This We Believe

Separated by Differences, United by Beliefs

Importance of Interactions

When I think of how to describe our relationship, one specific moment stands out in my memory. After losing his keys in the woods and my five inch heel breaking as a result of trying to find said keys, homecoming was kind of a disaster. A beautiful disaster.

We never took things too seriously. We never cared of how we looked to other people, and that’s why when JT Hilligoss convinced me to waddle up to the doors of our high school on that homecoming night, we laughed and acted like we owned the place. Until, we found out the doors were locked, and we threw our heads back, laughed some more, and waddled back to his car.

Because we were on and off, it wasn’t uncommon that time would pass without us talking. But, when six quiet weeks went by and February 22nd came along I immediately recognizing what day it was I thought to myself: Do I text or call him? Wish him the best? See what he’s been up to? Tell him I miss him? I didn’t. I should have. Because, two days later he was gone. My life was changed.

I believe you must cherish the interactions you have with people because you never know how they will end up changing your life. Or when they will leave it forever.

When JT Hilligoss died in his sleep, the entire community was affected. Hundreds of people attended his candle light vigil. Football games thereafter always dedicated to player number thirty-three, the number I used to wear every Friday night under those big bright lights.

I never knew how many people he affected, how many people loved him. He meant so much too so many. Watching an entire community come together to be there for one another, for him, was unforgettable.

It changed me. At first the change was a negative one, falling into a pattern of instability, impulsiveness, and willingness to do anything just to feel something other than numbness, pain, and regret. As time went on it dawned on me that if he saw me living that way, he would look at me as if I was a stranger. I was unrecognizable, even to myself.

I turned my life around and started living the way I know he would want me to. I started caring, and investing mass amounts of time into the people around me. Into finding, and creating happiness, into putting smiles on people’s faces. I started spending more time with my family than I ever had, developing relationships that never before existed. I could not be more grateful for this.

Knowing him changed me, and losing him changed me.

Now I cherish every interaction that I have with people. I think about it, I pay attention to it. Not only to how people affect me, but also how I might affect them.

I cherish my moments, I cherish the people I meet and my relationships with them. This, is what I, believe in.

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I Believe in Second Chances

I believe that every dog, no matter their background or reputation, deserves a second chance. A couple of months ago, my boyfriend and I stopped at a shelter, “Just to look.” The week before, he had changed his mind from wanting a golden Retriever to wanting a Rottweiler. I love dogs, and I had been trying to persuade him to get one for months. We stopped at a shelter one the ride home from school, and as soon as we stepped through the door, we were greeted by a Rottweiler/Lab mix named “Astro.” My boyfriend loved him at first sight, and told him to “sit.” Astro listened. I think every single one of the dogs in the shelter were barking, but Astro wasn’t. We left after, thinking of reasons not to rescue the dog. He was a large dog, and only one year old, and still needed a lot of leash training. We live in Milwaukee, so there isn’t a lot of yard space to run around.

Three days later, after both of his roommates had met Astro, we took him home. He was renamed “Reggie” after Reggie White of the Packers. He seemed nervous at first, but soon warmed up to us. We trained him how to shake, high five, roll over, and play dead. He was the smartest, nicest dog I have ever met.

One night, my boyfriend, his roommate Ryan, and I were sitting in the living room with Reggie. It was about 1am, and we were talking and joking around. All of the sudden, we heard someone outside. The doorknob on the front door, which was out of sight from where we were sitting, started jiggling. We were silent. Then Reggie started barking, and his bark is scary. We looked out the window and saw someone walking down the driveway, quickly, away from the house. We then realized that we could have just been robbed, because we all aren’t always home late at night, and if Reggie hadn’t been there, who knows what could have happened?

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Overcoming Fears

I believe in overcoming your fears.

I think that most would agree that fear is a major reason as to why people don’t go, or fully go for what they want to achieve.

Talent floated throughout my high school ballet class. Wanting to have the steps perfect didn’t help me at all when it came down to splitting up into groups of 4. In those groups of 4 we would recite these 24 count combinations previously taught at the beginning of ballet class. Me, I was afraid of looking silly and/or being laughed at for not catching on to some of the combinations. Not feeling confident or good enough, I wouldn’t dance full out or at all. I wanted to give up every day. I often questioned myself a lot. “Bigger, you need to dance bigger. No one cares if you’re little.” My dance teachers would always tell me. In my mind, comfort zone is what it all came down to and “comfortable” is something that I was not during ballet class.

We’d frequently get to watch The Milwaukee Ballet dance around our marley covered floor so effortlessly in their pretty neutral colored ballet attire. They looked extremely elegant. I loved and was inspired by every minute of it. I knew, in my mind that it could be me. Not as experienced but I knew I could dance effortless and look as elegant while doing so. So, I started thinking that if I never tried dancing, regardless if I knew the steps or not I would never know my strengths. Not over night, but day by day I began to do little things to step out of my comfort zone. Little things such as trying to dance bigger and actually going for ballet leaps and jumps. I began to stand somewhere in front of class when we’d come to the middle of the marley floor. I’d ask more questions and ask my teachers to repeat steps. I pep-talked myself a lot before class started. I had begun to realize that it wasn’t about looking silly but it was about perfecting my craft which at the time was dance.

Within a month or two into the semester, stepping out of my comfort zone daily in ballet class began to feel completely normal. I had overcame the fear of looking “silly”. I began to get more positive feedback from my teachers when they would critique us. I looked forward to those groups of 4. Before being told to get into groups of 4 some of the girls in the class would say that they wanted me in their group. I realized that practice makes perfect but I was not perfect so making mistakes was inevitable in my learning process. I learned to let go of fear and go for it. Not only ballet but in all areas of life.

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There’s No Point in Worrying

As a kid I was always obsessed with Lego. I was the kind of kid that without doubt had piles of Lego strewn all over the place and little patterns of bruises on the bottom of my feet. That was pretty much my entire childhood in 40-some words. And as I got older, it never disappeared. It morphed, got refined into something a little more practical.

Because of these Lego I decided pretty early on that I was going to be an engineer. I was dead-set on it. I really thought I was perfect for me. I would get to go out into the world and make things, but inside I would still be sitting on my floor putting little spaceships together. I took a bunch of engineering classes in high school and ended going to an engineering college. I really had my life planned out, and I was hard set on that track.

I was sitting class at my engineering college one day, learning about all the stuff that engineers do, I finally picked my head up. I realized that I really had no desire to be an engineer. I don’t enjoy math or science, which is the core of the field. I had been going on a decision I made when I was a child, without thinking about it, or even really knowing what it was. I was stuck. I was stuck mentally not knowing what to do with my life. I was also stuck physically, at an engineering college with suddenly no intention to be an engineer.

I really had no choice but to wait things out. So that’s exactly what I did. I sat around and thought about what I wanted to do, what I could do. For a while I really hated it, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Over time, though, that feeling really started to grow on me. I began to enjoy the giant question mark that was my future, instead of cowering at the thought of it. And now, several months later, I wouldn’t want to live any other way. I believe that embracing the unknown is one of the best ways someone can live.

When someone charges into the future, head down, as fast as they can, they never get to see anything other than what they want to see. That was my engineering track. I was so enveloped in it, I never got a chance to experience much of anything else. Now though, I’m in a whole different world. I’m taking art classes and English classes, music classes and geography labs. Like a buffet, I’m getting a taste for everything before I decide what I really want.

I believe that’s how everyone should live their lives. Dabble in everything. See what the world has for you. But most importantly, don’t worry about the future. There’s no way of seeing what is in store, so there should be no reason to spend time fretting about what might happen.

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Always Moving Forward

Scott Jahnke

Dr. Seas

Composition

22, February 2015

Always Moving Forward

I believe that no matter the odds, it is critical to always strive for your goals.

Golf, like all sports is very unpredictable. You never know what is right around the corner. Unpredictable best describes my personal and team outcome during a postseason golf tournament round my senior year of high school. I woke up the morning of May 28, 2013 expecting bigger things than ever; a first and only chance at state, every high school athletes’ main goal. For me, on this day, it was expected. It was a certainty in my mind that we would succeed. We still needed to prove it over 18 holes on that rainy, cold, and damp morning. Playing in the three spot on my team, I watched as my teammates started, rather shaky and uneasy as if the nerves were too much to handle early on. My name was then announced and I stepped to the first tee, driver in hand. It was time to go. Planning a nice little fade off the left bunker, I turned it over right to left instead and pulled it into the water hazard running parallel to the opening hole. The start of the round was definitely not ideal, but remained plenty of time to shake the nerves and put up a good score. That was the plan at least. As I tried to settle in, things were not going well for us. By the time I reached the tenth hole, a tricky par-five with water, I sat at seven over par and our team, in worse shape, was on our way to a loss sitting eleven shots back halfway through the round. As I pondered whether or not to hit the driver, knowing that was a big reason for my poor play, it truly hit me that it is time to get this thing going or we would be going home. Things then slowly started to shift our way. Bogeys on the front nine were turning into pars and birdies on the back. We had a shot. I worked my way through the beautiful nature of the course to arrive at the par-three seventeenth hole elevated hundreds of feet into the sky. A birdie wouldn’t hurt that’s for sure and that’s exactly what happened. Closing strong gave me confidence that we would complete the comeback as we had our best two players yet to finish. Sure enough, they finished it off and we completed a much unexpected comeback to earn a place in the state tournament the following week. Proud would be an understatement.

Always striving for your best in anything you do is a valuable thing to have. My teammates and I, very easily, could have thrown in the towel after the rocky start. You never really know what can happen. All you can do is continue to battle until you reach your goals. It seems kind of silly to me to start something without a plan to finish it or come up short. You would be surprised what you can accomplish if you are determined to success. You owe it to yourself to give everything your very best and not stopping until goals are reached and the job is done. You will not regret working a little harder to get there or even adapting your goals and dreams in situations if needed. After all, the world, like athletics is a rather unpredictable place and you never know what could happen.

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Self Determinism

Self determinism is what helps define people. People use it to make everyday choices in their lives. What college to attend, what type of friends to make, basically, what type of person to become. Self determinism can either be a positive or negative aspect, depending on one’s outlook on life. The more aware people become of the decisions they are making, the more control they have of making a better future for themselves.

I first became aware of self determinism when I was 11 and my parents were going through a divorce. I was aware of certain choices my parents had made and the consequences they had. So I developed an ocd type of attention towards the choices I made. But since I was so young when I went through all of this, the ocd like thinking I developed did not become permanent. I

t wasn’t until a few months ago that self determinism really began to play a huge role in my life. I remember the day very clearly. It was my second day of exams and I had texted my friend to get together later in the day. She casually replied, “sorry I can’t I’m in the hospital…I tried to kill myself”. I was shocked. It was completely unexpected and I couldn’t stop thinking about how casually she had told me, like it was no big deal. I began to replay old memories of us in my head, trying to see any signs I had missed. I began to get very sad and guilt ridden for not being able to have helped my friend. They guilt was overwhelming. Then I realized I had a choice to make. I could either continue to feel sad and sorry for myself, continue the negative outlook I was having -or- I could accept what had happened and that the only helpful thing I could be doing for my friend was to have a positive mindset in order to be there for her in the present..

I could tell the dramatic change in my mood from consciously choosing how I wanted to feel. I wasn’t looking for reasons to be sad or happy anymore. I was able to wake up and decide if I wanted to feel good and happy that day, I would. Simple as that. Now I know I cannot control how I feel 24/7, that’s just unrealistic. But I do have a a huge say in the matter.I think too often I feel overwhelmed with everything in the world that I cannot control. Children starving, people hurting, and death. But it helps to be in control of how I’m going to handle those horrible things and situations and how I’m going to let them control my life. Being self determinant has helped me grow, and continue to grow into the person I like. A person I want to become, not just what life made me. For this realization I am eternally grateful. Self determinism is what I believe.

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Passing On Happiness

I believe that being happy and sharing this feeling makes you and others around feel good.

I remember as if it happened last weekend, a busy day at working at Woodman’s, lines at every checkout lane filled with impatient customers. I have just worked four weekends in a row, all 8 hour shifts and I worked overtime twice. Impatient customers plus irritated employees doesn’t equal happy days. As I returned to my department from my break, trying to figure out how I could get through all the customers, I heard a voice say, “Excuse me sir?” I turned to see a short elderly woman with a smile on her face, she asked me for help. I became a bit irritated because I thought she was going to ask me about a product or ask me where something was located, I thought I was going to have to walk her through the sea of people to find the one item that she needed. However I was wrong, there were some bottles of juice at the back of the top shelf that she could not reach. I grabbed one for her and she asked for another. I’m not the tallest nor do I have the longest arms, so I really had to reach out for the second bottle. I was prepared to just quickly walk away and get back to my work once I gave her the bottle. But once I gave it to her I saw the look on her face. Her smile was big as her face lit up with joy. “Thank you very much,” she said to me, I replied, “No problem ma’am,” as I returned to my department walking through the crowd with a smile on my face.

Here was this little old lady by herself on a Saturday, shopping and walking through all these people, yet she was so kind and gracious. To think an elderly woman especially, since most elderly customers are the pickiest and sometimes rude, made my day for taking the time to do her a favor in the middle of a busy day. Once I returned to my department, I got to work and was happy and didn’t hesitate to help any other customers at all. Whenever I get irritated at work, I think about that day I helped that woman and made her happy.

People can get so upset and angry over the littlest things, but why stress over it? Stay positive and be happy because that can always make someone’s day. People go through rough days and all they need is someone there to make them happy. I didn’t think helping the little old lady was a big deal, but it turns out it meant a lot for her to see a “young man” take the time to do something nice for her. The littlest things do mean a lot to others, and being happy and sharing this feeling makes you and others around feel good, this is what I believe.

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Stability Caring and Friendship

I believe in selflessness. More specifically I believe in being there for someone who needs you to be a pillar in his or her life.

Having lost my grandmother last year, I needed the comfort and assurance of someone important to me being there for me. I can remember the rough days after her passing, and how being able to lean on someone stable like a pillar was exactly what I needed. So, when I heard my buddy Anthony got hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle and as a result of the accident he was going to loose his leg. I knew what I needed to do, I knew I had to be a stable pillar to keep his foundation from crumbling around him and him fall deeper into a depression. So I was right there by Anthony’s side, and with not having that specific situation happen to me I could not imagine the absolutely terrific pain, and emotional toll loosing a leg could be. I did know what was instrumental in my recovery so I gave my friend my time, and genuine effort towards making him happier.

In a tragic event you find out the people that actually care about you, and they will be the ones invested in your wellbeing. With Anthony’s situation I made the effort to at least come five days a week for no less than two hours, to be with him in the hospital. I would constantly check in on Anthony, being there for someone means more than the face-to-face meetings. I would have texting conversations with him until three in the morning about anything that was on his mind, from pain to the mental stress of the situation. After becoming a bigger part of Anthony’s life I began to develop more of a brotherly connection with him. When Anthony talks to me, he tells me how he feels with no holding back of any emotion. As a friend Anthony just knows that there are no judgments, only support on the receiving end of his words. It is self-rewarding to be apart of someone’s life in such a positive way. Words cannot describe how much this meant to me as a friend to help Anthony. Me specifically had given someone happiness that was drowning in sadness before.

Being a constant positive figure in a person’s life comes with a heavy weight, but it is always worth it when you are making someone’s life better. It has provided me a sense of self worth now that I have been making a concerted effort in helping someone in a crappy situation. No matter how profound a situation, it shows good character if you genuinely care, listen and even give a helping hand to someone who needs it. Its a heart-warming feeling knowing that you made someone’s life is better just because you made an effort. To be there for the person and simply listen to what’s going on with no judgment, or qualms towards them can be extremely therapeutic to the person who needs it. All anyone wants when in a struggle is someone to listen to him or her, so why not be the person to help them get through their particular struggle? Beautifully put in a quote I read on pintrest “there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up” I believe in this quotes core meaning of how it is a beautiful thing to help people!

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The strength of the heart is strongest

I believe that inner strength can influence all strength.

This thought didn’t come to me easily, as being 5’9 and weighing 120 lbs. isn’t anyone’s definition of strength. But strength comes from both the outside and inside.

The day I figured out this strength was not a happy one. My mother was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 2002. As with most neurological disorders, she got worse over time and needed to take more medications than I have fingers. As time went by, she was more prone to seizures, heart murmurs, and constant pain that could only be treated by the meds. The medications also became strong enough to knock her out for hours.

One cloudy day, I hear a thud in the next room. My mother’s fallen and begun to seize. She is weeping, her fingers seizing into inhuman shapes, and her legs, back, and spine being forced into a fetal position.

At this point, most people would call for help or run away, not knowing what to do next. But I knew that no ambulance would be able to help her. I knew that they couldn’t cure what she had. I simply knelt beside her, and started to gently pull her fingers into an open palm, letting her tightly grasp my fingers. Through my hands being flattened by hers, I knew for a brief instant what it must truly be like. My mind knew how to treat her. My emotions and my mind separated. I regulated my breathing, and she knew that she must do the same. In. Out. In. Out. I feel her body relax. I reach over to her pill tray, with a nearby water bottle. She took her pills. Her mind and body relaxes, knowing that she’ll be ok. She breathes and smiles in relief though the tears. My heart slows. She wants to get up, but the pills work quickly. Her eyes half close, and a 150 lbs. woman becomes a dead weight in my arms. She needed rest. She needed to go to her bed.

My arms tense up. My back becomes like steel. My face becomes tight. I wrap her arms about my neck and heave upwards. Each step brings a bigger grunt and wave of sweat. I groan through gritted teeth, blinded by the sweat. My hair is drenched. I’m beside the bed now, and with a final heave, I gently lay my mother on the bed. I’m on the floor, my muscles cramping. I drag myself to the fridge for a drink of water.

Indeed I was strong that day, because I used what strength was in me. All my life, I heard that I “need to lift,” or “become stronger.” But I now know the difference. I know that all the lifting and training in the world won’t cause someone to be able to carry a sick loved one who is a quarter of their weight heavier than themselves. Weights can’t teach care and love, the heart does. And when people use their heart, a greater strength than any comes out of it. All people, including you, have an inner strength like this. All you need do is tap into it and use it.

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Peace in The Soul

Peace in the Soul

As an only child growing up sharing or giving up something was not always the easiest. I never really had anyone to share with or give up things too.

Giving back to society is something many citizens do every day. Whether it is through charities, volunteering, or one on one favors. When someone does you a favor or gives back to you with no warning it leaves a sense of appreciation towards that individual, and in some cases you may look at that person with admiration. Abstract from having a favor done for you is doing that favor. When you do a favor for someone, afterwards you feel a sense of self-worth, confidence and peace within yourself because you have done something out of your own appreciation for someone else.

It was an ordinary day for me at work. A middle aged man came through my line with three items that added up to around $3.50. He started counting out the only form of payment he had which was change. He came up around .50 cents short and without hesitation I took the .50 cents out of my pocket that I had personally and handed it to him. The look on his face almost read as if he had received a million dollars. Not only did I make his day, he made mine from the great appreciation he shown me from giving up my .50 cents and giving it to him with a smile on my face.

With working at a grocery store, my days are not always the easiest. There is always that one customer that has complaint after complaint. After I had gave him that .50 cents I felt like a million dollars. He walked out of that store with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a face, I could without a doubt tell I made that gentleman’s day. That is what makes me more than happy. Not only did I myself realize what I had did, the couple of customers behind him had praised me for my actions. In the end, the situation had been mentioned to the manager of the store and I was praised even more for my actions. Every day that I am stressed out at work I look back at this situation and think to myself “sharing is caring” even if it’s the sharing of kindness from one to another, and to be totally honest I don’t find myself having many stressful days at work anymore.

The feeling of sharing is unbelievable because in the end people realize you are caring and in return you get something out of it. Some people may even learn from it and decide to take action themselves. My point is that when you give back to someone maybe even a complete stranger, out of your own will it creates peace in your soul mainly because of the admiration and praise you receive afterwards. Giving back to an individual you don’t even know creates a barrier of trust between you and the individual, and where there is trust there is peace.

I believe in sharing is caring.

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Discorver yourself through the unkown

I believe that being uncomfortable shows who you are. In my teenage days, getting out of my comfort zone was something I hated. All I wanted to do was stay in my room, my place of comfort. I mean, what teenager didn’t like their privacy? But towards the end of high school I started to notice that I was lacking some serious life skills. Just like the typical slacker teenager I was, I had no idea what I was going to do after high school. I had never even thought about going to college, I was stuck. This led me to only one more option, join the armed forces.

On August 30th, 2010, I departed for basic military training to start my new journey. I had no idea what would be in store for me or what would happen. Later that night, I had arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Where I had discovered rather quickly that there was no such thing as a comfort zone, reality had hit me in the face. The constant yelling, the sleep deprivation, being with people I had never seen before, my bubble was non-existing. I was forced into a culture of interacting and working with others in a stressful environment.

I can remember the first night of basic training like it happened yesterday. Being in an unknown place and getting yelled at by strangers for reasons I didn’t even know existed. Getting yelled at for not having a shaven face, for not moving with a purpose, and for a million other reasons that would soon shape my future. I remember laying in my new bed that night and listening to all of the whimpering and crying. Thinking to myself, what have I just done with my life?

Looking back at it now, my whole military experience was uncomfortable. Being an airman meant that I had to be a leader, set an example, and have discipline. But I wasn’t just an airman, I was a fire fighter too, uncomfortable was my job. I was tasked with providing fire protection and medical assistance to all of Columbus Air Force Base and the community. Being uncomfortable wasn’t an option anymore, people lives were in my hands, and failure was not an option.

Through these experiences, my comfort zone has disappeared. If I had not signed that contract to go into a world that I was completely unfamiliar with, I would not be who I am today. I currently am an honor student at the University of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Getting uncomfortable is now in my nature, always striving for success, being a leader, helping others when they are in need, and never backing down from a challenge. Sometimes to find out what great potential you possess, you need to take that leap into the unknown. I can now answer that question I had that first night of basic training, and my answer is this, the best decision I have ever made.

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Life after Love

“Do you believe in life after love? I can feel something inside me say, I really don’t think you’re strong enough” When I look back to my childhood in the late 90’s this famous song by Cher is one I remember blasting through the headphones of my portable CD player. However, never did I think those lyrics would become so applicable in my adult life. Yes, of course I know this song refers to a boyfriend and girlfriend relationship ending and that Cher doesn’t believe she will be able to move on. But, my story is different; my story is much deeper than some teen fling ending. I believe in life after love.

I had grown up in a family of 6, we were all very close and I was what one could call a “mama’s girl”. My mother was very involved in the activities that my siblings and I participated in. In elementary school my mom was the head girl scout leader, she also was very involved in our church’s Sunday school and youth group. Always transporting my friends around and helping out with the different sports and field trips my friends would consider her to be their second mother. Everyone knew her and loved her, she was truly a socially active parent in the community. This built an extremely close bond between us. Despite my mother’s social antics I had allowed myself to fade into the background, being a triplet I let my siblings do all the extra-curricular activities while I stayed home and didn’t do much. I was boring and hadn’t been able to really find my interests. Throughout the awkward stages of middle school I mostly just hung out at home with my mom. She was my number one role model, my best friend and my comfort zone. On July 31st 2010 she passed away.

“It’s so sad that you’re leaving, It takes time to believe it” are some more wise words from Cher’s song “Believe” that also help describe this experience in my life. A few weeks before her passing I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. Nothing mattered and I was overwhelmed with grief. How could a 15 year old girl live without her mother? I couldn’t even imagine life without her, not at this age. Knowing that she would never see me go to prom, graduate, get married, or have kids, tore me up inside. The following week of her passing was dreadful. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t think I would ever truly value my life.

Through determination and a positive attitude I pulled through this tragedy and was able to grow into successful young women. A few months after she died I decided I needed to get out and keep myself busy. So, I joined my high school rugby team. I didn’t think I was cut out for it but, my mistake. I became co-captain my senior year and continue to play competitively throughout college. I also continued my schooling and have been working as a teacher at KinderCare Learning Center. Overall I have become a very outgoing, busy, adventurous individual. The disaster brought me down to rock bottom but at the same time, it also freed me from my comfort zone. Making me do things I never thought I would. I am living and I am happy. Therefore, like Cher said, “I believe in life after love”.

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I believe in defending one’s self expression

Nathan Matheny

Dr. Seas

English 102

17 February 2015

I believe that the right to self-expression is very important, important enough to defend.

In middle school I learned that I would never draw any happiness from the replication of what others considered cool. At this early age I began to try and go my own way. During these years I learned about one of the greatest results of self-expression. That being the fact that it caused others, who shared my interests, to rally around me and become my true friends. I found this discovery so significant at the time and in retrospect as I continue to watch others emulate their peers for gratification. This was quite probably my most important discovery of middle school. Then came high school. By this time I’ve really come into my own and know what I’m trying to do in terms of self-expression. As a result, I look different. I have finally decided on my choice of style for clothing, music and other expressive outlets. But my most noticeable attribute at the time was probably my hair; which was about two feet of black, blood red and brown, curly hair, mixed intermittently with dread locks.

Some people loved my appearance, but then there were those who didn’t. Those few that didn’t like the way I looked, fairly regularly gave me a hard time, throughout my early high school days. There was a particular farm boy though; Brandon, who would at times, follow me in the hall yelling things at me. He would tell me: “Long hair is for girls dude!” or tell others: “Look at this faggot with his hair!” He would do this to me fairly regularly, with fairly little retaliation on my part, just because it wasn’t worth more conflict in my opinion at the time.

One day, jumping on his routine, the farm boy walked up behind me and got my attention with the phrase “Hey faggot.” I was already in a bad mood, I hadn’t slept the night before. Without thinking for an entire second I turn around with a closed fist, and there was Brandon smiling at me with his bottom row of teeth sticking through his lip. Once down in the principal’s office, in the midst of the commotion of the police being called on me and the ambulance for Brandon, Brandon raised his voice. He told the school officer not to arrest me: “He was just defending himself” said Brandon, “I was being a bully”. The officer set down the phone, acknowledging the fight had gone both ways. Brandon turned to me and apologized, telling me that he was just messing around at first and he understood that, when I hit him, that he had been doing real damage and that the point of messing around had long passed. I may have not handled the situation perfectly, gracefully or even well, but I am glad/proud to this day that I defended how I chose to express myself.

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Love is worth a lifetime of memories

I believe that you can die from a broken heart.

Ever since I was a child, family has meant the world to me. Watching my great grandparents love one another and be with each other every day for 56 years, made me want the same kind of relationship when I am older. The love of two beautiful people that laughed daily and cared for another as if nothing else mattered, this was an inspiration to watch.

My great grandmother dealt with a lot of pain, going in and out of the hospital occasionally because of Parkinson’s disease. My family going to sit by her every day showed me at a young age what love is. Love was being with someone during the good times and the hardships no matter the situation. My great grandfather was always by her side, watching over her and getting her anything she needed. What was the greatest to me, was seeing my great grandfather not treat her any different when she was sick, he loved her so much and all he wanted was to be by her side.

After being in the hospital for a while the doctors said that she could go home and a nurse would come to the house and take care of her. This would be easy for my great grandfather to not drive around and be able to be right by her side. It gave them the ability to be in their own home and for everyone to come and visit with them.

My great grandfather was in the hospital suddenly because of a mild heart attack. He was very sick, my great grandmother came to the hospital and sat by him and held him. When I saw her hold his hand and not want to ever let go, it showed me that she was holding on for him this whole entire time.

She looked at my great grandfather that night and said, “John I love you and I will be with you soon.”

She had loved him every day they were together and he loved her. When my great grandfather died that next day, it was heart breaking for my family. I myself have never cried that much in my life, my great grandfather was a wonderful man and always was kind hearted and funny through his entire life.

After a few weeks my great grandmother started to give up more and she was getting a lot sicker. I remember going and visiting with her and remembering the last days we had with her.

She looked at us one evening and said “My husband is gone, I have a broken heart.” These few words is all she would say when she was around all of the family, she really wanted to be with my great grandfather.

She didn’t say much her last days but my grandmother told me that she saw my great grandmother look up and say “God please take me to my husband.”

I truly believe that my great grandmother died from a broken heart. She was holding on for my great grandfather and when he left, all she wanted was to be by his side again.

Being together for 56 years, loving one another, crying with one another and being there through all of the moments. He stayed strong for her through all the hard times, all she wanted to do was to stay strong for him. A lifetime of moments is worth a million of memories in a relationship.

I believe you can die from a broken heart.

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The Face of Fear

It all began August 23, 2014. Although summer had ended, St. Louis was still unbearably hot. Welcome week was coming to a close; the room was unpacked, supplies were bought, and schedules were rehearsed. My mom was about leave for the six hour car drive back home. When the time came, I never knew I could be so emotional about such a departure.

“I can’t do this,” I wept.

“Yes you can,” my mom assured, “Hold your head high…and just do it!”

By the sounds of this short exchange, one would assume that I was undergoing surgery or about to sing in front of thousands. No, I was only going to college. I guess I shouldn’t say “only,” because it is a pretty big deal. To most, college is the beginning of a lifetime. To me, it felt like the end of mine; and watching my mom drive away, it felt as if my identity had rode away with her. I cried myself to sleep that night; and many nights after.

The phone calls between my parents and me, during the first month of my freshman year at St. Louis University, consistently ended in my pleas. Once classes started, I was able to gain some distraction. Still, every spare time not spent in the library was devoted to calling or texting my parents. Sounds ridiculous, but college was something I dreaded. The fact that I was six hours away from home, or my roommates were from a completely different country and didn’t speak any English, may have had an influence on my struggle. However, the true depth of my angst came from my fear of failure.

One time, out of the many times that I called my mom, something changed:

“Please, I have to come home.”

“Now stop. This is your life, and the only way you are going to overcome this paralysis is if you expose yourself to the things you fear most. I love you, but I can’t keep spending my entire day on the phone with you.”

At first, this felt like a slap in the face, but as the initial burn subsided, I knew my mom was right. For so long, I felt like I was living in a society that condemned any notion of failure, so I was trying to live so “perfectly” and “rightly,” that I really wasn’t living at all. My fear isolated me from others and prevented the development of experiences. Things had to change.

After my phone call with my mom, I tried the alternative: accepting my circumstances, and facing my fears. Eventually, I established a routine, pushed myself to try new clubs and activities, explored the city around me, and met many people. I was uncomfortable, but as I exposed myself to the things I feared most, my comfort zone began to expand, gaining greater shape and wielding the power of a force field. The battle was painfully won, as fear, while it still exists, no longer controls my life.

I used to fear failure; avoiding, denying, and hiding from it at all costs. But, ever since I accepted the possibility of failure, I have grown tremendously as a person. I am wiser, as I have discovered more about myself, than any accolade could ever teach me. Now, I know that I am strong, I am persistent, I am courageous, and I am self-assured. This is why I believe in facing your fears.

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Honesty is the Best Policy

I believe honesty is the best way to build relationships.

My mom is the best woman I know, and I wouldn’t have the relationship that I have with her today if it weren’t for our ups and downs.

Growing up, I was THE WORST LIAR on the planet… (Holly, a Liar? No way!) I lied about a lot of things, even if it was something little. I would have consequences, yet – I still lied about everything.

My mom always told me that lying would get me nowhere. I believed her, but bad habits are hard to break.

Slowly, I started getting better at telling the truth. My lying wasn’t too bad in middle school, but when I got to high school, I lied less about little things and lied more about things that mattered.

“Where were you last night? Why didn’t you come home?” were the most commonly asked questions by my mother. I had the opportunity to tell her the truth, and I should have most of the time. If I would have realized how cool my mom was, I wouldn’t have had so many consequences.

It got to the point that during my senior year of high school, my mom wrote a contract stating I will tell her who I’m with, where I’ll be, and whether I’d come home or stay the night. That’s all she wanted to know – I should have realized that all she cared about was me and my safety before I lied to her so many times.

Since that day, I’ve been very honest with my mom about everything – boy trouble, school, work, and even little things like how much I spent while shopping. I will never be as close with anyone like I am with my mother, because I’ve built that relationship with her by being honest and asking before I do things too.

This is something that I truly believe in. Honesty is something that I’ve grown to learn not only through my mother, but also on my own. I realized that I wanted that kind of relationship with my mom where I could tell her anything and she wouldn’t get upset with me. I didn’t want to continue to upset her, and I also didn’t want to keep losing her trust. I wanted to be there for my mom like she is there for me. I value my relationship with my mom just as much as she does, and I’m glad we’ve come together to form such a strong bond.

I remember, the day before I left to go on my first vacation by myself, I had one of the biggest heart to hearts with her. It was a big moment in my life, going across the country without my mom by my side. In that moment, she reflected on our relationship and told me how she really appreciated me being so honest with her and asking her to do things. She even said, “You didn’t have to ask me to go on this trip; you’re an adult and can make those decisions on your own. I really appreciate you asking me and valuing my opinion, and I’ve never been so proud of you.”

Those words will always be in my heart, and will always be a reminder that I’ve grown up to be a responsible, honest adult that has a great relationship with her mother.

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