What I Believed VS What I Believe

By , Bakersfield, CA
Over the course of my high school years, like all my peers, I've had to write an endless amount of essays following specific criteria and covering specific topics. I believe that I speak for most people when I say that I can't remember over half of the essays I've written. Even if I were to sit down and actually think about it, I wouldn't be able to recall the topics I've covered, let alone what I wrote. There was, however, one specific essay that I remember pouring my whole heart into. It was called the "This I Believe" essay.

During the summer before my junior year, I remember I was assigned to read a book called This I Believe II. It was a book of philosophies. It contained a collection of essays written by individuals of all sorts, "voicing what they truly believed in." Some of the "beliefs" I read about were less interesting than others, such as the "Belief in Hair Dye." Several of them, however, tugged on my heartstrings, thus opening my mind to so many prospectives. Before I knew it, I actually began wondering, what do I believe in?

When I was first assigned to write my own "This I Believe" essay, I recall struggling to think of an idea of what to write. Like many teenagers, I figured that I'd just write whatever I thought would get me a decent grade. However, this time that didn't seem to be the case. My "belief" hit me hard in an instant. One moment, I was reading in the middle of an aisle of New England Mobile Book Faire. The next moment, I was at the cash register paying for the book, then storming out the door. I vividly remember running all the way home to write my essay. It all happened so fast, but I knew what to write. I didn't have to brainstorm. My thoughts screamed so loudly, wanting to be heard. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. That was the first time I felt that my heart was finally poured out into words.

At the time, my mind was in the process of escaping a dark place. For an enormous portion of my life, I was always angry. I was always fighting. I was always afraid. Any sliver of happiness I came across would only last for an instant before I was plunged back into darkness again. I can't remember when I lost that innocent ignorance that most children had. The "child's blindfold" didn't remain with me as long as most kids my age and as early as age 6, my blindfold began to slip. I was already being exposed to types of cruelties that most 6 year olds shouldn't be exposed to.

Time slowly passed and the more years progressed, the more my eyes continued to see. I didn't want to see. What elementary kid would? I was picked on a lot. Normally, one wouldn't think it was much to worry about, but as I grew older, it wasn't a matter of being "picked on" anymore. It evolved into bullying. Every one's words and actions became more hurtful. Insults became more offensive and "jokes" became threats. Most threats were empty, but many weren't. Because of those kids, I began to believe in revenge.

I was hurt both mentally and physically. School wasn't my only concern. While I wouldn't hesitate to call school a "living Hell" back then, home wasn't any better. After the daily routine of enduring the usual threats and racist comments, I'd return to the unstable battlefield known as my home. In those days, I could hardly even call it "home." I always heard that "home is where you should feel the most safe." For me, my "home" is where I always felt the most danger.

For 11 years, my mother was in an abusive relationship and I remember I was always terrified to return from school for that very reason. I never knew when I was going to come home to screaming and violence. It happened so randomly, but when it did happen, I remember crying a lot on my own. I was afraid. It seemed that every time Hell unleashed itself in my household, it grew worse with each occurrence. It wasn't long before I started believing that I had no future. I actually had it set in my mind that my stepfather would kill us before I reached high school. I remember waking up to one of their "episodes" one night, then walking into a closet to cry by myself until I got tired enough to go back to sleep.

Though Hell didn't break loose in my household every day, I remember being disappointed so many times, after believing that it would be "their last fight." Eventually, I gave up. I began shutting myself in my room, cutting myself off from what I refused to be my reality. In doing so, not only did I withdraw into my room, but I also withdrew myself from the outside world. I didn't care about what went on outside my "bubble." Slowly, I stopped giving my input on anything. I became even less social than I already was. Conversations with my mother grew scarce and even communicating with my own family members became a challenge. Never before have I felt so secluded and alone. I didn't feel that I could trust anyone anymore. No one was worth it. With the combination of being bullied at school and being exposed to the severe instability of my household, my mind slowly grew unstable as well. It wasn't too long until I believed hope was only a fairytale and there was no use in believing in what didn't exist.

Time went on and I found myself falling deeper within my own mind and even deeper into depression long after the screaming and violence ended. Even after my stepfather was long gone, I continued down the road of hatred and anger. The experiences were too scarring to heal from so easily. My mother moved on, but little did she realize that as she moved on, she left me behind. She had the luxury of loving siblings and parents as she grew up. What did I grow up with? I was brought up and raised in fear over half time. My exposure to the abuse tampered with my way of thinking. With each passing year, I grew angrier. With each passing day, my wounds grew deeper. I was walking on a lonely path, step by step. I was convinced that it was the only path available to me and there was no turning back.

It wasn't until my sophomore year that my road became a dead end and I was basically standing on a cliff. After over 8 years of negative beliefs, it eventually developed into the belief that "life is a pointless prison and only death would set me free." I was suffering from extreme suicidal thoughts that year and even attempted taking my own life a few times, but fear got the best of me. I felt useless. My grades took a plunge and nothing I did seemed to pick them back up. I felt like I couldn't do anything right. I couldn't even die correctly, but after standing at the end of my road for so long it all came down to a choice: turn around or walk off this cliff? Should I continue rotting in my own mind until it kills me, or wipe my tears and seek something more? I was hurt. My spirit was beaten. My entire being was exhausted, yet somewhere in that same mind, I refused to accept defeat. Slowly, I began backing away from the cliff.

On the summer of 2010, upon entering my junior year I believed in "Reaching Out for Help." I completely abandoned my comfort zone. I left my home in California and was placed on the opposite end of the country where my healing process began with multiple therapists and counselors. It was a rough start, but I personally would consider that year I spent away a success. I managed to do what I believed was impossible. I got my grades back up. I made friends. I even joined clubs. My "bubble" was no longer existent. I finally had hope.

Ever since then, I would always look back and refer to my "This I Believe" from that summer. When I'm alone, I always catch myself thinking about what I believed in back then and if it's what I still believed in. I even continue thinking about the times before that essay: before I reached out for help, before I left California, before the therapy and before I even thought healing was possible. I think about that old cliff.

Looking back on what I once believed in so strongly, I find myself amazed at how my attitude towards life itself has changed over a short period of time. First, I believed in revenge, which changed into my belief that hope didn't exist. "Hopeless" turned into "suicidal". Death seemed like my only way out. It was only 2 years ago when I believed that to be my one and only truth, yet just last year I took a complete U-turn. Suddenly my "belief" now ran in a completely opposite direction and to this day, I continue on the same route, growing farther away from my original beliefs with every step I take.

Last year, "Reaching Out for Help" was my belief. At the end of junior year, I believed in "Forgiveness." When I returned to California, "Moving On" became my truth. What about now? Right now, I believe that it was a blessing for my blindfold to slip off so early in my life. I had the privilege of learning early on that life would knock me down and it would be up to me to get back up. As it stands at this very moment, I believe things happen for a reason. I believe in hardships and that there will always be more coming my way for me to overcome. I welcome them. I am aware of past beliefs and my current beliefs, but years from now, what will be my truth? No one knows. Even I don't know. However, if there's anything I do know, it's this: My " Great Depression" made me a stronger person. I know this much is true. I've come this far so there's no turning back. This I will always believe: I believe in myself.





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booksmaya This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm
Wow. I am just speechless. I am so glad that you were able to turnaround and say, you know what there is another way, I can walk away from this cliff. This experience, I know, will help save lives. Thanks for sharing this. :) 
 
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