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Alex Galaxy: Eccentric Hero

Written for an essay contest. Dude, I need dough!

I have a friend who I call Alex Galaxy. Even though he's African-American and I'm Asian-American, we've been told that we look alike. It might have something to do with wearing glasses and having big lips.

We both have parents who struggled to succeed and make their children's lives better than their own. My parents are Filipino immigrants, while Alex's parents come from lower-income neighborhoods in Baltimore City. Today my parents are information technology professionals, while Alex's dad is a lawyer/judge and his mom is a teacher.

Nonetheless, the progress of one generation can have unexpected consequences on its children. Alex and his family were among the first African-Americans in their neighborhood, and Alex was one of the few black kids in his school. At home, his dad was often absent because he was working so hard to become the first black judge in his district, and his mom suffered from clinical depression. When Alex was only 13, dramatic events in his family nearly caused his parents to divorce, and Alex became his family's arbiter and counselor for more than a year. At this time, he started suffering from depression as well.

When Alex entered college, he slowly started to come out as gay, and he faced some terrible discrimination from his classmates. In some ways though, this experience bonded his family-- they gave him their unconditional support, and it literally saved his life.

On top of that, Alex lost a lot of his teeth as a kid and didn't get them back until right before college. He barely ever smiled in his secondary school pictures. But he makes up for it now, with his big, super-white teeth. That Alex smiles so freely today is a testament to what a giving person he is.

He was there for me when I had a major family crisis two years ago. Like Alex, I grew up as a non-white kid in a mostly white neighborhood. I could have been stereotyped as an Asian achiever when I was younger, but once I got to college, I started to pursue my true vocation: music and visual arts. My parents' frustration eventually resulted in a physical confrontation, which traumatized me for a long time. But my closest friends, especially Alex, were there to help me start healing my wounds.

Alex is no dramatic superhero, but he is a hero. Though he's extremely quirky, he's like a minister in his ability to empathize and counsel anyone (and he's counseled many) through his or her daily struggles. This kind of empathy is so important in a society that focuses so intensely on progress and achievement, sometimes at the expense of its citizens' well-being.

I hold Alex's example closely, especially now that I've moved away from my closest friends. For nearly a year, I've been going to school in New York. Even now, I sometimes long for my old life back in Maryland. And Alex Galaxy is one of the people I miss the most.

KAON NA @arlduc.org > WORD