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Against the Current This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Union City, CA
A river flowed down his doleful face. Years of taunting had finally taken its toll. Farzad’s exceptional intelligence and unique appearance became a target for constant mockery. Endlessly, fellow eighth-graders spewed acid-like remarks. I remember that pleading gaze, those desperate eyes. I remember my abandonment of a classmate.
At the tender age of thirteen, my peers defined me. Unable to escape the pressure of social judgment, I relinquished my individuality. I denied Farzad just as I denied unfashionable flare jeans. I became just another faceless person in a faceless crowd. At times I felt empowered to defy that crowd and defend Farzad. Yet, just as quickly as that power appeared, it vanished. Instead, the fear of exclusion gripped my mind and froze my heart. I ignored Farzad’s pain and joined in the laughter directed at him.

I moved away that year. I left Farzad behind and continued to follow a crowd headed for some unknown destination—possibly off the edge of a cliff. Two years later, I met a little elderly lady at a senior center. She danced alone without music and talked in a conspicuous manner. I honestly felt embarrassed for her. What would others think? She must have felt my gaze for she turned and approached me. Even now, two years later, the words she etched into my brain cannot be erased. "You might think that I’m not right in the head but I dominate your mind. It doesn’t matter what others say about you because it means you dominate their minds. There’s something about you that makes them whittle away their precious time to bother with you."

That quirky lady taught me a life lesson that some people never learn. Others may judge and ostracize me for my actions, but at the end of each day I determine my value. I determine my importance. I may be condemned for a brief moment in time, but I will be exonerated for far longer. The me of four years ago abandoned Farzad, but the me of today would gladly extend an arm to rescue a drowning soul.

I am not an especially unique person. I have not attempted to find the cure to cancer. I have not developed my own mathematical formula. I am not a piano prodigy. I am unique, however, in that I have traveled against the current. I have spoken my thoughts, voiced my concerns, and “dominated” the minds of others. I am proud to say… I am not a sheep.




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