In Their Own Words – Eric

LUCA is proud to launch its second annual “In Their Own Words” series! Over the next few weeks, we will share personal statement essays written by the Latino U Scholars Class of 2022 so that our Scholars can introduce themselves and share their experiences – in their own words. All essays are shared with the permission of each Scholar. The essay below was written by Eric, a Latino U Scholar from Ossining High School.


The dinner rush in the busiest section of the restaurant— not exactly a gentle way to ease me into my first night as a busboy. But, my boss assigned it to me, and now I’m looking at a sea of hungry customers while trying to balance three plates between my elbow and my forearm. Trying to quiet the impatient voice in my head, I add the sushi platter to the stack, and—Oh no—there goes the soy sauce. The small plastic cup somersaults through the air, creating a splatter and then a spill that lands directly on the white button-down shirt of a customer. He jumps from his seat, thrusts his outstretched hands to the sky and — well, let’s just say if looks could kill, then I wouldn’t be around to write about it.

This unfortunate event took place at one of the busiest restaurants in town where I bussed tables this summer. My father has bussed tables here for a few years and has earned a solid reputation as one of the best employees; he got me the job interview. It was only natural that I would want to meet the high expectations that came with my job offer. But the minute I added the sushi platter to my arm and saw the tumbling soy sauce, I felt that I blew it. And since it was my first job, I had no idea what to do at that moment. I just handed a wet napkin to the red-faced customer and disappeared.

What will my dad say about this? About me? Will it reflect poorly on my dad? The next day on my drive into work, I could only hear the chorus of self-blame. The soy sauce hitting the customer’s white shirt also hit my sense of self. I had to remedy yesterday’s incident. Today, I was focused… rushing past a table with clenched hands, when I caught a customer looking my way. 

“What are your hands doing?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Uh, my bad.” I said, quickly putting my hands to my sides. 

“I’m just messing with you,” he said with a chuckle. It took me a few seconds to process his comment. “Well, this is a good place to make a lot of money, especially at your age, you must be having a great summer,” he said.

“I am. Enjoy your meal!”

A sense of clarity came over me: this – my summer—was my break from the grueling demands of homework, classwork, and exams. Why spend this time being anxious? I’m making money for the first time! I have plenty of time to develop myself as a worker and as a person. And I’ve got such a good role model, my amazing dad. 

My dad comes home from work smiling, whistling as he steps through the door: it’s as if he were out for a stroll in the neighborhood, not a long shift of bussing tables at the most crowded restaurant in town. His optimism in the face of setbacks and stress has washed over me. He has demonstrated to me that having a calm mind during a tough situation is the best step to move forward. Channeling … back at work the next night, I reach toward the table, grab five plates in swift succession, and then balance them perfectly on my outstretched arm. I am centered. Passing my dad as I stride through the door to the kitchen, we smile at one another and he gives me a wink. It’s not the events that happen to me that matter, but rather who I am as a person and how I deal with them. In other words, it’s all about what I bring to the table—of life.