Rules or responsibilities

It’s 1:00 p.m., and 5th block has just started. As I make my way past the flagpole and towards Eucalyptus Street, I scan my surroundings rigorously. I know that I’m not supposed to be doing this, but I’ve made up my mind, and my decision is final. Exhaling heavily, I start my way up the block and begin my walk home. At nearly every corner, I felt like someone would spot me and I would face the consequences. 

I’ve always been one to follow the rules. My parents taught me to always listen to my superiors, never be absent from class, and never cause any trouble. I tried to uphold those expectations during my first years at Lowell. When Lowellites used to enjoy the open campus policy for lunch blocks, I also went off campus. But while most students would go to Stonestown, I would go home, tasked with a multitude of personal responsibilities — like taking care of my grandmother whenever my parents were unavailable. 

I now had to juggle two conflicting tasks at the same time: following the rules and carrying the responsibilities that were expected of me.

When senior year started and a closed campus policy was introduced, I was presented with a difficult decision. My parents were out of town to help move my brother to college, leaving house responsibilities solely to me for the first time. I now had to juggle two conflicting tasks at the same time: following the rules and carrying the responsibilities that were expected of me. My parents had been aware of the policy, but didn’t acknowledge how the two tasks conflicted with each other — only expecting me to find a way to make it all work out. I had no idea what would happen if I decided to stay at school; I was sure my mother would have thousands of punishments to throw at me for “not being a good, responsible grandson”. 

But while I was concerned with disobeying my parents, I worried more about my grandmother. She looked forward to seeing me and relied on me: whether it was going to the grocery store with her, carrying bags of vegetables whose names I couldn’t pronounce, or trying to explain to her that she didn’t need to spoil me with candy. Sometimes, she would even have me drive her across the Sunset neighborhood just to visit her gambling friends. Knowing that this was what my grandmother looked forward to doing with me, taking care of her was something I had to prioritize. It was very evident that being at school the whole day would have conflicted with these obligations.

I had always been the person that followed the rules, but I now had responsibilities that I could not ignore — responsibilities that I had to break rules to fulfill. When I woke up on the day my parents had left, I knew I needed to make a decision. I even thought about shirking my responsibilities to my family altogether, until the image of my grandmother alone for hours on end flashed again. My mind was racing throughout the day, and all I wanted to do was avoid making a decision. Although I skipped breakfast, my stomach felt heavy as I struggled to maintain focus during class. I couldn’t help but think about the possible ramifications. What if one of my teachers saw me outside and reported me to the administration? What if I was caught, it went on my permanent record, and it jeopardized college acceptances? Suddenly, what initially felt like a simple choice spiraled out of control in my head. 

…you have to make tough decisions sometimes, and in the moment all you can do is what feels right.

As I walked through the hallway and down the stairs, I weighed all of my options and their possible outcomes. As I played out each one, I realized that what my parents had told me about rules was wrong. There isn’t always a clear right choice and wrong choice, and sometimes it’s hard to balance both my responsibilities outside and inside of the classroom. As I walked towards Eucalyptus Drive, I realized that you have to make tough decisions sometimes, and in the moment all you can do is what feels right. It was ultimately my decision, not anybody else’s, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to my grandmother just because I was afraid to break a rule. I decided to put my personal duties first. If faced with consequences from the school, I would accept them because I knew that I had made the right decision.

Once I was home, I relaxed in the comfort of my choice. Whether it was the familiar scent of my dog, or the smell of the incense sticks burning from the living room, I started to do the same tasks I had been doing for years. There was no doubt in my mind that I was doing what I felt was right, despite always being told to never break the rules. While I might forget about the policy in a year, I’ll never forget about the people I care about. Since then, whenever it’s needed, I go straight home to my grandmother and dog. I eat lunch with them, she asks me about my grades, if I have any tests coming up, what TV shows I’m currently watching. Each time, I know that I’m making the right decision.