Throughout my life, people have come to me for help and advice. I've always been the one with attentive ears and an eternally vacant shoulder. Though very few people were willing to return the favor, there was always one girl there for me.
When I was four, my parents divorced. I didn't really understand what was going on, all I knew was that my daddy was gone. After a while, it seemed like every day was an uphill battle. I rarely saw my father. I couldn't explain my feeling of being unwanted but she already understood. She looked at me with big green eyes, and smiled.
"Be strong," I heard. I tried, believe me I tried, but it's not easy for an eight-year-old to take on the "mature" role in a parent/child relationship.
A few years later my mom remarried. As in numerous blended families, my brother and my step-father didn't get along. When I was eleven, my brother moved out. I was heartbroken. My only brother had left. Again, I turned to my confidant.
"He's not far away," she told me. "He's still your brother and he loves you very much." I listened to her and kept my chin up. My brother and I are closer now than ever.
More time passed and life unfolded without ado, until my perseverance was tested. I began to date a Hispanic guy. We had a lot of fun together and I decided I wanted Mom to meet him. I brought him to the house and my life hasn't been the same since. I was forbidden to see him again, and if I did I would face severe consequences. When I asked her to explain her reasoning, I was told, "Don't you care that people will stare at you when you walk through the mall together?" I explained to her that I didn't care, but my words went unheard. My opinion mattered not. I couldn't believe what was happening to me. I needed her now more than ever. I went to her with red, puffy eyes and little belief left in free thinking. This time, her smile did not readily come. Her eyes did not sparkle the way they once had. She spoke to me in a calm, but stern voice.
"Not everyone thinks as you do, and you have to respect the opinions of others. Listen to what people have to say, but don't lose sight of what you believe."
Through the good times and the bad, she's been there for me. She's proud when I'm successful, critical when I'm cocky, and supportive when I'm weak. I don't think I could have made it this far without her. She's in a glance at the mirror or a glimpse in a lake on a sunny day. She is me. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.