Margaret Carmel Semper Paratus?



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Margaret Carmel
Semper Paratus?
It’s amazing to think that two simple Latin words could affect someone’s life so
much. These two simple words have dictated my, and my mother and father’s, lives
before me for over 30 years.

Semper Paratus(Always Ready), is the motto of the United States Coast Guard. As a


child of an Officer my entire life, I have been moved all across the country being
from nowhere and everywhere simultaneously. Moving in and out of others lives,
and gaining friends all over the county, and even the world. To most of the people I
met, I was there for only a blink of an eye and now only exist on Facebook. But to
me, they will always be in my heart as one of many who shaped me in innumerable
ways.

Both my parents were born in the suburbs of Boston and grew up very poor. My


Father went to the Coast Guard Academy for college, and my Mother studied
Microbiology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They met
because my Dad needed a date for the reception of his graduation from the academy
and mutual friends touted my Mom as a “good sport”. Fast forward several years,
and my parents married in a small chapel close to their childhood homes.

After moving around the country for 6 long years, they finally decided to try for a


child. I was born shortly after they arrived in Indianapolis for my Dad’s grad school.
After two years, we moved again to North Carolina where I spent 5 years in a house
surrounded waving soybeans, rumbling combines, and wide-open spaces. Soon, a
cat, named “The Cat”, and a little brother, joined me.

Shortly before my seventh birthday, my Dad was transferred again to Mobile


Alabama, a sprawling suburb with blistering temperatures, a deeply segregated
society, and football rivalries running (almost) as deep as the Civil War. Following
three trying years in the Deep South, we moved even further south to Corpus Christi,
Texas. Here a palm tree rustled in the back yard, coyotes howled at night, and most
all signs where in two languages. I rode horses out in the scrubland, watching the
burning desert sunsets, and listened to immigration debates rage on as my Mexican
next-door neighbors laid low by covering their yard in American paraphernalia and
only playing Spanish music behind closed doors.

While my parents hated to leave their newfound love Texas, I was ready to move on


when my Dad received orders for his second tour in Kodiak, Alaska. While I reveled
in the green mountains, wildlife, and a deep respect for the environment and hard
work, I felt constricted by the conservative society and stressful middle school
years. Needless to say, when the orders to Virginia came I mourned for the black and
beaches, rushing streams and my old creaky World War 2 era house but was glad to
kiss my classmates goodbye. After three wonderful years in Virginia for high school,
I find myself here at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Growing up, I found myself constantly caught between two worlds. I was raised with


my parents’ New England sensibility and working class background, but I grew up
mostly in southern states where fake hospitality, closed doors and closed minds
abound.

I constantly felt challenged by my peers, my neighbors, my teachers, my church


leaders, and others to assimilate into the society that I found myself in. Instead, I
stayed true to myself although “myself” doesn’t truly fit in anywhere. My speech is
tinged with traces of southern and northern lilts, with slang coming from
everywhere. Instead of changing myself to fit the place, I let each place influence me
a little bit at a time so I can grow to be a very well rounded person. While sometimes
I questioned whether I was “Always Ready” for the challenges ahead, after this
whirlwind of a childhood I know for sure that I am prepared to tackle anything that
might lie ahead.
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