The Bird Who Broke Through the Window

Dylan - San Anselmo, California
Entered on September 7, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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My whole life I have viewed myself as a spectator. Telling myself I’m not someone who can make a difference. I wished I could be. I thought that maybe, someday, possibly, hopefully, I could inspire a change… But I need to finish my homework first. Or I need to wait until I have the time. I left the work up to someone else. Someone else who is powerful, inspiring, and creative, all of these characteristics that I would never use to describe myself. I lived by the mantra “not me”.

This summer I looked at my life. At my identity. I asked myself who I really am. What I really believe in. What I want and what is keeping me from getting it. During this inquiry, I saw how I was my only obstacle. I was the only person who said I can’t change the world. I was confined in my own version of reality masquerading as the truth. A reality that I had created and had told myself I couldn’t change.

At a conference that I attended this summer, I heard Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children; speak about his life and work as a political activist. My initial thoughts when I saw him were, Good for him, but I could never do that. I’m horrible at public speaking. Nobody would ever listen to me. I’m not like him… Within the fist couple minutes of his speech I had already limited my own potential, I had already told myself “not me”. At the end of Kielburger’s speech, he looked toward the audience and said, “Every single person in here can make a difference to better the world”. It was the same line I had seen on posters and heard over and over again, but for some reason this time I was moved by his words. In my seat, I took out a crumpled piece of paper and a pen and wrote: I will make a difference. After I set down my pen, I looked at that piece of paper for a long while, realizing its implications, feeling the weight of the commitment I had just made. The words began to overwhelm me and my self doubts resurfaced. I quickly scratched out what I wrote.

I cried in my room that night at my own defeat. I saw how trapped I felt and how afraid I was of my own power. I felt like a bird stuck in a house. I could see the outside through the window, but each time I tried to fly out, I flew smack into the glass. I then realized that I, myself, had constructed the glass. I had created my own fear, and if I was willing to be brave, I could break through it. I had never been more scared and yet so inspired in my life. I took out another piece of paper and wrote the words again: I will make a difference. That night I chose to live by those words. I changed my mantra to “Yes me”.

This I believe, and this is what I live by: every single person can make a difference. It’s a scary and seemingly impossible responsibility. But it’s simply a question of whether you’re willing to acknowledge your own power. There are no limitations except the ones we place on ourselves. However, if we replace those limitations with possibilities, imagine what’s capable of the world and humanity. I submit this essay with the commitment to inspire other people like myself, who doubt they can be the difference, because I know that any and every person can if they choose to. In addition, I ask a simple question that has been the basis of my own life’s transformation: Who do you want to be and what is keeping you from being that person?