the bistro off broadway


Family: A Powerful Force
By Ashley Jolley
Edison State Composition 1 student

The cohesive unit of a family to Chelsea Coffee is more important than any one person in her life. Yes, there are many people who have influenced her greatly over the course of her life, but the overall family dynamic is what really has influenced her the most. “I mean, yes. There are a few individuals who have personally had an impact on my life, but when I really think about it, it’s the entire family dynamic that has had the biggest influence on me.”

Chelsea Coffee, 26 years old, graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies teacher education. Directly after graduation, she was granted employment at Olentangy High School in Columbus, Ohio as a 10th grade civics teacher. Chelsea takes great interest in sports and politics, as well as travel.  She is proud of her accomplishments and reveals that she would not be where she is today if it wasn’t for a certain handful of people in her life.

The most influential person in Chelsea’s life is her mother, Ginny Coffee.  For all her life, Chelsea has always been a mom’s girl. As far back as she can remember, she has always wanted to be with her mom, be like her mom, or be around her mom, and that has overwhelmingly shaped her into the person that she is today. She recalls a time when she was little where she remembers just sitting on her mom’s bed watching her get ready, and wanting to be just like her and do everything as she did. Ginny is the nicest, most encouraging woman that Chelsea has ever known; everyone who meets her is immediately drawn to her. “She could make a friend talking to a trashcan”, Chelsea added as she began to laugh. Her whole life, she has greatly looked up to her mother and wants to be just like her. The two also have a lot of the same characteristics. “We sound the same and look the same. I’ve just always really admired her, and I think the person that I am today is largely based around the woman who raised me.”

The realization that Ginny was a very important figure in Chelsea’s life came to her at a very young age. She would get bizarre panic attacks whenever her mom would leave her, starting in the 5th grade. “It was one of the first days of school; she dropped my sister and I off and then went to work. I was like oh my gosh why is mom not here? It was so strange and lasted for like two months.” This was the point in her life when she realized how important her mother was to her. Anytime in junior high, high school, college, or even now, when she is having a rough day, her mom is the one that she calls. “She is the first person that I want to tell good news to, bad news to, or vent to.” In any situation, Ginny knows exactly what to say to make Chelsea feel better and encourages her to move beyond things that may seem horrible.

Without her mother in her life, Chelsea would have no idea where she would be today. She questions whether or not she would be as outgoing or personable. “Literally, the person I am today is a direct result of my mom.” Chelsea is known for her outgoing personality, and this makes her a wonderful teacher, according to her students.  She also doesn’t know if she would have the same career because her mom is a teacher and that influenced Chelsea to become one as well. Over the course of Chelsea’s life, her mom has perfectly exemplified what it is to be a caring human being. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you look like, everyone deserves to be treated like they’re important. “I think that has really influenced me as not only a human being, but also as a teacher. I really try to take that into consideration in my room.” Ginny has all the character traits that your teachers always tell students to have. “She’s loving, she’s kind, she’s funny, and she’s respectful. She just exemplifies the best type of person.”

In addition to her mother, Chelsea has another very influential person in her life. Her sister, Abby, is someone who she’s always looked up to. “It’s like the women in my life have made me the woman that I am.” Chelsea describes Abby has a firecracker. “People think I’m loud, but that girl is a firecracker.” Chelsea started to realize how important Abby was to her at a young age as well. Events that she didn’t notice while growing up but could be seen in pictures were things like her always following Abby around, giving her food, or always wanting to play with her. In 1st or 2nd grade was when she really started to realize it. The girls would walk to and from school every day and Chelsea would find herself attempting to do things as Abby would, like trying to dress and act like her. “I’ve obviously become my own person, but a lot of that also revolves around watching her grow up and seeing the things that she did and learning from her success and mistakes.”

“Abby and my mom are so similar, it’s crazy.” Ginny could make a friend while talking to a trashcan; According to Chelsea, Abby is the same exact way. They’re both outgoing, they’re both kind, and they’re both very involved with politics, which is something that Chelsea says has also greatly influenced her. “Both of them are also very politically active which has also had a very big influence on me, clearly, I mean I teach government all day long.” They have many similarities but they also differ in some aspects. Abby is more outspoken than Ginny is. She’s not afraid to say things that might offend people. If somebody says something that she thinks is offensive, then she’s very quick to jump on them. Ginny would pull herself away from a situation that might lead to conflict. “Abby welcomes conflict in her life.”

What makes Ginny more influential in Chelsea’s life is the fact that she is always around and willing to talk. Abby currently lives in New York City, and after she graduated college she backpacked Europe, Southeast Asia, and then lived in Australia, so she hasn’t been around as much. “We FaceTime all the time, but my mom is just always there and there are certain things that you just need someone to sit down and talk to.” Doing this is much different than video chatting someone to talk about your issues. Ginny is also older and has experienced more of life than Abby has. She is a teacher like Chelsea so that’s something she can give good advice about. It’s not something that Abby can necessarily relate to.

Many life lessons have been taught from the two of these people. Abby has taught her sister that you truly need to live life to the fullest. “She’s not preoccupied with the norms of society”. Once she graduated from the University of Pittsburg, she decided that she was not ready to get a normal job. She wanted to travel so she made it happen and that’s what she’s been doing ever since. She’s not afraid to live life to the fullest. “People are so bogged down with what they’re ‘supposed to do’ in life and Abby is just care free. That’s very inspiring because I tend to get caught up in what I’m supposed to be doing and what my life is supposed to look like.” While talking about her sister, Chelsea started to become a bit emotional. “My sister and I just have such a strong bond, and not being able to see her as much as I would like to really makes me sad. We used to be inseparable.”  Chelsea’s mood began to rise when she started to talk about her mother again. The biggest life lesson that her mother has taught her is that you have to be appreciative of all different kinds of people.  She proudly added, “She’s gay, and I think that I’m much more open to difference than a lot of people are because of her and because of how accepting she is of everyone regardless and I think that is very important.”

Chelsea’s likes and dislikes have been influenced by both of these people as well. All of them think politically in the same way, which is partly because her mother was not afraid to talk about politics when they were growing up.  As she began to smile, “Politics are something we get excited to talk about. We may not always agree with little things, but when looking at the big picture we definitely are all on the same page.” Abby has also influenced her liking of sports. Sports that Abby did growing up, Chelsea wanted to do as well. Abby played volleyball growing up, and Chelsea followed in her footsteps. “I love volleyball. I play volleyball, I coach volleyball, and I do that because Abby did it first.” In addition, anything that her mom likes, Chelsea tends to be a fan of. “I think that just comes as a part of growing up with a person.”

There are two other people who Chelsea says have influenced her. These people are her dad, Mark, and her mom’s partner, Susan. Susan has been a part of her life ever since she was seven, and is also massively influential. “We have a very functional, dysfunctional family. You would think that oh, your parents got divorced, your mom’s gay, but we all just function great together. My dad and Susan get along wonderfully.” Mark even goes on family vacations with the girls. Chelsea goes on to say that the family dynamic as a whole has influenced her more than any one individual has.  When talking about her family, Chelsea once again starts to become emotional. “I just don’t know what I would do without my family. When I really step back and look at it like this, I realize how much they’ve done for me over the years and I can’t thank them enough for everything.”  Her mom and Susan have been together since she was in the first grade and her dad has been a part of it since they got together. “My immediate family is just a huge part of the way that I am.” Family to her has been, and always will be very important; she accredits all of her success to them and would be nowhere near the person she is today without them.
Editor’s Note: Edison State Darke County Composition students were required to do an interview with someone who was important in their lives. This essay was one of four assigned in the course, with this student’s submission chosen for its narrative quality and insight during the interview.

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