Updated: Jul 24, 2019
My name is Christopher Ortiz-Rangel, and this is the story of my life. I am fourteen years old, about to turn fifteen in September. I have lived in Durham, North Carolina since the day I was born. I live with four other people: Alberto, my dad; Juana, my mom; Brayam, my older brother; and Anderson, my younger brother. I was the unfortunate middle child of the family, always given the seconds of the oldest, and never getting the same attention as the youngest. My extended family is complicated. The reason I say this is because my “cousin”, Jonathan, who I usually hang out with, is actually my uncle, but is younger than me by a month. I know it's weird that your uncle is younger than you, which makes the family tree confusing. This only applies for my mother’s side of the family because on my dad’s side, its normal.
My family is pretty big, so big that at some parties, my parents take me to a man and woman I have never seen before and say, “Ellos son tus tios.”(“They are your uncle and aunt”). It's weird because these people I have never seen before that respond with, “Ya creció mucho desde la última vez que lo vi.” (“He grew a lot since the last time I saw him”). And then I am there, nodding my head, like I am agreeing with them as if I knew them, but inside I have no idea when they've ever seen me before. This only happens every once in awhile.
At the time I am writing this, it is the summer before the first year of high school for me. I have already graduated from elementary and middle school. Now, it is time to take on high school at Durham Academy. The thing about attending Durham Academy is that people are surprised I’m going there. For the most part, the common reaction is, “How are you able to pay that tuition?” By the way, the reason they ask this is because the tuition is around $26,000. Well, the answer is that I got financial aid and help from my middle school, Durham Nativity School. Durham Nativity is an all boys school that helps young minority men to have a career in the future and sends them to private, independent high schools in Durham or out-of-state.
Durham Nativity is not like any other middle school. Their policies are rigorous and they have long school hours. School started at 7:30am and ended at 6:00pm. I don’t know how I survived those three years in middle school. Still, I’m grateful for Durham Nativity because they engraved into each student independence, integrity, respect, leadership, and confidence. With their strict academic system, I was challenged and learned topics that were necessary in life. I also learned the value of community service during my time at Durham Nativity. Every Wednesday, we went to a place where we could volunteer. In sixth grade, we went to Hillcrest, a senior care provider home. In seventh grade, we stayed at the school and helped around there. In eighth grade, we assisted Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, an organization that packages food for kids all around Durham. We were able to help out by making bags and placing them in the delivery vans. I hope that that was enough to prepare me for a new community in high school.
My hobbies have changed throughout the years. At first, it was sitting down and watching television. I was born in the era that technology was developing. My brother and I would wake up early Saturday morning and go downstairs to watch our cartoons. We would usually stay there for two hours before we got up and made breakfast for ourselves (usually cereal). Then we would go back to watching our shows. That was the first hobby I can remember. After that it became soccer. Soccer has been a part of my life every since I was introduced to it at a young age. At first, I wasn’t very good. I couldn’t kick the ball properly, dribble, or do any tricks. But that didn’t stop me from liking the sport. I started to practice with my older brother and from there I become better.
Soccer is still my favorite sport, but I have tried new sports, for example, basketball and tennis. Soon my hobby started to change yet again. Only this time, it was eating. From what I can remember and the pictures my mother had of me when I was young, I was pretty skinny. Skinny as in you can see my ribs when I had no shirt on. I think that’s why my parents didn’t stop me from eating a lot. We also started to go to more fast food restaurants for some time. This was the beginning of my chubbiness. Many people disagreed with me when I called myself “fat” and instead said I had “some extra meat”. This carried on until the summer before middle school. The only reason I decided to stop and look at my health (I had asthma), is because I wanted to slim down before going to a new school. Another reason was because Durham Nativity School had a uniform policy. This uniform consisted of a French blue shirt, khaki pants, black shoes and socks, and a yellow and blue tie.
Now the uniform didn’t bother me that much. It was the other policy they did; a clean, short haircut. Now, if you knew me, I liked my hair long, as well as other boys. So when I heard that I had to have my hair cut short for the next three years, I wasn’t happy. But I wanted to look nice in the uniform, so I tried to cut down on the food and I started running and playing more soccer. But, It was hard for me because of my asthma. This got me to create a brand new hobby: exercising. During the three years of middle school, I became more physical and athletic. Soon, my body changed from a chubby, short, un-athletic kid with asthma to a slim, athletic, tall teenager finishing middle school. This is still my hobby as I am writing this. I’m still playing soccer and running, but now I’m beginning to ride my bike more.
I have lived in the same house for as long as I can remember. My parents say they lived in an apartment, when I was a baby, and they had photos to prove it. But right after I was born, we moved into a house. This is where I start to remember things. It was a two story house with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and living room. My older brother and I shared one room and my parents where in the other. It was a good four years of living as a family of four. I was the youngest, so I had some attention. Then came my younger brother. I was happy that I wasn’t going to be the youngest, but I didn’t realize that he was going to have a lot more attention than me.
Then it began, me being the middle child. I soon started to grow into my older brother's clothes, not getting any brand new, never worn before clothes. Being the middle child is tough. I have respect for others who are a middle child. I say this because I can relate to it. Your other siblings have all the attention because they’re either the oldest, so your parents take care of them because they are going to leave first, or the youngest, and they get attention because they are still your parents “baby”.
As a middle child, I had to suffer from not being as spoiled as much as brothers. I rarely get the things that I want, unlike my brothers. If my younger brother wants a toy, my parents have to buy it because “Tu hermano es un niño. Él no entiende todavía.” (“Your brother is a kid. He doesn’t understand yet”). I usually ask for small items, for example, candy or soda, but my parents say no. They say “Ya para, tu eres grande para ser eso.”(“Stop, you’re too old to do that”). When I was a kid, and my parents said that, I usually didn’t understand, but I guess that’s what you have to endure when you’re the middle child of the family.
I usually get jealous of my older brother because he gets to do what he wants to do. I mean, I guess that’s what you’re able to do when you’re the oldest brother of your family. Recently, I have been getting attention for being able to attend Durham Academy. It feels different when you are the person others are talking about, and not your brothers, who usually get the spotlight.
When I am older, I want to travel the country and the world. Before sixth grade, I hadn’t been outside the country and the farthest I have been from Durham is Kentucky. So when I heard I had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa, I was ecstatic. I was twelve years old at the time and had never flown on an airplane before, much less gone across the whole Atlantic Ocean, so I was excited. This was all possible by a Duke surgeon that visited my middle school and wanted to take some of us on a one week trip to Uganda, when he went to help at hospitals. His name was Dr. Haglund.
Dr. Haglund made it possible for eight students and two teachers to travel from Durham, North Carolina, in America to Kampala, Uganda. We spent a whole week there, visiting schools, hospitals, universities and touring the city. I was the only sixth grader picked to go. The trip to Uganda was dreadful. It was approximately 23 hours from Durham to Boston, then we went from Boston to Amsterdam on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, we took a flight from Amsterdam to Uganda. As I stated earlier, I haven’t flown on an airplane before, so traveling to Africa was a big step and I now understand why it can be stressful. I enjoyed the experience of being involved in a different environment and culture so much that it has motivated me to travel more and experience new cultures. Places I am already thinking about traveling to are: Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and somewhere in Kenya.
I haven’t experienced that much in my life yet, but I hope that I’m able to experience more. I feel that I haven’t had that much of an interesting life, and that I can change that around when I am older. I know that I have experienced some situations that others haven’t, but there are events I haven’t encountered yet that others have, like going surfing or skydiving. Therefore, I've decided to take as many opportunities as I can so I am able to have different experiences. I wouldn’t say I am a risk taker, but I am not a shy person either. I would say that I am the type of person that knows my limits. I like that I am that way because I am able to risk some, but also not overdo it. I am Christopher Ortiz-Rangel, and that was my story of my life…. so far.