I grew up in Canton, Massachusetts with a big, well-known, and respected family. I was known by who my grandparents, parents, and cousins were. Anywhere I went, I would always hear the words, “oh my gosh, you’re a Gunning!” Having a big family in a small town meant that we saw each other every weekend and often throughout the week. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went to every hockey, football, and soccer game to support each other, whether it was my uncle coaching or my cousins playing. My life was carefree and simple until a curve ball was thrown my way.
Tragedy struck our family in 2016 when my uncle, Tom Gunning, passed away when a tree limb fell on him. His death had an impact on the entire Canton community and changed my family’s lives forever. The town came together as one giant family for us: green bows and ribbon commemorating my uncle and his impact on the town were hung on doors, telephone poles, storefront windows, and homes everywhere. Witnessing the sense of bonding within my community opened my eyes to the importance of being a good person and wanting to make my own mark as my uncle clearly made his.
For years, I watched my uncle balance his busy life with ease. That ability to balance was what made him special. I started to think about who I wanted to be, and realized that I valued many of the characteristics exhibited by my uncle. I am a driven student and worker, a loyal daughter, sister and friend and I hope to be successful in college and in my future career. I have learned the importance of lending a shoulder to cry on and listening to one’s fears even when I felt the pain so deeply. Even during my grieving process, I was able to support my mom, my cousins, my aunt and my grandparents during a time of difficulty. I know these qualities seem quite simple but too often we lose sight of the simple things in life. I have not lost sight and I will continue to emulate Tom’s characteristics. Growing into a young adult and looking back on what I have learned from my uncle’s life, I am satisfied with how I have lived my life in my small town and I am ready for change.
I look forward to finding a new community of my very own in college, armed with the qualities I learned from uncle Tom. I am eager to move away because I want to be a part of a new community where I don’t know anyone. Somewhere no one knows my name or cannot pick me out of a crowd. Somewhere I get to decide how people will perceive me. I enjoyed being part of a fantastic community, however, I want the chance to start fresh in an unfamiliar place where I can create a relationship with an entirely new community. The foundation of life lessons that I learned from my uncle and from growing up in my hometown has grounded me to make the next leap into college. I will take the lessons learned on being a trusted friend, selfless person and dedicated student and I will apply myself to all that college has to offer. I will walk into an unfamiliar setting and make it my home for the next four years. I will make new memories, establish new friendships, and make my own mark as my uncle did.