This I Believe

Shelby - Grand Junction, Colorado
Entered on April 20, 2007
Age Group: Under 18


A Commentary on Identity

More than anything, I am sick of dead people walking. Every day, I watch people get up to go to work, go to work to pay for food, pay for their food to survive, to get up every day to go to work: existing, but never living. I can count the amount of real people I know on one hand.

Every day, I find myself asking a question that puts me to shame. “Why do I do what’s right?”

I came to the conclusion that doing the right thing because it is simply right simply isn’t strong enough. I have learned to do the right thing because it defines me.

Modern statistics say the average teenager spends three minutes a week talking with their parents. How can I understand who I am if I don’t have a good idea of where I came from? Don’t get me wrong, TV is fine. But twenty-eight hours per week (on average) is too far for me. Watching life cannot live life.

In 1949, big industries scandalized Preston Tucker, a rookie-humanitarian who wanted to make a safer car. “If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he would get arrested for flying a kite during a thunderstorm!” He said. Why is it cool to shame things and dangerous territory to like things? God forbid we should ever love anything!

I remember the words of an upperclassman my freshmen year after he discovered I didn’t cheat on class assignments. “You‘re one of those sheltered people, huh?”

“No,” I answered. “I‘m as far from sheltered as you can be.”

He shrugged it off. “You’ll change next year. You’ll completely rebel.”

I was devastated.

I cannot ignore the strong resemblance of the quote to a second I heard. It referred to a friend of mine that once knew what he was about. His life turned a one-eighty with his pumped stomach on a hospital bed.

“Yeah, that kid, we changed him.” His friend said. The words we changed him ricochet in my mind over and over again. Does he know the pain I go through? It’s one thing to lose your identity. It’s another to have it stolen.

Don‘t get me wrong, and I did rebel. But my rebellion is never to compromise myself. Over and over again I have been persecuted for refusing to cheat, lie, or gossip, and once for “hanging around those people.” I have been in a place where it felt like there is no one in the world who could relate to me, but I never stopped trying. The way I see it, without risks, there could be no conflict, and without conflict, there could be no adventure.

Today I listen to the news about school shootings. And I wonder, who really is guitt of murder? Is it the student who for months sat alone at the lunch table because no one would sit with him, or the ones who make fun of him, causing his life to be a living Hell? I will not lie; I am a murderer. There are things I wish I could do over, but I will re-voice the shame my mistakes if it can prevent others from learning from theirs. I have learned that there is no real way to tell if I believe something unless I believe it under fire.

Some believe we were made in the moral image of God, who describes himself saying “I am what I am.” I have learned that I am more than a writer, or a painter, or a science geek. Actually, my identity is found in all of these aspects. Therefore, I am what I am.

The best thing about finding my heart is listening to it. Real people dance when they feel like it because they are not afraid of what others think. Real people are not afraid to be passionate about things. Real people tell the truth. This is my goal, to be a real person, because identity should be sought, not sold or stolen or substituted.

“I’m lost. I have gone to find myself. Should I come back before I return, keep me here.”