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RESPECT This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It’s time for a change, I thought to myself in my 8-by-10 cell behind those cold steel doors in that soundless detention center on a hot summer day. I don’t belong here. This place is for fools who get caught. But I was missing the big picture. If I hadn’t been so troublesome and actually cared about my life, I’d have known that the predicaments I got myself into were foolish and not worth wasting my life in a cell. It’s amazing how different the kids in there were from me, and yet we were all the same. Once they heard my story, they treated me differently. They had respect.

While on lock-down, I started to take account of how long I had been there; I started counting how many hours, minutes, even seconds. It was my first time, but not my last, and I was awaiting court because of a fight. I hadn’t started the fight, but I made sure to finish it.

That wasn’t the first or the last fight I’ve been in either. Fighting gives me a feeling that’s impossible to describe. It used to make me feel invincible. Everybody in my tiny school began to show me respect - the kind of respect that comes from fear. The kind of respect that I knew would not last. The kind of respect that is as fake as a wig. The kind of respect that is as deceiving as a coach’s compliment after a loss. And as I grew older, I learned that there are different types of respect. The type I received was the worst, and I decided I had to change my ways.

For some, respect is just a seven-letter word that doesn’t mean a thing. But now I’d die for real respect. It may not seem like much to an average person, but I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve seen and felt how great it is to be respected. There is no greater feeling than everybody knowing who I am and liking what I do. And now, playing football has helped me gain respect in better ways. There are still some who cannot be trusted. But then again, there are some stand-up people out there whom I can depend on.

My life was on the wrong path, and I needed to get my head on straight. That is what some tell me. Others tell me I’m a leader among my peers, and they show me respect. Adults tell me to be a real leader and lead others down the right path and try to make a difference. I know in my heart I can do it, and I will not fail.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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