"You'll never be a successful lawyer. Even ifyou try, you'll never make it." The words are still so fresh it seems asthough they were said yesterday. The shame and anger I felt still seeps throughmy veins and the voice shrieks through my ears like a broken record that won'tstop. It isn't the voice of a peer, rival or someone I shouldn't respect. It'sthe voice of my eighth-grade history teacher - Mrs. Smith*.
That year, Idecided I really wanted to be a lawyer. I told everyone I had my heart set on it,and they encouraged me. Except for one person.
In my last class of theyear, I started a conversation with Mrs. Smith. More people became involved and Ibroached the topic of becoming a lawyer. With only 30 seconds of the school yearleft, the words that changed my life rolled out of her mouth loud enough for theentire class to hear -"You'll never be a successful lawyer." I didn'tknow what to say. I wasn't exactly student of the year, but I
wasn'tstupid. I admit I was slightly talkative in her class, but I didn't think it wasenough for a teacher to insult me directly. Confused, I looked at her with myeyes full of tears and left the classroom as the bell rang. I haven't talked toher since.
I was so hurt at first, and extremely angry, too. All I couldthink about was getting her in trouble or telling everyone what a bad person shewas. Once I cooled down and gave it some thought, I realized it was the bestthing anyone had ever said to me. It was better than encouragement and kindwords; it was reality, something that had never occurred to me. It wasn't untilthat moment I realized becoming a lawyer was going to take a lot of hard work. IfI don't give everything 110% effort, Mrs. Smith might end up being right.
In addition to the reality check, I was inspired to prove her wrong andprove to my-self that I was better than she had made me feel. Once I become thatsuccessful law-yer, I will find Mrs. Smith and face her like I had been tooscared to do at 13. Instead of yelling and bragging that I proved her wrong, allI will say is, "Thank you, Mrs. Smith."
* Name changed.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.