This I Believe

Suzanne - Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Entered on April 30, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

Determination Will Carry Me

I believe that the best way to believe in myself is to practice determination.

I am remarkably fortunate to be surrounded by a community of people who tirelessly root for me. My parents, my grandparents, my friends, my teachers, coaches, and mentors of past and present, and especially my 80-pound yellow Labrador sister all seem to have confidence in me with a consistency that I cannot always manage. On rough days when my self-confidence seems to trip on its own shoelaces, I can always turn to those who know me best for encouragement.

But even the borrowed faith of others cannot always incite my own.

A year ago, as I contemplated college, frantically filled out applications, and whipped up personal essays one after the other, I lived a pretend life. I pretended to be excited for the future that lay ahead of me. I pretended to have a semblance of an idea of what I wanted to study or grow up to be. I pretended that I could handle the transition from high school to college, no problem. I pretended that I wasn’t afraid.

I wrapped those cords of pretense around me, around my heart, ever so tightly, until at last the encouragement I so desperately needed could no longer squeeze its way in. The only thing that kept me going through those worst moments was my determination to never quit.

Maintaining self-confidence has been one of the hardest challenges for me at St. Olaf, 900 miles from Denver and all that was familiar. As I learn to untangle myself from the pretenses of a year ago, and struggle to discover my unique place in the world, many of the things I thought were my own beliefs are revealed as values I pirated from friends and family. It is discouraging to begin to understand how deeply buried I was beneath my make-believe act of conviction. Yet it is also liberating, for now I am free to recreate a creed all my own. I realize now that when I cannot hear the voice of reason, or the voices of love, I must cling to the one voice I still recognize – my own. Inside me perches a tiny whisper which grows and grows though the din of life tries to swallow it.

Never give up. Never, never, never give up.

This whisper has dragged me through all-nighters and through crises with friends and family. Each time I step onto the tennis courts, I am confronted with the opportunity to practice determination. Dogged, unflagging resolve has led me to more victories than have any skill or strategy. Determination has carried me through storms of self-loathing, fears of failure, and exhausting bouts with confusion and disbelief.

I believe that determination will carry me home.