“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Being out of school for a week was my dream come true in 5th grade but not when it was due to being sick. I actually started to miss assigned seats, plastic crate “lockers” supposedly preparing us for middle school, and walking into a classroom filled with friendly faces eager to move on to the 6th grade. But when I walked in, those friendly faces had rallied against me during my absence.
The silence I received from the girls who I thought were my friends hit me harder than that time when I flew off my neighbor’s trampoline and hit my head on a tree. I had never experienced such alienation in my entire life. My biggest dilemma prior to this was figuring out how to eat a sandwich with braces. By the 5th grade, you’re fully equipped to handle a fire alarm, but there were never any practice drills for this.
Instead of telling my parents about what happened, I kept everything bottled up until eventually it was eating away at me. After too many nights of feeling nauseous, my mom asked me if everything was OK at school. That question was all it took. Everything came spilling out.
It was the best I had felt in weeks.
My teachers were nice enough to sit everyone down to talk. It turned out that having my mom do “Lizzie McGuire” hairstyles on me and being nice to boys didn’t get me on the “friend” list. I wasn’t going to change these things in order to be liked. I wasn’t going to be mean to people in order to win anyone’s approval. It was in that moment that I knew I’d rather stand up for people, and for myself, rather than stand by those who wouldn’t.
It was in that moment that I knew I had to be strong.
Seven years later, when I started college, I went through a handful of these situations, which my best friend dubbed “Braveheart” moments; these were moments where I chose to listen to my brave heart rather than the voice of fear in my head.
Although I wasn’t sure I wanted to join a sorority, I decided to try it out. I thought it’d be a good way to meet people quickly. In the beginning it all seemed fun, but the deeper I got into it the more I realized I was never truly happy. It didn’t matter that I was a part of a group because by being in that group I had surrounded myself with people who talked about each other behind their backs. I was completely out of my element. Give me constant uncomfortable moments with judgmental stares, and I shut down. Give me sand, a surfboard, and the set-up for a cheesy pun, and I’ll know exactly what to do. I knew it was time for a change. Once again, I chose to break away from the pack and go out on my own.
From sororities to packing up and shutting the door on an emotionally abusive relationship, each instance showed me more of my own strength. In each moment I never knew what would happen next. But I never let the unknown stop me from following my heart.
The unknown may seem daunting, but it’s a doorway to opportunities. I realized that taking a leap of faith toward freedom from negativity far outweighed staying and enduring it. The tears, the stress, the frustration, and the physical and mental toll that it takes on you are never worth it. I’d rather have tears of laughter. I’d rather help others find their way out of negative situations.
Each time you rid yourself of negativity, you leave room for the positive. For every negative situation I left behind, I came across many positives. There are so many good people in the world and so much life to experience. Don’t ever sell yourself short and think you can’t find your happiness. Sure, there may be days where you think it would be easier to not rock the boat, but those are few and far between the days where you feel liberated, strong, and truly happy. It may take time and it may be hard, but it’s always worth it.
Embrace your inner strength, fellow Bravehearts, and charge on.