This I Believe

Leslie - Bristol, Virginia
Entered on April 24, 2007

I spent the last 18 years of my life in complete financial security. Memories of my years in high school are mostly a gigantic blur of singing in my car, weekend trips, falling in and out of love a million times, afternoon picnics in the park, dancing in the rain, laughing hysterically with my brother, and this intense, constant feeling of being completely surrounded by love. I have been quite successful in ignoring the times when I was bored in school, and working ten hours a week at a boring job. Money and order were of very little importance to me. I loved my life. I was happy.

Now, I have been in college for almost a year. While the first small part of it consists of memories similar to those I keep from high school, it ended up becoming very serious very quickly. Suddenly, within a matter of minutes, I was a criminal. I didn’t mean to be. I still hold that I’ve done nothing wrong, but according to the court system and the better part of modern day society, I am now a bad person. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing something that a very high percentage of college students do these days, my positive attitude was nearly taken from me when my life started revolving around court costs, probation, a criminal record, and the one thing that I had never had to worry about before–money. My job became a much bigger part of my life, and my grades began to slip. I had to start worrying about grades. The two things that I had succeeded in never having to worry about began to circle around in my head at all times.

The thing that snapped me out of it was witnessing a couple of my friends say what I think was one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard–”I’d rather die than go to jail.” They too were dealing with these worries and expenses, and they had some how decided that jail would be the last straw; that jail would ruin their lives. I spent a while arguing with my friends that that was ridiculous. “It will be on your record!” they’d tell me. “Yes,” I’d respond, “but what does that have to do with my life?” They couldn’t understand.

You see, I believe that the quality of my life could not possibly be measured by this record. Even though this record would probably end up limiting my career possibilities and my school possibilities, which I know would be very bad things, it would by no means ruin my life. I believe that the quality of my life could not possibly be measured by my grades or how much money I’m making.

I’m going to keep working to pay my debts. I’m going to put my best effort into school. I’m going to try hard not to get into any more trouble, but those things are not what will determine my happiness. I will never let those things ruin my life. I believe that the quality of my life is to be measured by moments when I’m singing in my car, taking weekend trips, falling in and out of love, having afternoon picnics in the park, dancing in the rain, laughing hysterically with all my friends, and an intense, constant feeling of being completely surrounded by love.