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Eight pastel colored marshmallows bobbed around the teal tinted milk, clinging to the walls of the white ceramic bowl, attempting to dodge the many relentless attacks of the nefarious spoon. My callow young hands grasped the foreign silver oval on a stick and plunged it into the depths of the white abyss, finally scooping up my meticulously thought out and desired victims, the green four leaf clover and the distorted eggplant colored horseshoe. Every single tiny piece of sugarcoated oats and “ugly” marshmallows of Lucky Charms cereal had been excavated in a particular order and confronted their doom of my under-bitten teeth. Three individually selected marshmallows remained as if they were survivors aboard lifeboats of the Titanic: the cotton candy pink heart, the crimson balloon, and the rainbow. My heart reached out to these carefully gleaned treats, but my tummy growled louder, and the heart and balloon became necessary casualties. Alone in an empty bowl and surrounded by colorlessness, the rainbow charm was a symbol of hope and vibrancy that even at the age of four I could not take away. Every morning I left a rainbow Lucky Charm marshmallow in my cereal bowl.

There are benefits to being unusual. Since I was a baby and stood up for the first time, not to attempt walking but to dance on a table, I have never been one with the generic crowd. My dad has always called me “the most unusual child”, probably because most young girls do not own two pet squirrels, or take up the flying trapeze, nor do they compete in swimming on a national level. But I am lucky to have been raised in an environment where individuality and creativity are encouraged, and compassion and gratitude are traits instituted in me instead of the temptation of becoming ignorant or ungrateful. Sure, I could be the only senior girl who has walked into her high school bathroom and discreetly picked up a large spider off the ground to bring it outside to prevent it from being purposely trampled by inconsiderate peers, but standing unaccompanied and being myself is always better than standing by and watching that spider be pointlessly killed. All my life I have felt an affinity towards those who courageously stand alone, even a spider or rainbow marshmallow, because I am one of them. However, just because I stand alone does not mean I am lonely.

Fortunately, being unique has not made me a hermit with low self-esteem, nor a confused and easily intimidated pushover who lacks the confidence to stand out, but it has taught me a sense of significance in not just myself, but everyone. I was born to be a leader. From organizing huge games of freeze tag on the recess yard to being one of the ten students leading my class this year on a retreat called Kairos, leadership and service are integral parts of who I am and will always be. Understanding my surroundings and truly seeing the qualities and feelings of those around me is an ability not everyone is born with, but one I was blessed with.

Besides being compassionate, the most important lesson I have learned in my young life is to be curious. I will never stop asking questions, and I have never settled for all of my questions being answered. One summer day my observant friend told me something about myself that I will never forget. “You know a lot of strange facts, Maureen” this was probably because I just informed her that the lemon she squeezed in her glass of water actually contained more sugar than the strawberries on her plate. Her point was proven by flipping through the Google history on my cell phone, which contained questions varying from “How do I get tree sap off my skin?” to “How much fiber is in flaxseed?” to “What does ‘kumbaya’ mean?” To this day I am never afraid to ask questions and gain new knowledge, even if it might be a little bit out of the ordinary.

Every body should express who they are and not hide, and personality should bend but not break in a society where people must act or look a certain way to be accepted. I have learned to not be the cowardly girls in the bathroom stomping on an innocent spider, or the boring sugarcoated oats in Lucky Charms, but to be the brave spider or the single vibrant marshmallow left in the cereal bowl. I will just be myself, because everyone else is taken.



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