This I Believe

Michaela - San Rafael, California
Entered on December 11, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in the strength and the potential of every human being. I honestly know what it means to hit rock bottom and feel that there is no way to lift yourself up. I have had a hard childhood where I experienced a lot of things that no one should have to go through. It’s not easy for me to put my myself out there because of how many times my trust has been betrayed and how hurt I’ve been. As a result, I acted out and caused pain for others as well as myself.

When I was fourteen I was failing school, sneaking out, getting in fights, drinking, getting involved with guys a lot older than me, stealing, and getting into conflict with my parents constantly. I lied compulsively about everything and my life was going nowhere. I was in an abusive relationship and was constantly being betrayed by my so-called “friends” and by people I thought cared about me. This only pushed me harder towards other people and always basing my own self-worth on what others thought of me. I was struggling to take control of my own life. My parents decided to take action for me and send me to a program in Utah for the summer to get my feet back under me.

I spent two months in the wilderness, which was a really intense experience. I made a lot of close friends and it changed the way I looked at my life. After that I went to Mission Mountain School in Montana. At first I panicked and struggled adjusting to the new environment. I hadn’t anticipated going to another place and when I got there I found out that I wouldn’t be going home for a year and a half. It was really hard for me to deal with that information. I was really comfortable in what I knew and it was a struggle to get used to this lifestyle and make changes in the way I coped with problems in my life.

The environment was in the middle of the wilderness, so it was radically different from my home in Marin county. No phones, no internet, no television, no magazines, no makeup, no brand clothing, etc. For me this was a huge lifestyle change because I had previously been a really superficial person and cared a lot about my friends. This place stripped what had previously been my identity and began to help me build a new one. It was really hard not to be able to take comfort in the familiar. Other than going to school, we did hard labor to maintain the ranch and many acres that we lived on. I didn’t really realize how much better my life could get until I started going on home visits after I had been there for sixteen months. I saw real life actually existed outside this little bubble of MMS and how much I had missed out on in the past year and a half.

Being at MMS made me realize how much potential I had to do more with my life and how much strength I had to make it through those very difficult years. Even though I continued to have struggles with my family up until the point when I was scheduled to leave Montana, I was given a chance to come home instead of being placed in another program. Going to Sonoma Academy has been my hope for the past year because I knew that in this environment I could truly challenge myself and reach my potential. It took a lot of courage and perseverance to get to where I am now through all the difficult times I have faced.

All my life I have been the problem child, the bad seed, the rebel, but not anymore. I believe in the power to change. Every human has that fire and that capability inside of them. It is just waiting for the right instance or occasion to be called forth and put into use. The desire to succeed and the instinct to persevere is inherent in all people whether or not faced with a difficult experience. Everyone has that strength and potential inside of them, how they chose to use it is completely up to them.