My "Moment" MAG

December 16, 2008
By Melissa Nichols, Salt Lake City, UT

In movies and books, people often describe a defining moment when they figure out who they are. However, I never thought it actually happened in real life. I never expected to have a “moment” of my own. When it arrived, mine was much more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

During the spring of my junior year, my class watched a documentary called “The Invisible Children.” It was about three college students who take a trip to Africa and document their experience. At first the film was slightly humorous; the filmmakers clearly had no idea what they were getting into. One said at the beginning, “I don’t really know what to expect. I hope we don’t, like, die or something.”

However, once the group arrived in northern Uganda, the mood changed. They learned what the consequences of a 23-year war had been for thousands of children. Many had lost family and friends, some had younger siblings who were captured by the rebel army and recruited as child soldiers, others had no home and slept in alleys too cramped for us to comprehend. There was footage of night commuters and child soldiers, many younger than me.

Before long, I was sobbing. I just kept thinking, What have I been doing with my life? I couldn’t believe these things were happening, yet at the same time I knew they were. I just hadn’t been paying attention. For 17 years I was blissfully unaware in my little bubble of Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the movie ended, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Later at swim practice it was hard to understand how my teammates could laugh and joke after what we had just seen. When I got home that night, I tried to tell my parents about the film, but I couldn’t get the words out. I hiccupped and choked my way through a description and what I thought I had to do now. I was able to convince my parents to donate $300 to The Invisible Children (I am still repaying them $20 a month). I went into my room and drew a big A on my white board with a circle around it, the following day I went looking for a job to save money for a trip to Africa.

For the next week, I was not myself. Every bite of food I took I thought of Grace, the 15-year-old who was eating for two. When I went to bed, I pictured Sunday, the 14-year-old boy sleeping on a straw mat on the ground in a displacement camp. My whole perspective shifted.

Since that day, I haven’t been able to picture my future in a way that doesn’t involve going to Africa and doing what I can to help. Ultimately, this is why I decided to major in engineering. When I found out about the Engineering Without Borders program, it was as if the clouds in my head cleared and sunshine burst through. After the initial shock of discovering what I wanted to do with my life, I could see myself accomplishing everything that had now become so important to me. I could not only go to Africa, but I could use my education and skills to make a difference.

With an engineering degree, my potential for change will be limitless. I will build wells, schools, and houses. I will design irrigation systems and orphanages. Engineering is tough, but I know – in what Yeats called “my deep heart’s core” – that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.

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This article has 34 comments.

Sabryth GOLD said...
on Dec. 17 2009 at 5:55 pm
Sabryth GOLD, Lawrence, Kansas
18 articles 1 photo 25 comments
wow, this is so good. i totally agree, that's a great thing to do with your life! i only hope i can do something just as good.

Sunshine said...
on Dec. 3 2009 at 11:33 am
This was without doubt beaulifly written. I sometimes find myself wanting to make a difference in the world, but I question whether I will be able to or not. Either I will try to do what I can. I wish you luck in life and don't give up until you have reacher what you want.

on Nov. 25 2009 at 9:36 pm
Miss_Bliss GOLD, Waban, Massachusetts
17 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."

-Thomas Edison

This sounds like an amazing experience, and is beautifully written. I didn't believe in "defining moments" either, but this has made me rethink them a little bit. Best of luck, and please keep writing!

on Nov. 4 2009 at 6:10 am

lg1235 said...
on Nov. 3 2009 at 10:11 pm
I hope you get to Africa and make a difference! At my school we managed to raise enough money to donate to the Gazelle Foundation and build a well in Barundi.

erikae GOLD said...
on Nov. 3 2009 at 5:16 pm
erikae GOLD, Brookfield, Wisconsin
19 articles 0 photos 24 comments
We watched that video last year. It was very touching and i year my white bracelet with pride. But in my class, there were people joking around during the movie and i couldnt believe it. I hope you get to go to Africa and make a difference!

on Oct. 30 2009 at 9:25 pm
confusednature, Buena Park, California
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
This was very touching and I hope you fulfill your dreams!

on Sep. 20 2009 at 8:38 pm
Inkspired PLATINUM, Whitby, Other
26 articles 0 photos 493 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If one will scoff at the study of language, how, save in terms of language, will one scoff?" - Mario Pei
"I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die." Isaac Asimov

Beautiful. Sometimes, I feel like that, and sometimes, like you say, I'm caught up in my blissful little bubble of trivial problems and happiness. Thanks for your truly inspiring, extremely well written story. I hope you get to Africa.

yuki*ko said...
on Aug. 13 2009 at 2:38 pm
Thank you for your story. I encouraged for your story.

on May. 28 2009 at 6:33 pm
aambeeer! BRONZE, Portia, Arkansas
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Invisible children is amazing. I support it. (:

And this story was also amazing.

on May. 16 2009 at 11:04 pm
ZealousLobelia SILVER, Two Rivers, Wisconsin
7 articles 0 photos 10 comments
Great story.

The part were you said you didn't see how your classmates could laugh and joke after what you had just seen was how I felt after going through the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Unfortuantly I can't do anything to help those people but I would if I could, that much I know.

on May. 16 2009 at 10:58 pm
Xinwen PLATINUM, Brossard, Other
44 articles 0 photos 25 comments
Wow. You are a very inspiring person, this a very inspiring text. Those are wonderful goals, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck with them.

Rom12v2 GOLD said...
on Mar. 13 2009 at 11:17 pm
Rom12v2 GOLD, Nixa, Missouri
12 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This is so great. Thank you for writing this. I want to go into something like this too someday. Good luck!

SnowGirl said...
on Dec. 23 2008 at 8:09 pm
I really enjoyed this!


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