This I Believe

Rebecca - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 17, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe I am not alone. This is the belief that propels me, guiding me through life. Whatever challenges I face, I reflect on the strength of those who have survived similar issues before me. I then gather my own strength and push through my problems.

Though I allowed myself to slip into a state of self pity in the past, I learned to believe in unity when I reached the eighth grade. I spent most of that year enclosed in a giant plastic cage. For eighteen hours a day, I wore a hard plastic brace to keep my scoliosis in check. The cream-colored brace extended from my shoulder to my hips, and I could not put it on by myself. Each time my mom strapped me into the constricting brace, another wave of shame about my crooked, humiliating back crashed over me.

At school, I kept my brace hidden, wearing baggy clothing and fully-zipped jackets regardless of the temperature. Terrified of becoming known as the “Tin Man” of eighth grade, I maneuvered through the halls carefully to prevent others from feeling the hard plastic beneath my clothes. I did not want the sympathy of others, and I was deeply afraid of facing the mockery of middle-school kids. Nobody could understand my problems (or so I thought), so I isolated myself.

A trip to the front office of my school one afternoon completely changed my mindset. While I waited in line, a girl slightly younger than I trooped into the office and dropped a brace identical to my own on the front counter. “My sister is coming to get that,” she called casually as she left the office and bounced back to class. I watched her leave with a puzzled expression, my eyebrows raised and my mouth slightly ajar. My self-centeredness had kept me from realizing that others were wearing back braces to school as well. I discovered the brace had enclosed much more than my body—it had taken over my mind, trapping me in a bubble of self pity.

As my eighth grade year progressed, the realization that other students were wearing braces helped me relax and become more comfortable in my own brace. They had learned to adapt, and I became determined to adapt as well. At the end of the year, when I was told I could take off my brace for good, I celebrated my own freedom but also silently encouraged other students who continued to wear their braces.

I now recognize the elasticity of my belief in unity. Whenever I reach a new obstacle, I stop and reflect on others who have survived similar experiences. Through all the hectic, unpredictable ups and downs of life, my belief in unity with others stabilizes me. The people I connect with may be anonymous shadows, but they help me push myself away from despair and humble me in my times of triumph. I put my situation in perspective, and I move on. I enjoy the ride.