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55 Gold Fish

55 Gold Fish Amber Taylor served in the United States Marine Corps from 2012-2016 where she worked as Field Radio Operator. She is a nursing student from Wampum, Pennsylvania and currently resides in the Wilmington area with her two kids, Gabriel (5) and Evelyn (2).

As a college student, I am very accustomed to writing research papers surrounded around facts; thus, I want to share some facts pertaining to my life.

The first fact is that the Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, and there is no worse team than the Patriots. In case you can’t tell, I grew up in a tiny town called Wampum, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and when I say, we love our Steelers, I mean we LOVE our Steelers, and our Penguins…and even our Pirates. 

The next fact is that there are 107,918 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. I sometimes joke that I never had a childhood or that my childhood truly started when I was 7 years old because in reality it feels that way. A few days before Halloween in October 1999, I was pulled out of the line heading to lunch and taken to the principal’s office. I can still remember that day very clearly because it would turn out to be that day that changed the entire course of my life. When I got to the office I saw my little brother (he was 5, I was 7) and this very nice lady informing us that, yet again, our mother was arrested and that they were going to take us somewhere new to live while everything got sorted out. We headed to our home where our 4 year old sister was waiting, and just like the movies, we had a garbage bag and collected some of our clothing and personal belongings, and the three of us were on our way. When I hear the stories of children in foster care in the news, I often think about how lucky we were. The family we were sent to live with could not have cared for us better. My brother and sister would only spend a few months in the home, but I stayed with this amazing family for almost 3 years when I was finally adopted. Another fact is that the average child awaiting adoption is 8 years old and 62% of all adoptions in the US involve children under 1 month of age. So I have always been so grateful that my wait for adoption came a lot sooner than I ever expected.  

The next fact is that there are roughly 700 known species of extinct dinosaurs. When I was thinking of the perfect fact to add here, I had a lot of options. I could have used a fact about the solar system, a specific make and model of car, the amount of sugar in a can of pop, every single piece of a computer’s motherboard, or even 999 of that ways to die in “1000 Ways to Die,” because these are just a handful of the hot topics that filled our lives over the years. When I found out I was to be adopted in 2001, I learned that not only was I getting a mother and father, but I was also getting two brothers, who like 1 in 160 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  And if you’ve ever loved a child on the spectrum, you’d understand when I say these topics and “facts,” invaded every part of our lives even at seemingly inappropriate times. Growing up in a home with my brothers was often very hard and even more frustrating at times, but I can 100% say, I would never change who they are or what they taught me and even more how they let me see what it looks like when a parent gives every part of their being to ensure their children get the care and resources they deserve. My parents are the true definition of love, and I am forever grateful for not only the opportunities they gave to me but the lessons they gave to me as well; like it’s not a disability but a differing ability.  

The next fact is that the Simmonds’ test is used in lower limb examination to test for the rupture of the Achilles’ tendon. Even with the busy schedules my parents had and the full plate they carried daily, they always ensured I was able to participate in the activities that sparked my interest; which included 8 different sports. Of those 8 sports, Basketball and Cross Country stole my heart and took up 90% of life in high school. I am one of those psychos who actually loves running! So on February 11, 2009, when I found myself looking up from the basketball court following a loud pop, I thought my life was going to literally end and when the doctor at the ER said I would need emergency surgery to repair the Achilles tendon rupture; the only thing I could think of was how I wouldn’t be able to run in the upcoming cross country season. But it was the recovery from this injury and my one-year long med board wait that really showed me the value of perseverance. 

The next fact is that women make up just 8% of the Marine Corps. It was in recruit training that learned how hard it could be being a female in the Marine Corps. Following the ceremony where we received our first Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, our Senior Drill Instructor sat us down and gave us some sound advice. She told us “you have to work at least twice as hard as every other Marine, and everything you do is going to be done under a microscope. And even when you do work twice as hard, there are going to people who say you don’t deserve what you have purely on the fact you are a female, and you can’t let what they say take away from your accomplishments.” And I remember wanting to ask her if she realized it was 2012 and not 1912, that this is not the mindset people have this day in age. But it wouldn’t be too much longer until I realized how naive I was at that time, and even now that I am out of the Marine Corps, I still understand the importance of what she said because it’s true in everyday life. There will always be people telling you don’t deserve what you worked for, but in the end, you can’t give their words the power to take your accomplishments away from you. And although I cannot say I am particularly thankful for all the people who told me I didn’t deserve what I worked 24/7 to accomplish, I am thankful for the ones who taught me how to stand up for myself, the ones who pushed me and taught me to use my anger to do and be better, for the ones who stood by me when I thought I didn’t want to do it anymore (both male and female). And I am especially thankful that it showed me how tough I really am.  

The next fact is that there are 55 goldfish in a cup. I’m not going to talk long about this (because I could probably talk for hours about how smart, caring, strong, and sassy they are), but I can’t ignore the fact that my children have probably shaped and motivated me more than anything in my life. It is because of them that I am standing here today, because I wanted to show them that no matter how scared you are, you can do anything you set your mind to, that you are stronger, braver, and smarter than you could ever give yourself credit for. 

The last fact is that there are nearly 900,000 veterans enrolled in college programs. I am so grateful for the educational opportunities that my service earned me, not only because of the value an education holds, but because of the community it has given me here at Cape Fear. There is nothing better than walking into the Veterans Center on campus after a hard test and having this group of mismatched people there to support and cheer you on, people who you have nothing in common with besides your service to this country. The veteran community and the support given to us at this school is something I value each and every day.

By Amber Taylor, United States Marine Corps

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