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When is it Time to Let Go of Childhood?

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The blazing California sun seeped through the windows, causing Amanda to see a red haze beneath her closed eyelids. The young girl slowly opened her eyes; a blaze of searing bright light greeted her. Her forehead was thoroughly damp from sweat due to the San Francisco heat. Amanda closed her eyes again instinctively and then thought of an idea to give her eyes time to adjust to the light. The clever pre-teen raised a pillow above of her head. She slowly reopened her eyes, giving her pupils time to adjust to the blaze of sunlight. Finally able to see clearly in the bright room, Amanda threw the pillow off of her head, hopped out of bed, traipsed about for several moments, and quickly inspected herself on the mirror hanging over her dresser before realizing that she had something to do and scrambled downstairs (not hesitating in her attempt to slide down the stair rail as though it were a skateboard ramp.) It was 6:00 am sharp and the mischievous juvenile had only one thing flooding her mind—the thought of using the new computer that he father had just invented. There personal machine’s that acted like a brain had recently been invented and her father, who was a structural engineer, had always shared her passion for electronics. The pre-teen joyfully skipped from the bottom of the stairs (past her contemporaneous kitchen and family room into what was known to her family as “the office,” [a small, cooped up, yet cozy room that had once been a walk-in-closet and was now] a comfortable study room equipped with a desk, lighting, and a gleaming, pristine, beige computer already plugged into the outlet on the cream shaded wall.)

Amanda did not hesitate to leap towards the computer and reconnoiter it in awe, (exploring its black monitor screen and muttering words of admiration) while fingering its other gleaming surfaces until her fingers began to skim over a power button. She tentatively pressed it down and suddenly sprang backwards as the screen burst to life—a dazzling white light brighter than the sun momentarily blinded her as an indecipherable word displayed on the screen. Amanda’s eyes eventually adjusted to the new burst of light as she now deciphered the word on the screen to read: Welcome, click on the house icon to go the home screen. Amanda re-approached the computer and placed herself in a black, leather, spin-chair. Curiosity seized her fingers as she boisterously jabbed the house icon on the ethereal monitor screen, until her eyes noticed a conspicuous object lying near her hand. It was attached to computer by a thin cord and as she picked it up and attempted to feel it a rather raucous “clicking” sound was produced. Locating a flat surface on the bottom of the mysterious object Amanda began to roll it across the top of the desk until she noticed a small, arrow shaped object moving on the monitor screen in according to where she moved the object on the tabletop. Amanda then noticed a small-engraved word on the side of the object: mouse. That is what it must be called, Amanda thought to herself. It suddenly occurred to her; what if she used the mouse’s clicking sounds to click on the home icon on the computer? Entranced, Amanda tested her theory and was pleasantly surprised as the screen changed its image after she clicked the home icon to display her home screen.

Amanda (once again) began to dawdle while scrutinizing the home screen as suddenly, (out of nowhere) a large pair of hands clasped her shoulders and roughly spun her around, bringing her face-to-face with her father—now flabbergasted and angry. Amanda cringed, waiting for the imminent chastising that she had come to know from previous experience.

“AMANDA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS TIME!” bellowed her father—his face beet-red, and his eyes cast pure rage on Amanda.

“Uh… nothing Dad,” whispered agitated Amanda who was slightly trembling.

“HOW DARE YOU JUST COME AND TOUCH SOMETHING THAT IS NOT YOURS! WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS FEEL THE NEED TO EXPLORE EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT YOURS? HAS IT EVER OCCURRED TO YOU TO KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF ITEMS THAT ARE NOT YOURS? (Amanda's father's voice suddenly softened in tone,) knowing your detrimental behavior I have come to the conclusion that you cannot use the computer. You’re just not old enough to effectively use it without breaking it. I am sorry Amanda.”

Amanda was alarmed by both her father’s change of tone and his order that she could not use the computer. “But, dad… why? Why can I not use the computer? There must be something that you’re not telling me?! I’m twelve years old, a preteen who is well on her way towards growing up! Surely I must be old enough to use it?”

“Okay, Amanda, do you want me to tell you the truth? It’s just that you’re not old enough. You’re far too immature to use this machine. Computers were only just invented and I cannot risk you destroying this device the day after I purchased it that I paid so much money for.”

“No…” pleaded Amanda. You’ve got to be kidding me.

“I’m not,” solemnly retorted her father.

“Please, no,” eloquently spoke Amanda.

“Amanda, stop! I mean it now!”

“Come on! You can’t do this to me. PLEASE!”

“AMANDA! DO YOU EVER LISTEN?I SAID STOP!” raged her father—his fuming fury beginning to return.

Her father’s words echoed through Amanda’s head. She was devastated to say the least. Everyone labeled her immature, from her teacher’s report card comments to her friends in school. Now to have it reiterated by a parent only deepened the pit of despair in which she already wallowed.

“Just go to your room, and get ready for school,” said Amanda’s father. Noticing that Amanda haltingly paid no heed to his order he commanded, “NOW.”

Amanda took off from the office like a bullet, leaving her father to lament over the pain that he has just inflicted her and thundered back up the stairs to her room. Tears welled in her eyes but she did not try to stop herself. The pain had to be unleashed so she ripped various trinkets that she had lying on her dresser and threw them to the floor. She plopped herself onto her bed bawled into one of her pillows. Her father had just banished her from the office, the room containing the precious computer that captivated her. Why does everyone think that I am so immature? I am almost a teenager, but all of my family and friends still think that I am naïve and will destroy everything that I touch. Why me? Why can’t I prove myself? Is it because I am really immature or because I am girl? How can I show them that I can handle myself properly? Amanda knew that she needed to take a chill pill but was far too deep in her anger to stop herself. She allowed these thoughts to swirl in her head while she forced herself to prepare for school, starting in about an hour.

***

“Honey, are you okay?” cooed Amanda’s mother.

Amanda’s mother was driving Amanda to school and was completely unaware of the scene that had unfolded between Amanda and her father. Amanda (dressed in her light-blue, school uniform that showed a picture of a sun in the corner to represent her school) and now silently sat in the back of the Toyota Corolla while angrily clutching her backpack and contemplating over the torment that she had just endured.

“Are you sure that you are okay, honey?” once again said Amanda’s mother.

Realizing that Amanda likely would not begin to talk anytime soon, Amanda’s mother abandoned the attempt to talk to her. As Sunville Junior High, (Amanda’s middle school) pulled up Amanda exited her mother’s car, slammed the car door behind her, and forcefully marched towards the front doors of the school. Amanda menacingly walked up the brown stone steps leading to the school and grasped the handle on the front doors. Pulling the door open she continued to angrily walk towards her locker and began to prepare her binders for the school day. That is when she suddenly remembered that her teacher had promised to let her class use the school’s new computer lab for the class assignment today. Another chance to use the computers’ without my father knowing, cleverly thought Amanda. Instantaneously invigorated, Amanda began to display some of her old naivety and sprinted through the hallways to class, her binders joyfully bouncing around in her arms as she ran.

“Class, remember that we are using the computers solely to type a report based on the class novel! Remember to analyze the novel, utilize the annotations that you inscribed throughout your novels, convey your opinion on the novel and give it a recommendation!” called Mr. Stein, the 7th grade Language Arts instructor.

Although the amount of female teachers and students were gradually increasing throughout schools’ that had once been all male, there were still an unbalanced proportion of girls to boys. Most teachers were male and usually there were only a handful of girls in each class. Unfortunately for Amanda, English was her only class where she was the only girl. Mr. Stein lined up the students and alerted them to be silent as they headed towards the computer lab. Regardless, the male students still raucously snickered, causing Amanda to feel like a loner. There were 13 students in the class, and only 12 computers in the computer lab. Mr. Stein announced that two people would have to share one computer. Amanda’s initial feelings of excitement began to fall; she somehow knew that being the only girl in the class she would likely be singled out as the students who would have to share a computer. Her suspicion was answered unfortunately though in a way worse than what she had expected.

Amanda immediately sprang towards the first computer that she saw and successfully reached it without encountering opposition. Already a virtuoso in using computers from her brief experience that morning Amanda snatched the mouse and sought to click on the icon that would bring her to the computer’s home-screen when one of the voices that she despised sounded behind her.

“Hey Amanda!” called out the snide voice of Robert—one of Sunville’s most revered bullies who always annoyed Amanda. “Why don’t you get off that computer so I can use it?”

Amanda, who was already in an angry mood scowled, “Robert I am not in the mood for this today. I claimed this computer; you’re going to have to share with somebody else.”

(Mr. Stein had exited the computer room a few moments earlier to go to the bathroom.)

“Oooohhhh…” called out Robert’s cronies around the newly built computer room. “Having a problem with your girlfriend, macho-man?”

“You spazs’ , shut up!” snapped Robert.

Robert’s cheeks flushed a bright red. Being at the top of the hierarchy in the school he was not used to being ridiculed by other boys in front of anybody, especially a girl.

“SHE IS NOT MY GIRLFRIEND!” roared Robert, and without sudden warning slammed into Amanda, catapulting her away from the computer and sending her crashing to the floor with a hard thud.
The lab dropped dead silent except for the “Ooos” of several of Robert’s cronies. Everyone was tense in case a teacher had heard the commotion. Robert was not done further ruining Amanda’s day.
Desperate to prove himself as the school’s top bully to the other boys in the room he declared, “I only asked you once to hand over the computer once. Nobody doesn’t listen to me because they know that if they don’t they will have to face the consequences. You better learn your lesson, because next time you may not only get away with just being pushed to the floor. You’re a girl and I am a boy, I have every right to use this computer over you… I shouldn’t have even needed to ask you about the computer. Don’t you try to use computers’ ever again, especially if I am watching.” Realizing that Amanda still lay on the floor with her back turned to him, Robert raised his voice, “Your hear me? Don’t use this computer again or face the consequences!” Amanda ungraciously picked herself up from the floor and pivoted around to shove her face near Robert’s. Her wavy brown, hair was in complete disarray.

“FINE!” she screeched and hurled herself out of the computer lab. Amanda only wanted to remove herself from the perennial tormenting. She passed Mr. Stein on her way to the nurse who warily looked at her without uttering a word as she rampaged down the hallway. She grabbed the handle to the nurse’s door, and without giving the nurse a chance to say anything relayed her qualms. In minutes the nurse was on the phone calling her parents. Amanda’s mom picked up and told the nurse that unless Amanda was in too severe pain she could walk home rather than be picked up. After confirming that Amanda’s case was no worse than a bit of mental paranoia the nurse told Amanda to collect her items and then she would be able to depart for home. Amanda reluctantly went back to the computer lab and was relieved to discover that nobody was there. Classes had switched and Robert and his companions had long left for their next class. She had already gone to her locker so all she had to do was stuff her remaining binders in her backpack. She rushed to the front door of the school, desperate to escape and stumbled outside. It was still blistering hot yet she did not care. She was already quite used to walking home from school because her parents could not pick her up and departed down the sidewalk in the direction of her house.

Amanda trudged on to her house; her backpack felt like a ton of brick weighing her down. She stumbled on items as miniscule as a pebble—vehemence frothed around inside of her. Interestingly, her forehead burned, even more than normal on such a blistering day. Finally her safe heaven began to come into view. Amanda scrabbled away at the maroon wood-handle on the side door of her house and fished around in her backpack for a key. She unlocked the door and flung it open, even in her angriness she did not forget to pay homage to the cross that was draped across the door; her Christian family was very religious. After extoling the lord she glared at the cross for a long span of time, thoughts of anger swirled in her head once more. Why have you put me through this? What have I done to go through so much torture? Am I supposed to be hated by everyone? The lord, engraved on the cross blankly stared back at her, yielding no answers. Amanda entered the threshold of her house and cruelly flung her backpack to the corner. The dusty, brown wooden floorboards eerily groaned as Amanda stomped over them. Her haven seemed gloomy and lifeless for once, as though it did not welcome her just like her parents and classmates.
Amanda scampered up the stairs (that were draped with a brown carpet) into her room and ripped of her school uniform, changing into jean shorts, a black t-shirt and for fun slipped on neon green leg and arm warmers . She took a deep breath, seeking to calm herself because of the day’s ordeals and realized that to add on to her worries she had a headache as well. Now desperate to escape her demons Amanda sought to calm her rage with serene music. She stumbled back down stairs and down the hallway in her house and exploded into the living room. Her eyes flicked over the cream carpet and couch, the old, gray television whose antennas stuck out like those of a bug’s, and the oak side-tables on either side of the couch, one of them had a lamp resting on top of it and the other featured a radio. Suddenly a wave of nausea engulfed Amanda. She plopped onto the couch and the nausea stopped. After turning on the radio Amanda flicked to a random station, hoping that some insane miracle would come and she would arrive on a channel with as soothing, pacifying music. Instead she learned of some very life-changing news.

Amanda leaned forward hoping for music and was startled the song Thriller . She recalled that her friends were quite interested in the song yet she was hoping for other music so she flicked to another channel. Unfortunately, she was disappointed by the sounds of a news reporter inaugurating the daily news with the disease AIDS . Her hands itched to change the station yet Amanda’s customary curiosity kept her hooked onto the words of the news reporter. Amanda briefly knew a small amount of information on the disease AIDS yet was eager to learn what the news reporter had to say about it. The reporter mentioned that an AIDS epidemic had begun to sweep through California, claiming countless lives. Not much information was known on the disease although it is quite clear that it is usually transferred by bugs (particularly mosquitoes.) The reporter then continued talking about several symptoms of AIDS. Amanda cringed and a stab of pain punctured her stomach. As the reporter read on the list of AIDS symptoms she anxiously realized that they almost all matched the symptoms that she was suffering at the moment. She lived in California, it was a blistering season and bountiful amounts of bugs were a normal part of daily life, meaning included with it were countless bug bites. Surely she was put in great risk of contracting AIDS?

Amanda could not bear listening to the news reporter any longer. She jammed the button to turn the radio off and dashed to her room. There is only one way to make sure that I will not get any bug bites,” thought Amanda. She wrapped herself and twisted in the blankets on her bed until she had formed a makeshift cocoon. She knew that her attempt to stop the bugs were futile though. Amanda was well aware that if the bugs really were out “to get her” then she would stand no chance to avoid being bitten. She only wrapped herself tighter and tried to reassure herself that everything would be fine. You’re going to be fine. Mom and Dad will come home from work soon and everything will be okay. You’re not going to get AIDS. Amanda’s throat throbbed and her head pounded; the day had been an emotional rollercoaster for her and it was only 4:00 but she eventually fell asleep trying to reassure herself that she would not somehow contract AIDS.

Startled, Amanda woke up. She felt as though her throat were being constricted by pythons while her chest was strapped down. Instead her blurry vision refocused and she realized that she was in her room, surrounded by all the sights that she was accustomed to. Yet something felt different within her body. She was short of breath—her head still pounded as though she were suffering from a migraine while she simultaneously felt fatigue. She struggled to sit in an upright position when out of nowhere, the figure of her mother appeared in the corner of her eye. Amanda’s mother bent over her, gently pushing her shoulders back until she lay down again while gingerly dabbing her forehead with a damp cloth.

“Take a chill pill honey, it is all okay. You have a fever, but don’t worry; you won’t be going to school today and your father and I will get you checked at the doctor.” Amanda’s mother’s voice was steady, although it betrayed hints of worry.

Amanda caught a glimpse of the watch glinting from her mother’s wrist and realized that it was 10:00 am, school had long since started. Have I really been sleeping for that long? A light switch flickered in Amanda’s head. Have I really contracted AIDS?

***

Amanda was soon brought to the doctor after waking up and was confirmed to be diagnosed with AIDS. Amanda’s doctor bluntly told Amanda’s parents that there is no known cure for AIDS and even worse Amanda’s chances of survival were quickly becoming slimmer by the moment as the state of her immune system decreased. The doctor prescribed a variety of antibiotics and other medications to help Amanda yet warned Amanda’s parents to not get their hopes up—if Amanda contracted another illness than surely her weakened immune system would not be capable of taking the strain and she would probably die. Amanda was allowed to go home. She should not go to school until it was confirmed whether she would make it out of the critical stages of the disease. If she did survive then she would continue to be affected by a weak immune system for the remainder of her life and would likely have to stay on medications for the remainder of her life. Amanda was out from school for a week, yet she gradually recovered and was approved on Friday to return to school on Monday.

Amanda endured a bed-rest weekend, full of resting, pittances of food, medications, and more resting. In fact the only positive to her situation was that she did not have to endure any homework. She still constantly thought of what had happened in school and with her dad before her sickness and blamed contracting AIDS to the fact that she was a girl and immature. She thought this until she heard another interesting piece of information on the radio on Sunday.

Amanda was nonchalantly resting on her bed and listening to music on the radio. Her father had moved the radio to her room in an act of sympathy. Surprisingly he seemed to be getting on with Amanda a lot better now that she was suffering a life-threatening disease. As long as Amanda did not mention the computer then he did not bring up the subject either. After hearing about AIDS on the news Amanda visited the news station quite regularly; this day in particular was no exception considering that she had nothing else to do.

This time, the news reporter announced that Sally Ride had become the first American woman to be in space! Excitement bubbled inside of Amanda; space travel had always sounded exciting, yet it happened to be an activity that applied to virtually no woman. Therefore, Sally Ride was basically a pioneer in space-travel for woman. The thought suddenly occurred to Amanda, Maybe the fact that I contracted AIDS has nothing to do with being a girl?! I should believe in myself more and grow-up already! Just because a girl doesn't mean anything! I can pursue any dream or passion and do anything that I want, and no one will stop me! I'll face Robert at school, and I'll use the computer. I will find a way to use the computer at home too! I will be like Sally Ride, because I will be an AMBASSADOR for woman and I'll only look to the future and grow up already!

Amanda was determined to demonstrate to her parents her new-found maturity and promptly walked downstairs to alert her parents (who were watching television in the living room) that Sally Ride had become the first American woman in space and that Sally Ride was her role-model. Her parents were rather stunned to hear the words role-model escape Amanda's mouth. They also were incredibly surprised that Amanda had not become excited to the point where she was practically "bouncing off the wall" (like she normally was) to share with them the information. Her parents exchanged a long look, then to Amanda's surprise her father winked at her. Amanda winked back, inside she was confident that she was making her father realize that she was growing up.

The next day, Amanda returned to school. The teacher welcomed her back yet everyone else cast her cold stares, Robert for one looked like he was fuming. Amanda continually has English every school day and to her luck (for once) Mr. Stein took his class back to the computer room. As the class silently marched through the hallways he laid a hand on Amanda's shoulder. "Are you okay?" he whispered. "I heard about your fiasco with AIDS and Robert."

Amanda had forgotten that practically the whole school would be aware of her two most recent battles that she had fought. This included her ones in and outside of school. "Yes, I am fine, Mr. Stein" she replied.

"Okay" he said. "You know, I was really worried about you. Just remember to come to me if Robert gives you problems again."

Amanda suddenly realized the permanent solution to her problems with Robert. "Definitely, Mr. Stein." she replied, a smile dawning on her face.

Amanda once again honed onto a computer when the class had reached the computer room and had no problems initially securing it. Interestingly, it seemed like a repeat of the previous day before her battle with AIDS because Robert once again told her to get off the computer because she was female, (Amanda had made sure that she had gotten the same computer from the last time so she would have to face Robert.) Mr. Stein analyzed the unfolding scene in the background, waiting to see how Amanda would take action. Amanda did not reply to Robert (and successfully enraged him.) This time, Robert attempted to push over the computer-chair that Amanda was sitting in, although she braced herself and held the chair rigid. Dismayed, Robert tried to push her yet Amanda jumped back, just out of reach and briskly walked towards Mr. Stein who sat on the other side of the lab. Robert was shocked, he had not realized that Mr. Stein had been witnessed to the scene. As a result to what he had tried to do to Amanda for the second time he was sent to the principal's office where he confessed. He was then sentenced to several after and in school detentions. Amanda joyously went home that day, having exchanged winks with Mr. Stein. After walking home, Amanda's parents arrived several hours later. Amanda realized that she had never told them about Robert. She smiled though, this would be "her little secret," a testimony to how she had stood up for herself.

Report cards arrived several weeks later; Amanda was amazed that she had secured straight A's (considering that her normal grades consisted of B's, and once a couple of C's.) Her parents complimented her on her newfound maturity. Her father visited her later that day as she prepared for bed.

"Look Amanda," he began. "I've realized that as of lately you are truly becoming more mature. It was I who was not in my right mind the other day when you tried to use the computer." A smile spread on his face. "You are free to use it now."

Amanda was stunned and ran to embrace her father for an extended moment, all of the anguish that he had caused her in the past suddenly evaporated in thin air.


***

The following morning Amanda used the computer for the first time and took great care to treat it properly. Her life had drastically changed for the better as she continued to mature and positively view herself.



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