Strength is not exemplified by hours spent at the gym, or a macho man who can lift twice his own weight. For me, strength is typified by courage; the ability to overcome one difficult situation results in strength. I believe in this; I believe in mental strength.
On November 13, 2007, my cousin, Rachael, passed away at nineteen; she was a mere ten days older than my sister, and this had a greater affect on me than anything I have ever dealt with. She had died of a drug overdose, an abundance of painkillers that her tiny 5’ 1” frame couldn’t handle. While she had always had problems, her death, and the story surrounding it, still came as a shock. That day, I was faced with a challenge that I am still trying to understand; to accept the tragic death of a nineteen-year-old girl, and move on.
On November 13, I cried harder than ever before, harder than I had over the ending of a relationship, and even harder than when my grandfather died. I tried to stop myself because I associated crying with a certain weakness which I refused to succumb to. I needed to be stronger than my cousin had and prove to myself that I could eventually accomplish things for both of us; things like going to college, getting married, and having children; things she had not yet done, and now, never will. Those days and nights following her death resulted in a lot of crying, and to be honest, I cry now. I realize, however, that it doesn’t mean weakness; it means strength. Being a strong human being means being comfortable with who I am, my beliefs, and my instincts. That comfort is often translated through my moods and emotions, and letting a tear roll down my cheek in times of sadness is not something I will hide. Never again will I stop crying because I’m embarrassed by the reaction, because I know that those cries can only result in a little more acceptance.
My personal outlook on the difficulties of high school regarding peer-pressure and substances has severely changed since November 13, 2007. Before, I had never thought to take part in that aspect of high school, mostly because of Rachael and her problems; now, I never will. I recognize this takes courage. It is hard not to join in what looks like fun; after once surrendering to this peer pressure myself, I can say it’s not worth it. While my adventurous evening was spurned on by rocky emotions from ending a relationship, I realize now there is no excuse. It did not make me happier or cause me to forget my problems; in fact, it made me realize my sadness more. After dealing with Rachael’s death, I know the consequences of one accidental decision. Her death could have been avoided, yet wasn’t due to a lack of judgment. After watching my family deal with this tragic and shocking loss, I know I never want to put them through anything remotely like it in the future. Psychologists say that burying a child is the worst experience of life; after seeing my Aunt Suzanne go through it, I whole-heartedly agree.
Ever since November 13, 2007, my mental strength has done nothing but climb, because I know I need to live everyday to the fullest. I need to live for both of us. I need to be strong in order to accomplish my increasingly important goals. I know now the cost of succumbing to peer-pressure, or discarding your beliefs for one high, because all my cousin needed to survive was a little strength.
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