This I Believe

Alexandra - Elgin, Illinois
Entered on October 19, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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Once upon a time, in a land not so far away…

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the stories my mother would read me before I went to bed. Tales of adventures in a faraway land where characters would meet talking animals or evil witches and in the end learn a valuable lesson. Today, my mother doesn’t read me bedtime stories, but I still encounter fascinating tales day after day. These tales have made me realize that every single life is a bedtime story. Though we don’t live in castles or meet talking wolves in the forest, our daily battles and triumphs lead us to valuable lessons, and every once in a while even to a “happily ever after.”

As a senior in high school (in the midst of very unpleasant college applications) I find myself reflecting on my personal bedtime story and what lessons I’ve learned so far. Countless extracurricular activities and every “advanced” course in the book don’t hold a candle to what I have learned from simply meeting new people and listening to their everyday tales. Two countries and ten different schools have given me the opportunity to meet hundreds of people each with a solely exceptional story.

One of these amazing stories I stumbled upon while doing clinical work in an Alzheimer’s Unit. As I checked a patient, I noticed his picture box, filled with mementos of trips, friends, family and special events. What really struck me was the date on the pictures of a trip to Las Vegas. In only two years, he had gone from gambling and having fun with his friends, to stage three Alzheimer’s in practically a vegetative state. Shocked by how rapidly and severely this disease could progress, I took the time during my break to look at the pictures boxes of all the patients in the unit. Weddings, birthdays, war, children, grandchildren, the stories could belong to anyone.

Everyday each one of us lives through our very own adventures. Our stories might not make it to the cover of Times or make us billionaires, but they bring us love and happiness. I could talk for hours about the absolutely outrageous stories I’ve heard, but what really matters is what I (and all of us) can learn from them. Nobody can predict a husband being taken by war only months after the wedding, or a child’s third birthday being his last one, but it’s through stories like these that I have learned the most amazing lessons. Meeting other people and hearing about their struggles and triumphs has made me realize how truly fragile life is. Life is like a short but wild roller coaster ride. It feels unstoppable and endless, but in the end it finishes the same for everyone. So look around, you’re not alone in the car. Some might have it easy, but others are in the back without a seatbelt.

It’s when we open our eyes to our surroundings and discover the magic and wonder in our “simple” everyday lives that we can realize what an adventure life is. And when we do, we might just be able to live happily ever after.