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

January 21, 2013
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I can wipe out every bad moment I had in 2012 by remembering a single interaction from that year. It's a small sliver of light shining through what was a very dark time for me. It helps me to remember that there's hope yet for me.

I used to be a nanny for three siblings – a boy and his younger sisters. The boy had moderate Tourette's Syndrome. He was bullied on a regular basis, and skipped school often.

Whenever I was over, I made it my mission to help this kid forget the bad stuff that was happening to him. I poured myself into finding every fun activity possible for the four of us to do, to get his mind off what he had to put up with in real life. One day, we were knights sworn to protect the newly crowned queen (his 4-year-old sister). Another day, we made macaroni and cheese on the “cooking show” we starred in, and I as the “new assistant” kept falling into comical kitchen ­hazards. Another day we muted whatever cartoon was on TV, assigned a character to each of us, and then watched the episode while making up ridiculous dialogue for our characters.

We were playing this game one day, and during a commercial I had gotten up to make a snack for the kids. Suddenly I heard the boy and his sisters fighting and went to see what was wrong. At the sight of me entering the room, one of the girls pointed at her brother and yelled, “Tell him he can't be in TV world.”

The other sister backed her up: “He said he wants to be on TV, like … act when he grows up. Tell him he can't do it, Holly. He needs to stop talking about it.”

For half a moment, the light in the boy's eyes died out. He looked so cheated on his dream, sitting there on the couch twisting the remote in his hands, I had to swallow the lump in my throat. Then his eyes flicked over to where I stood in the doorway like Medusa had just turned me to stone.

His voice was so quiet we had to strain to hear it, “Holly always says that we are what we make up our minds to be. That if I can imagine it, that's what I am. But maybe those were just games you played with us … right?”

I walked over to him, sat down, and leaned in so we were making eye contact. I had to get this right, and he had to be listening.

“Wrong. Your sister is still a queen when we are done playing castle, and we would protect her from anything, right? When we are done playing, you and I are still knights in our hearts. Imagining who we want to be is the first step to becoming who we are supposed to be. You go right ahead and dream up the world you deserve. You better take it without letting anybody tell you otherwise or I'm never playing Twister with you again.”

I don't watch these children anymore, but last time I checked, this boy still wants to be an actor and he regularly participates in school plays. As for me, I got off my one-way trip to Nowhereville and spent the last two months straightening my life out.

Sometimes remembering what I said to him that day is the only thing that kept me motivated. I had to practice what I preached and get out there and take the world I had dreamed up for myself. I guess we both grabbed the future we wanted.

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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