January 22, 2008
By Sorah Yang, Fremont, CA

In eighth grade, I had a pretty secure sense of who I was. I affiliated myself with a certain crowd, I acknowledged my South Korean culture, and although the choice for my favorite color was capricious, I decided that purple was the most aesthetically satisfying at the time. After all, as a freshly proclaimed “teenager,” that was all I felt was important in regards to my self-representation. Oddly enough, it took one of the most morbid experiences of my life to enable me to realize how my superficial values were smothering my growth as an individual, and how marginally I understood myself at all.

The day three years ago is still so visually clear in my memory; it seems unlikely that it will ever fade to a mere remnant of just another occurrence from my adolescent years. It was an unusually sunny morning, and I was jogging a cross-country in my P.E. class. As I approached the corner near the creek, I noticed a man standing on the trail, who kept receding back into the trees when boys would run by. For a reason I cannot accurately resurrect, his existence brushed over the analytical part of my mind and I raised no serious concern of him. As I approached him, he once again came out of the trees to stand on the trail in plain sight. He was a tall, Caucasian, well-groomed male who looked about 20. I sped up a little as I ran past him, blankly inquiring his awkward observance. As I turned around to see what he was doing, I saw him still there, with his zipper down and male genitalia casually swinging back and forth. He had a disturbingly stern and emotionless expression on his face that differentiated his act from being just an immature prank. I ran away screaming, and the administration immediately called the police. Seeing this man’s privates did not traumatize me. However, the reaction that erupted from what seemed like the entire student body was what made me sink into one of the most emotionally slaughtering times of my life.

The visibility of my name as my junior high school’s ASB President contributed to the degree that the flood of rumors reached. The police questioned me in the parking lot, an area observable by other students, so a stir immediately erupted as to what had occurred. I had been mentioned in several rumors before, but I never once felt them worthy of my concern or sensitivity. However, the malicious ones that exploded due to the public police interrogation were preposterous attacks on my identity that stripped me down to my most vulnerable and dejected state to date. Not only was I a drug dealer and a rape victim, but I also apparently enjoyed getting raped, got pregnant from it, was involved in a fist fight, flashed a random man, and was going to be sent to juvenile hall. People swore to others that they saw me being handcuffed. It was so difficult to disregard these rumors because I felt that my character and core values were being attacked by not just one person, but the entire school. I would walk down the hall and have seventh graders, with no knowledge as to who I truly was, avert their eyes with consternation and walk in an opposite direction to avoid my supposed contamination. People would pass notes about me during classes that I would find on the floor calling me a “cry baby” or a “slut.” The teasing and harassment from my classmates did not help either. Looking back it seems excessive to have been so upset, but as a thirteen-year-old it was devastating.

Nothing was more hurtful than hearing how my best friends were telling others that my sadness was a façade in hopes to seek attention. I then felt like the entire world was against me. All I wanted to do was make a speech to the entire student body. “Dear fellow students,” I would have said, “I’m a genuine and friendly person. I have morals and beliefs that I abide to so strongly that it would surprise you. I’m a good friend. I tuck in and read my sister to sleep every night because my dad comes home too late to do so. I work hard in school and I’ve never even received a single detention! Littering makes me feel guilty, I long to be abstinent until marriage, and I fart just like everybody else (although no one likes to admit it). I’m Sorah, and I don’t care what you think, because I am awesome.”

Like the abovementioned fantasy, I resorted to writing as my form of escape, and it saved me in a way. As I was writing about what was going on in my life, the subliminal flow of words progressively generated an astute revelation. It was as if with every word, each string of morality and self-awareness that made up my character was strengthening and solidifying. I developed a better understanding of myself and grew considerably thicker skin. I was overwhelmingly inspired by “Keep on Singing My Song” by Christina Aguilera, which drove me to realize how powerful lyrics and language and the ability to relate to them influenced me. I learned how to surround myself with positive and loyal individuals, a stand that I have carried out obstinately to this day. I discovered that the “fame” I acquire as president is as equally negative as it is positive, because although it is nice to be recognized by my peers as a leader, it also makes me more susceptible to attacks on my identity. I realized that it is impossible to please everyone; even Jesus and Gandhi faced violent opposition, although I am in no way worthy of comparison to either of the two.

As people were wasting their lives obsessing over false statements, I was growing, learning, and becoming a more perspicacious and mature individual. I formed a mentality that has shaped my life and values since. It centers over the belief that light shines out and inevitably prospers over hardships, as long as you do not oppress it with pessimism, misanthropy, or any other type of closed-minded negativity. I am reminded of this ultimate prosperity of good from bad every day when I look into the mirror and see how far I have come, regardless of what anyone says.

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