This I Believe

Riley - Seattle, Washington
Entered on January 23, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in the ability of people to change.

My mom used to work in the enrollment office for Seattle School District. She worked directly with suspended and expelled kids. She always brought out the best in them and she always believed that they could change; so this belief was one that I just grew up with and was raised to also believe in.

Through middle school I never had a very clean record. I was more or less a “rotten egg” if you will. In 6th grade I was caught shoplifting and was brought home by the police. I wanted to change after that incident alone but it wasn’t going to be that easy. In 7th grade I was suspended from school for stealing. In a one week period I had stolen 4 cell phones. I was upset but still I couldn’t change. 8th grade was easily the worst year of the three. I got into trouble for losing my temper and yelling profanities at a girl and became depressed. This depression was caused not only by the incident with the girl but also by all of the pressure built up behind the reputation I had for being a bad boy. I was not able to recognize this at the time and as such, fell back into my old habits. I began to use marijuana, I was caught with stolen property (not mine but stolen none the less), and someone had reported that I had been drinking in school (which I had). I was suspended again and this time it came with a real price: I missed the 8th grade cruise and my graduation ceremony. That’s when the fact that I needed to change really hit. I was able to see that if I continued down the road I was on that I would end up at Marshall or in Juvenile Hall. Or worse yet, without a family. I was destroying myself.

Because of my belief that people can change I tried extremely hard to rid myself of my habits and of the reputation of a thief and a liar and now I’m a different person entirely. Today, I’m completely sober, what we teens call “straight edge”. I’m well known throughout my new school but not with any negative connotation. I am the president of the freshman class at my high school and therefore am a role model for other students. However, the thing that probably makes me feel the best about my new self is that now I can be a positive influence and role model for my 10 year old sister.

My transformation didn’t happen over night, or in week, or even a month. It’s not easy to do what I did. It takes effort and stamina and a lot of will power to completely change oneself. The thing to remember is that in the long run it’s worth it to try because it could, quite literally, save your life.