This I Believe

Hope - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on May 18, 2006

There have been two major events that have shaped my belief that each of us has the option to choose our own destinies. The first started from the moment of conception in my mother’s womb. You see, my mom was a teenager when she got pregnant, and she has been driven to ensure that her daughter, me, would never go through the same things she did or make the same mistakes she did. She worked her hardest to give the both of us a good life as she became the sole provider for our two-person family. When I grew into my teenage years I learned that my mother’s choices came to affect me and the way that I was viewed by certain people. Hearing my mother called names and being stereotyped hurt, but it also drew me to a huge decision of my own. Around the age of 12, I decided that no matter what would happen socially in my teenage years; I would remain abstinent from sexual activity until I was married. This is a concept that is directly in-line with my Catholic faith as well, but for me it was much more than wanting to be a faithful and religious person, I wanted to do it for me, and for my future children. I knew what it felt like to be judged because of my parents’ mistakes and I decided that no child I have would face the same pain. This decision was probably one of the most foundational ones that I have ever made. My mom and I now speak to the junior high and high school youth groups at our church about teenage pregnancy. We encourage all teenagers to join in the abstinence movement.

The second life-changing and shaping event occurred when I was 12 years old. One of my older cousins, who was 16, was on his way to pick up his girlfriend on a Saturday night. While driving down the road which he had driven hundreds of times he was hit head-on by a man who was driving drunk. My cousin’s car was totaled and sustained most of the damage. My cousin was in a coma for a week with multiple fractures to his arms and legs and his mental health was questioned by the doctors. They said that if he came out of the coma, it was most likely that he would never gain full mental capacity again. One week later, my cousin passed away without ever having regained consciousness. It hit me then, that drinking really does kill, and that our family had become one of many who had been affected by drunk driving. I made a choice that day that I would never drink under age and I would most definitely not let myself ever become impaired by alcohol to the point that I could not make right judgments for myself or those around me. I realized that even though my teenage cousin was acting responsibly one in the situation, older people make life-threatening mistakes as well; mistakes that often start at a young age and develop as a person gets older. Drinking is one of those habits that becomes even more detrimental to health if it is allowed to progress to the point of alcoholism.

These two shaping points in my life have led me to one solid conclusion that could by some be considered my belief statement. Each of us has the option to choose our own destinies. The choices we make as teenagers can have a changing effect for the rest of our lives and the lives of those around us. People often under-estimate the effects of one’s teenage years, brushing them off as a time of fun and experimentation; when in reality the teenage years are the most shaping and important years to the beginning of the rest of our lives. It is when you are a teenager that you decide where to go to school and what you want to do. Adults often under-estimate the powers and judgments of teenagers, when in reality the teenage years shape the rest of our lives. I believe that teenagers have the power to make the difference; we can be the change we wish to see in the world.