This I Believe

Emily - Mabelvale, Arkansas
Entered on September 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family

I believe in choices.

When I was a little kid, I always wanted choices. I never wanted my mom to tell me what we were having for breakfast; I always wanted her to give me a choice. For instance, “Emily, you can either have pancakes or cereal. Which would you prefer?” I never wanted to be trapped with only one option.

As I got older, however, I felt like choices were slowing me down. Why bother with making a decision when I was fine going through the same motions every day? Sure, I was unhappy about some things, but why should I risk doing anything differently for the possibility of happiness?

My home life was unsatisfactory, to say the least. Every day after school, I left a note on the counter and ran out the door to spend time with my friends until it was time for dinner. Every night, I either went jogging with my stepbrother or walking with my mom. Every weekend, I did whatever I could so that I would spend as little time as possible in my own home.

My mom and I only got along well on the surface; the choices she made infuriated me and I hated her lack of responsibility, but we talked and had fun together when we ignored all of the serious issues. My stepdad and I never talked; he was never home and, when he was, he doled out punishments and yelled at us, but he never ate dinner with us and seldom left his computer. My stepbrothers and I got along very well, mostly because of our common goal: to somehow have fun in the militaristic environment set up by my stepdad.

I had plenty of fun, just never in my own home. My mom and stepdad fought a lot, and sometimes it got physical. Once my stepdad kicked my door down and confiscated my cell phone, I started thinking. I hadn’t given myself many choices the past few years; I always did the same things: avoided home as much as possible, stayed away from my stepdad when I was home, and had fun with my friends.

Lately, it seemed like just avoiding the problem and going on about my business wasn’t the way to handle things. I started thinking about the rules I broke, the people I associated with, and the reputation I had. I started thinking about the things I wanted to do, the people I wanted to associate with, and the person I wanted to be. I started thinking about choices.

That winter, I made a choice. I chose to leave my unstable home in Germantown, Tennessee. I chose to change the ways I dealt with stress and hardship. I chose to be more careful about the people I associated with. I chose to change my behavior so that I could become a responsible, healthy person. I chose.

I finally learned a valuable lesson: life isn’t worth living unless you choose.