October 22, 2012
By Anonymous

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.


I love this quote. With its focus on courage and discipline, it is something I have triumphantly come to own over the last two years. My childhood has not been idyllic: I have suffered enormous loss and I made many mistakes in response to that loss. But my challenges have also taught me lessons that some people aren’t fortunate enough to learn throughout a lifetime.

One sunny March afternoon when I was twelve my world became dim. The normal became surreal. My mom met us at the school bus, crying. When inside, we were told to stay downstairs and wait. Something wasn’t right; my dad’s car was in the driveway, his coat was on the kitchen chair, but he was nowhere in sight. Before long, the police and paramedics were at the door. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run upstairs and just see my dad. My uncle and aunt soon arrived and whisked my sister and me away. As we drove off, I knew deep down that I would never see my dad again. My mom told us that night, through tears, that my dad was gone. He had committed suicide. The pain I felt was indescribable.
I was in a bad place after my dad died: darkness enfolded me and I lost my direction. I did poorly in school both freshmen and sophomore years and I made other negative choices, as well. But all along I knew this wasn’t really me. I knew had to change, but I couldn’t find the strength or clarity to do so until the summer before my junior year when I suffered another devastating loss; a friend died in an automobile accident. Wow. I now knew for certain how short life can be. It became really clear to me that I didn’t have time to waste. I needed to get my life on track.
After Erica died, I researched churches in my area and came across one that seemed right. I reached out to staff, which embraced me and helped me to find my footing on a positive path. I started my junior year with my head high and am very proud to say that I made honor roll all year and am doing just as well senior year. I have come out of the darkness into a bright and meaningful place.
In the past 2 years, I have learned to smile again and to do so with pride and genuine joy. The tragedy that I suffered and the mistakes I made are part of who I am. In spite of the pain, these events have made me so much deeper and wiser. As Aristotle Onassis said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” I have learned that focusing to see the light is a hard-won, but incredibly valuable discipline.

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