This I Believe

Emma - Santa Monica, California
Entered on June 15, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

In seventeen short years I have faced more battles than any warrior. I have cried more tears than a dam can hold. I have screamed so many times that I am unsure how I can still talk. I have overcome every single obstacle that has fallen in front of me, no matter how heartbreaking and improbable. That’s why I believe in myself.

Unlike a “normal” family that passes down artifacts draped in meaning, or wisdom seldom heard, my family passes down strength. My grandmother, a German Jew, born in the 1920’s was forced out of her home at the age of thirteen. She passed down to her daughter, my mother, her self-taught strength not through heart-to-heart conversations but through her tough exterior. Oh yes, my mother was born into a very German household where you either ate the brown goop my grandmother called food, or you wouldn’t eat. I however, was born into a loving family, well a family that loved me anyways. I was spoiled rotten, taught I could have anything, even when money was scarce and my parents fought over bills. The way I became strong was like previous generations, experienced and overcome.

At eleven my mother spent five months in the hospital recovering from a nearly fatal car crash in which she broke her neck and damaged her spine, leaving her permanently handicapped. I sat by her hospital bed crying, putting on a happy face when she drearily woke up from her morphine-induced sleep. I held her lacerated hands, fed her, and shooed away rabbis antagonizing me into praying for her soul. I became her mother.

Unable to resume a normal life, unable to move her fingers, unable to walk down a street without receiving stares, my mother has hung on. And standing by her side I too receive looks of pity for being seen with her. But we keep walking, laughing even and joke about our better parking spaces.

At fifteen I entered a world I had only imagined and read about; high school, parties, drugs, alcohol. Name any problem I’ve confronted it. But after a few years it all caught up to me. I had to watch my friends drown in addiction and self-hatred and I followed. My life had become a bad after school special, and I just wanted to turn it off.

I believed I was powerless to change my life, I believed that everything bad happened to me…I believed in the stupidest things. But now I believe in myself, I believe that all the bad has made me strong, like my mother, and my grandmother. I believe that I can fight any evil, that I can wipe away any tear, and that I can buy hundreds of bags of lozenges and I will still be ok. Because I believe in myself.