Right On Red

Ashley - Fort Ann, New York
Entered on August 6, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

One day, I found myself questioning the road I had been on my entire life. It was that feeling of, do I stay or do I go? The very moment I stopped to breathe, I realized there were only two options: change direction or continue on the same road. Everything about this road had only brought emptiness. It became clear to me that I was blessed with an opportunity, not necessarily a green light, but the chance to make a move. I believe in making a right on red.

At that very moment, it occurred to me that all the answers laid within myself, and that I didn’t need a map to get there. I grew up living with my mother for most of my life, attended a very large public school, and was exposed to a city-like atmosphere. It sounds much better in writing, but in reality, I was broken. There were so many other things I wanted to do – so many other places I wanted to be. I isolated myself from my mother and she didn’t even notice I was gone. She only needed me when her own life was a mess, so I became visible again, and tried my best to appease her. All I ever wanted was for her to accept me for who I am; the girl who just wanted to feel loved and acknowledged. No matter how many presents she bought me, I still felt like a puzzle that couldn’t be solved because some pieces were there and others had been lost. I wasn’t whole. And I thank her for that because she made my decision to turn right on red so much easier.

My mother was not fond of my decision to move in with my dad, and in many ways it created open wounds in our hearts. We fought constantly and there were times I wondered if this was the right choice. However, the time apart allowed both of our cuts to heal, and I believe now that it has made our bond even stronger.

The new road was different in every way possible than the one I had been on. It really was a right angle turn. Living with my dad and step mom changed my life. It was now acceptable to make a mistake, to spill my milk, spread my wings, take a nap, listen to music, write, but most importantly, breathe. In fact, I was encouraged to do so. I began school in an area where the cow population outnumbered the people, K through 12 was in the same building, and the people here accepted me even though I was different.

While it took me a life changing experience for me to figure out, they all seemed to be genuine and content with whom they were. I eventually put the hair products, make up, and fake nails on hold, and decided to focus on things that really mattered. I now look for beauty even in a junkyard and see light in the darkest of situations. No longer do I need to try and be someone else; for the exposure to a small school and a variation of priorities has allowed me to be comfortable in my own skin.

My mother will always be my mother and we’ve both decided that we’ll agree to disagree. I started off as a calf, with wobbly legs who could barely walk. But it has become clear to me that even black beauty started out that way.