"The world was here many a year before me, and it will be here many a year after I'm gone. I'll give credit where credit is due." These words have guided my life for a long time. It is one of those life lessons that we all should learn, but for some reason, many do not.
I want to tell you about myself, my life, my years growing up in small-town America, how it affected me, changed me, how my life up to this point has made me every bit of who I am, and why I would not change my past for anything in the world.
From an early age, adults have commented on my maturity, both in attitude and in demeanor. This was the adult perspective, but to other children I was different, pure and simple. When you're different, when you stand out from everyone else, you are an easy target. I became the verbal and physical punching bag for a choice few. Whoever coined the phrase "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" knew nothing. Some of my worst memories are words that were said, not punches that were thrown my way.
When I was nine or ten, most of the physical harassment stopped. The reason? I grew up - literally. I was the tallest person in my class. Most would-be bullies would rather deal with a less intimidating target, so, for the most part, I was left alone. I was still branded a social outcast by my peers, though. I'll probably never know why, but being on the fringe of child-society allowed me a unique perspective. I could peer into situations that did not involve me, and study them. I became fascinated with the choices people made. This position also granted me the friends I have today; like me, they were also rejects. Some were too smart and some just perceived reality differently. There were only a few of us. We were not preps, we were not jocks; if you had to label us, we were a bunch of freaks and geeks. I only had a few friends, but they were worth their weight in gold. These were friends I could trust with my life.
My junior year, and the summer following it, changed me. This year was the first in a long while that I found some semblance of acceptance with a majority of my peers. I can best analogize like this: we were all running a race, a race toward maturity. As with every race, some runners blaze forward while others fall behind. I do not want to sound narcissistic, but I was there waiting for everyone else to cross the finish line, and when they did, I could not resist the urge to ask "What took you so long?"
I know this sounds like the beginning. That's because it is. I am not here to explain how this tale will end, and that is where you come in. Through my trials I have become a better person; I have become strong-willed and not easily deterred by small misfortunes. Where I go to college will determine the rest of my life. I have decided that I want to pursue a career in psychology. I want to help others, especially those whose problems might stem from a troubled childhood. I want to help others discover the strength within, the way I was able to discover the strength that lies in me, the strength that will help me make my life and career a true success. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.