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Taming the Hulk

By , Raleigh, NC
Prompt: How have you grown and developed over the years?

In just about ten minutes, I had gone from being composed to being a complete wreck. My vision was blurring. My mouth was dry. I was sweating profusely. Words were tumbling out faster than I could process them. I felt a deep anger slowly rise up and take control of my mind. The guy in front wasn’t in much better shape. Neither of us liked where this discussion was headed, but we were both too stubborn to give up. No, we weren't drunk. We were simply two eight graders with differing opinions on politics.
In middle school I loved to argue for the sake of arguing, even if I didn’t make much sense. The satisfaction I derived in “proving” my equally illogical peers wrong was a compelling force. I blame this whole phase and my ensuing passion for learning on my childhood. Freud would be proud.

I was born in a Paris hospital known for giving birth to the most immigrant babies. Yet my parents were both French as could be. At the age of four, my father died, though I was still too young to really notice. For three years, my mother juggled her career as an international journalist and my education. I suffered from periodical fits of rage that well informed psychiatrists attributed to a backfiring of the Oedipus Complex, which made my mother’s life all the more difficult. Otherwise, I had the childhood of a typical Parisian boy, visiting museums with my class, betting marbles at recess, and practicing judo on Wednesdays. At seven, my mom married an American engineer who subsequently adopted me. With a new dad beside me, I left my friends behind and moved to Texas, the land of cowboys and Indians.

However, unbeknownst to me, the years of Billy the Kid and Sitting Bull were long gone, and I arrived to discover Houston, the city of big highways, big cars, and big houses. The culture shock was huge. Children adapt easily though, and within three years, I was speaking comprehensible English, wearing my cowboy hat proudly, and pledging allegiance to the flag enthusiastically. But many of my peers found it hard to accept this French kid. I grew ashamed of my origins, silently wishing that my quiche and crème pistache lunches would transform into pizza or burgers. The anti-French wave that swept the nation following Dominique de Villepain’s UN speech condemning the Iraq War didn’t facilitate relations at school either. Not even ultimately obtaining my American nationality silenced my persecutors.

With this backdrop of failed integration, I went on the offensive in middle school, becoming overly outspoken about my origins, my beliefs, and my newfound interest in politics. Of course, most of my opinions and argument were poorly researched, a patchwork of my parent’s dinner conversations, the nightly news, and childhood fantasies. My opponents were not much better equipped, and for three years, I was a dissafectionate force of political, ethnical, philosophical reckoning.

With time, I grew tired of alienating others. I began to wonder about what made people tick. Why were my adversaries unlike me; what differentiated us? More importantly, what did they really believe? More slowly than before, I began to transform, searching less for conflict and more for knowledge. In my history classes, I became notorious for pestering my accommodating teachers with socially analytical questions not directly relevant to our state mandated curriculum. My English teachers generously stayed after class to satiate my literary curiosity. When the opportunities arose, I immersed myself in different cultures to better understand them. Despite warnings that curiosity killed the cat, I rushed headlong into the teaming sea of worldly discovery.

I still enjoy lively discussions about politics, religion, and society, but the joy of convincing others has been replaced with that of exchange and learning. My interests have only grown in the last few years and the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, and the topics have researched are numerous. Nonetheless, the world is overflowing with mysteries and my brain still has a lot of unused space.

Turning to the future, I find myself confronted with the realities of professional prospects and monetary necessities. So much emphasis is placed on financial success that I often worry that my educational focus will be too narrow and so much will remain unknown. My hope is that college will be the alternative, a sanctuary of higher learning in all reaches of life. For now, I am divided by a question of utter importance: should I choose The Life and Select Works of Thomas Jefferson or The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian for my bedside reading?





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