middle of the night.


Their stares didn’t bother me at all. I was used to those too, and they were nothing more than another set of speed bumps in the way of achieving my goals. I was tired of seeing childhood friends flashing gang signs, relatives glued to the beer bottle or my dad coming home late at night with burn scars from work. Something had to change and I knew it fell to me to initiate that change.

我完全不介意他們的凝視。這些我也都習慣了,不過是我實現目標之路上的另一組減速帶而已。我厭倦了亮出黑幫手勢的發。 【撇煥朧值那灼,或爸爸帶著做工留下的燒傷深夜回家。必須做出點改變,而我知道,這種改變需要由我開始。

Fortunately, I also knew I had dedication, desire and grit in my blood. My grandfather was part of the first wave of Mexican immigrants that settled in Los Angeles. He returned home to a small village in rural Oaxaca, with his savings and tales of the land of opportunity.


Both of my parents left Oaxaca in their early teenage years and began working long hours in Los Angeles, as a cook and a maid. The work ethic was passed down generations; from the cornfields in Oaxaca, to the restaurants in Los Angeles, to the classroom, which helped me thrive both in school and work.


On this particular night, as I walked through the front door at home, I saw an uplifting surprise: My mother had fallen asleep waiting up for me despite her own long day. I tucked the cash tips I made that night into her purse and turned off the TV.


I peered into our bedroom where my brothers and cousins were lost in their blissful dreams. Watching my siblings snore and breathe slowly sparked a yawn that cued the rest of my body’s delayed exhaustion. However, it would be a while before I could join them in sleep. I had an essay due early the next morning, and Ms. DePaolo doesn’t accept late work.