There is great power in storytelling, both personal and for others. But when youth and storytelling go together, the process it is something special. I knew this as a mother, so it only made sense to start teaching it to other youth as much as possible. I approached my local school district, Ogden School District, and Ogden City Arts and the Ogden School Foundation to garner support and help fund the class and curriculum. They loved the idea and could see and feel the same vision I had in mind. With their support, this fall I embarked on teaching high-school-aged students the hows and whys of personal storytelling.
At first it seemed daunting to them. “How can I write about myself?” “I’ve never done writing like this before.” “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?” were just a few phrases I heard as we started the process. But then as I talked and we worked together, one on one, I could see the lights in their minds turn on. I got more eye contact. More confidence. More faith that their story was worthwhile.
The students I was able to teach are part of the AVID program at Ogden High School. This program gives students help and tools to be able to attend college or a trade school and to achieve their maximum potential. As a parent I have watched this program really put students on the map to success and I loved being able to see that firsthand this fall.
Youth and storytelling – what do you know?
One of the first things I like to do when talking to youth is to find out what they know about themselves and where they came from. According to a study conducted at Emory University, the more youth know about about their families and their own story, the more happy and resilient they are. Read more about that here. So, I asked the students some key questions about what they know:
- Where did your parents meet?
- Where did your grandparents grow up?
- What do you know about the day your were born? And possibly the biggest and most important? Do you any serious illness or hardship that someone is your family has gone through?
Why is the latter question so important? Because if kids know someone they love endured something difficult, they are more likely to be able to handle it with difficult things crop up in their own lives. (And they do for all of us.) Also, when they can share both the stories of their loved ones and their own difficulties with others, they discover they are not alone in their journey.
Furthermore, if they write about it, they understand it and it become a part of who they are. Writing about difficult things gives us all meaning and helps us to seek resolution. The sooner we learn that in life, the happier and more resilient we become. Writing about hard things in their own lives or the lives of people they loved became one of their writing prompts. I loved how hard many of them thought about it and what they learned – or learned more deeply once they wrote about it.
Telling stories builds confidence
Most teenagers do not naturally have confidence in themselves, but if they have a few tools to see the amazing things they can do, they get on the right path. I taught the students that every good story is about transformation and to take a step back and think of experiences in their life that had changed or transformed them. But it required patience for them to figure it out. I learned that they needed more guidance and more explanation than when adults are asked to do task such as this. But once I gave more clear instruction and sat back and waited, I loved the results! Each of the 26 students wrote about a transforming experience in one way or another. While it was hard for some students to write about themselves, they could see how someone else in their life had transformed for the better. As the youth wrote their stories it was transformative for them as well.
Related: Writing about the hard stuff
The Struggle is Real
Different tools work for different students. Some enjoyed using the storyboarding technique where they could map out a plan for their writings, while others just needed to forge ahead and go for it. This is also true for adults. The best process is whatever works for you. When writers feel empowered to do it their way, they make progress. One of the motives for the class was to help the students tell a concise story about their lives that they could share for a college application or scholarship application. Some students kept to the smaller writing requirement, while others wanted to let the words flow longer – to tell a story that was inside of them and then make it more concise later. It worked – and they put their trust in me both to keep confidence and to share when they were ready.
With all of us, some stories aren’t for sharing, but help us give words to our thoughts. This can be part of a healthy process to learn from our experiences.
It struck me how teens are grappling with some tough stuff. But I saw how resilient they are and through programs like AVID and teachers, parents, loved ones and friends extending a hand, they succeed. They just need to know that someone is cheering them on. I hope they each know I am now a cheerleader on each of their teams. Since I live in the area, it has been rewarding to run into these students at local grocery stores, football games and high school events and see them succeeding in all facets of their life.
Several students have beautiful pieces that they can use for whatever purpose they see fit, but we at Evalogue.Life felt that it would be worthwhile to share some of their essays below. These are all printed with permission. Some students wish to remain anonymous, while others are proud of having their name printed. I hope you will enjoy the fruits of their labors. After reading these, you will see like I did, the future is bright!
Youth and Storytelling – Student Essays
On My Own – Anonymous
“It was a dark night I was sitting in my room on my bed hearing the storm of scream outside. I stood up and looked out the window and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could see that I was in a dark place in life. On top of that I had not been feeling good at all. It had caused me to wonder what was going on with my body. I remember the first person I ever felt to tell my feelings which kind of made me nervous to tell Brian. Let me explain a bit of our history. He was an important part of this problem and here is what his life is about: Brian had always had a family and he would do sports as he was younger and when he was older he had over 20 medals and a trophy that was only a little shorter than he was. When he was a little kid he would play football in junior high. We started dating when we were in the 7th grade . Then time came where he was not going through a good time in his life in his 8th grade year so he had been sent to a different school and I had stopped talking to him and stopped seeing him. 9th grade rolled around and we had started talking and started seeing each other more often and had time to see him play as well and that first game I had seen him play was when I had met his dad and his girlfriend. I was kinda feeling mixed emotions on the note that I was his girlfriend and we had met each other’s family and all . Of course we were like an on and off relationship but we had talked through our problems and would move on with our day and kinda brush it as if nothing had happened . I had been in cheer for about a year and I had been getting up at 5:00am for practice every day. Then I would come home and sleep all day, that wasn’t like me to sleep all day. I remember noticing a mark on my belly and I asked one of my good friends, that had just found out she was pregnant, if she knew what it could be. She suggested that I take a pregnancy test. I remember I was feeling kinda scared to see the results. There it was, two bars, I was pregnant. I was feeling mixed emotions when I found out I was going to be a young mom at the age of 16.
The 10th grade on April 19 is when my whole life had changed for good. I know I wouldn’t ever had the same life I had, before getting what I had wanted when I was a little kid and up to this point because I had been an only child. But I remember I had found about i was pregnant around April 17 or 18th of 2018 and that when I had remembered all the things my family like my mom and and my uncle saying, ‘’We don’t want you to get pregnant at a young age because life will get hard once you have a baby.’’ I just remember sitting in my car crying saying to my life that my life was going to be so different and I wouldn’t be able to do things I used to do. But in the back of my mind I was thinking was, How will my mom and dad react?” How would you think your parents would have reacted and how would you feel. I remember that I had felt that I was alone at times when my parents would fight. I told them that I was going to be a young mom a the age old 16. As I thought about the change in time the dark storm outside had increased .
I was feeling mixed emotions when I found out I was going to be a young mom at the age of 16. I remember telling the father that we were going to be parents and he didn’t believe me. He made me take 2 digital pregnancy tests to make sure it was true. And it was a real thing, we were going to be parents. The worst part was that we were not together anymore so I didn’t know what was going to happen with the baby coming.
I remember him not texting me back, and I just didn’t know what was going to happen next. The next morning as I was going to school, I remember he texted me. He said that he couldn’t believe that we were going to have a family. He said we needed to tell his dad first so he would know what was going on. I remember that we were in his living room just talking about how life was going to be hard after having a baby because they need so much.
After we had talked to his dad we had to go tell my parents and I was kind of nervous about how they would react. We told my mom first. She was mad and very disappointed. He left to go to work and I just kept sitting there waiting for my dad to get home. When he got home, my mom called my boyfriend’s dad to come over. I remember just sitting there watching our parents arguing and yelling. His dad finally left and I just went to my room. It was a dark night, I just sat in my room on my bed hearing the storm of screaming from my parents. I stood up and looked out the window and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could see that I was in a very dark place in my life.
Now in life I have a hard time to adapt to my new life after having my baby with me. I had to adapt on the way my life would function with going to school and or having a job. It had been hard to learn for me but I still pull through. Right now i am currently in the Cna program at the Ogden Technical college and graduate program in December, or at least I hope I graduate . But right now my goal is to be an OB where i can see the womens body and the infants and how they grow . But right now I just love to be around my mom and family and enjoy every new step we take together .
I found a quote that explains how I felt that night. It says: “Being alone really makes you realize all you got is yourself.”
Change – Anonymous
Not everyone gets a second chance when it comes to having a clean record, but I was fortunate enough to get a fresh start. It all started the summer of junior year,I was 16 years old just wanting to be… well wanted. I looked for acceptance by everyone. That was one unforgettable summer.. After what happened that summer my life would forever change.
During that summer, I was the girl who would never leave her room. Overall, I was a depressed teenager that did not want to talk to anyone or go out anywhere. I felt so much self-doubt, thinking I wasn’t good enough to do anything. Summer, to me, is always a bad time, but I hit rock bottom that summer. Personally, I did not see a way out.
August 1st, 2018, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I did what I never thought I’d do and that is sneak out at night while my mom was sleeping. Every night I started to sneak out. Then, when school started and I was still going out at night. I thought I was finally accepted and wanted. September came around and I was out driving and was pulled over late at night. From there, the officer took me to the police department. “You were in a stolen car that’s why you are here,” said the officer. I was arrested that night and they took me to a youth center after calling my mom at 3 A.M. That night I slept in a holding room and I laid there disappointed in myself. My mom picked me up the next morning with despair in her eyes. The car ride home was silent until my mom broke the silence with one sentence that has never left my mind, “Where is my daughter?” Those words brought tears into both of our eyes. I realized, in that moment, I broke my mother’s heart. The woman that created me and loved me for who I am, was disappointed in me. At that exact moment I understood the mistake I had made and I had to change for myself and my mom. I promised myself I would get out of it and make my mom proud of me.
I was placed on home detention for two months up until court on December 11th, 2018. Every day I was checked up on at school and at home by home detention staff up until my court date. After court I met my probation officer and we spoke about what was going to happen. Throughout the whole process everyone I felt accepted by disappeared from my life. I was placed in juvenile detention for 48 hours. I had to pay a fine of $660 dollars. My attorney talked to the judge on lowering the penalty. My charge was “receiving stolen property over $5000” a second degree felony. It would have stayed on my record if my attorney didn’t help. Thanks to my attorney, he lowered it to a third degree felony. It didn’t end there. I also had 36 hours of community service and I had to meet with my probation officer once a month for 6 months. I was placed on formal probation which means if any mess-ups were to happen, I would be sent to juvenile detention again. I paid the fine, I did all my community service hours, and have completed all of the courts requirements. What still remains on my record is a misdemeanor A.
This event changed my life. It is not something I am proud of but it is something that has shaped me into who I am today. I realized my worth and it showed me how strong I am. After finding out what I did, it seems that everyone does look at me differently, but it does not define who I am. It disappoints me when I think back on what I did but I have changed in so many ways. .
To this day I have become a better person. I now have a higher gpa with good grades. I stay on track with my grades. I have a good attendance at school and do not miss any class. Also, I am part of the cheerleading team here at Ogden High School. I have made new friends with good intentions. I am motivated and determined to be successful in both high school and my future life. I have an inseparable relationship with my mom now. It took a long time for her to gain trust in me again but now I never want to lose it.
Finding Myself, by Jonathon Rodriguez
The biggest problem I had in the last 5 years was a huge drop of confidence. My 10th grade year as a sophomore I was super insecure about who I was. This was my first year of student government and I felt like I didn’t fit in at first. I was voted in and selected to be an officer and it felt as if I didn’t belong around the group of people. I would get nervous that I wasn’t the officer people wanted. I wasn’t the person I am now that you see happy and joking around about everything. I was weighing 210 pounds and I didn’t feel comfortable with being myself. I was always made fun of for my weight so I was super sensitive. I got in the mood to better myself and set a plan to lose weight. I finished out the school year weighing 170 and I learned that I can do anything with a set plan and motivation.
Over coming the insecurities was very easy when I gave myself a motivation of trying to be better than who I was at the time and not to do it for anyone else but myself. Self motivation will allow you to go so far in life and accomplish all the things you wouldn’t have imagined doing. Life is 10x easier when you are believing in yourself. My confidence is so much higher I am content with who I am because of the extra school involvement through Latinos In Action, Avid, NHS, and Student Government. These things have turned into miniature families that I have. I know that at the end of the day when I come to these classes I fit in and I belong thanks to my families.
The Worst to the Best – Yanely Rodriguez
My life hasn’t been perfect, no one’s life has. However, I really went through a lot in the past 5 years. It has gone from the worst to the best years of my life.
Life outside of school has not been the easiest. Family life can be a struggle. I did not and till this day do not get along with my step mom and this has caused many issues. I always had to walk from school to my house because she wouldn’t pick me up. I had to find a way to feed my brother and me. My father never interfered with any of it. Not that he did not have the power. Two years ago she and my dad had a baby and we did not speak for the entire 9-month pregnancy. Through my viewpoint she’s jealous of me for all my accomplishments. I always try to get in her shoes and try to understand why she tries to turn my dad against us and get her way. However, I do not seem to pinpoint it. She always gets us to feel like we are in the wrong. She tries to make us feel the worst for being my father’s top priority. From worrying about the problems at home I had to worry about keeping up at school.
I got into the drill team and from the drill team at 6 in the morning I had to go to school, from school I would pick up my brother, get home, eat, change and out the door again to work. From work I would get home at 10 and do homework until 12. Every day was the same and everyday was more problems inside the house. Soon enough the problems seemed to go away and I felt less stress at home. I realized my problems would continue to pull me and my step mom would continue to make my life miserable if I did not do something about it. With this I started getting out of my house.
I learned to continue pushing by joining clubs and being open. I got into ROTC and other activities. JROTC lead me to join the Army Reserve in which I am now, leading me to the good path. I will be heading off to boot camp in summer 2020 and starting my career.
Uplift – Anonymous
I have accomplished things in my life and that’s thanks to the people who surround me and who uplift me. Two people in my life have impacted my life who are my mom and my dad. In February I started a nursing assistant course at the ATC and it took about 2 ½ months. During those months I was uncertain if I wanted to continue with the program because I was so stressed.
There was a day during those months where I went home and got ready for bed and at that time I was sleeping in the living room because they were working on reconstructing my bedroom. So I layed on the couch and I couldn’t sleep because of how stressed I was and since I was so stressful I started to cry. My mom and dad came to the living room because they heard me cry since their room is next to the living room. They told me that it was going to be okay because everyone starts like that, that in the beginning you’re not going to understand right away and it’s going to be hard and that’s how life is, we have to learn. After they told me that I started realizing that right now I have a lot of opportunities in high school to try things and experiment with different program/careers and that my parents didn’t have that opportunity to finish high school or even elementary school.
I am so happy that I have parents that love me and want the best for me and uplift me. They are the people who motivate me to do my best. Because of their support I have realized that I can accomplish hard things and further my education.
Surgery – Anonymous
About two months ago I had to get knee surgery. I had to get surgery because I tore my meniscus. I don’t really know how I did it, but my parents and I are thinking that I tore it when I used to play basketball. But that was 3 or 4 years ago when I used to play. Something else that might have torn it is that about 6 months ago I was walking down the stairs and my knee popped out of place and popped back in. For a week after that my knee hurt really bad to the point that I cried. My mom realized this and decided to call and make me a doctor’s appointment. We went to the appointment and they told me that I had torn my meniscus and I might possibly need to get knee surgery. So we scheduled an appointment for an MRI for next week from then. I was so nervous for the MRI because I was hoping that nothing was wrong and I wouldn’t have to get knee surgery. So the day of the MRI came and I was way more nervous now. We did the MRI and now we had to wait a day or two for the results. A few days went by and we got the results and I had to get surgery. When I found that out I was so scared, nervous, and just didn’t want to do it.
After all that we had to schedule an appointment for surgery. Once we scheduled it all I could think about was my knee surgery and what would happen. The day of knee surgery came and I was scared, nervous, and just didn’t know how to feel. I remember the whole ride to the doctor’s I was just thinking of everything that could happen. We got there and did everything we had to do and then we sat down. Not that long after they called me back to get ready for surgery. When I got back there and got everything I needed. I was just sitting and waiting anxiously for them to bring me into the surgery room. They finally came to get me and when I was walking back to the surgery room all I could think about was the worst and how nervous I am. I got to the room and laid down and everyone in the surgery room came at me all at once. They all started to put all these different things on me and by then the way I was feeling was like I was going to throw up. All that could go through my head was that I’m really scared and didn’t want to do it. The doctors up this medicine in my iv and I fell asleep after that. The last thing I remember is looking up at the doctors that were around me.
When I finally woke up I was confused, crying, and asking them to get my mom and grandma. Both came back to see me and I got so happy but I was still crying. I couldn’t stop. The doctors finally told us that we could go home. We got in the car and drove home. The whole way there I was just crying because it hurt and the car was bouncing everywhere. We finally got home and my brother and mom had to help me up the stairs. It was the most difficult thing to do because I could one use one foot and I had to hop on it. When I did it made my knee hurt really bad. I finally got inside and laid down, right when I laid down, I fell asleep.
This was a very difficult for me at the time because I couldn’t do anything on my own. Like for example I had to be helped to the bathroom all the time and that was stressful for me. I had to be helped with everything. It was stressful because I don’t like others helping me but I had no choice. This is something I’m still trying to overcome but I have get a lot done at the same time. The things I have overcome is walking again and trying to walk normal. Also bending my knee and getting strength back into it. But also there are some things I still need to work on. The first week of knee surgery was very hard for me and that is because I couldn’t do anything. But now I have gotten a lot better at accepting help from others. An example of me accepting help from others is when I was walking up the stairs and I stopped for a moment because I got tired. Then my mom came and helped me because she seen I needed help. I just let her help me because I really did need help and I felt good about her helping me. So what I have learned is that I should let other help me when I really need it. But I went back to the doctor said it would take about 6-8 months for me to be fully recovered. This is something I still need to work on. So what I have learned is that I can do anything even if I think I can’t.
Grandpa – Anonymous
Everyone has a tough time and it’s those tough times that make people who they are today and I am part of that everyone, I have the struggles that had made me who I am today. I adored grandpa so much as a child when I lived in Mexico for just two years before coming to the United States. My grandpa was one of the best people in the world who would help me whenever I felt down or bored. One day my grandpa wasn’t feeling too well so my mother had to take him to the hospital and when the doctor had finished examining my grandpa, the doctor told us that he had cancer and had only one month left to live. I at that time didn’t really know what cancer meant until my mother had explained to me what the doctor has said and I was really sad. That the person who had made my life so joyful was going to pass away soon so I decided to hang out more with my grandpa until one month later on a Monday my grandpa had passed away in his sleep. I was depressed for a short while. I wouldn’t talk to anyone, staring into space most of the time, and eating so little and this was how I tried to overcome the passing of my grandpa.
Every time someone talked about grandpa I would get very upset and angry at the person who talked about him. When I heard that my family was moving to the United States for a better life I didn’t like it one bit and wanted to stay because I didn’t want to leave the place that was filled with memories of my grandpa. My parents had a difficult time trying to convince me until they had enough and told me that I was going anyway which made me not talk to my parents for a short while. I was in my room looking through the photo album that my mom had kept in her closet, I saw the photos of me & my grandpa and saw how happy my grandpa was which made me realize that my grandpa would not pass away in peace If I didn’t continue with my life so that is exactly what I did. I started to live like I used as if my grandpa was right there beside me and what I learned from my grandpa’s passing is that if someone you love passes you should always continue with life even if it’s hard at first.
Challenges and Heroes – Lorena Ledesma
I have had many things that have happened to me that have challenged me over the years. When I was about 8 or 9 I was in a really bad accident that left me in the hospital for a while with a traumatic brain injury. The accident was really hard for me because I had to relearn things that I have forgotten and try to do day to day activities that I couldn’t do. I also had to go for monthly doctor visits to see how I was doing and to be honest I absolutely hated them. For a while I couldn’t do things myself and my mom had to help me.
My mom is a hero to me because she took off work to help me even though she had my other brothers and sisters to take care of as well. My mom supported me when I couldn’t even do anything for myself that’s why my mom is a hero for me. I have slowly overcame my accident little everyday and I have worked hard over the years so I wouldn’t fall behind from my classmates. My mom also hired tutors for me. I have progressed and challenged myself to do better everyday and I am overcoming it little by little. There might be worse days than others but I pull through and challenge myself to do better. I have succeeded a lot and went farther than I ever imagined. I have taken classes that challenge me like math 1010 and and medical terminology and so many more I not only overcame my accident im excited for what my future holds.
Overcoming Loss – Brooklyn Ritz
I would say that the hardest thing I have had to overcome in the last five years was losing my best friend of seven years. My mom always told me, “People will come and go in your life.” I had always heard what she said but never really understood it until I lost the first important friend in my life. You may be wondering ‘well, what happened to your friend?’, and the answer to that is as simple as a dumb argument. In fact the small fight we had was over something so petty and childish, I completely forgot what it was even about! Can you believe that?
I had never really lost someone so important to me in my life at that point. As you can imagine, it was my first time having to go through something difficult on my own. I realized that I would do anything to come to an understanding with her, to be on good terms. For about 3 years I spent almost every day and night reaching out to her, in hopes of working things out with one another. After so much heartache and frustration, a photo was sent to me by an unknown phone number. It was a photo of her and a new boyfriend. Then, it hit me all on in one go. I realized that he was the reason she did not need me anymore. She had a new person. In other words, I had been replaced. To this day it makes me so sad that she had kept me wondering all these years why she let something that I thought was my fault eat me alive.
It was at that moment I knew that I knew I had to take this bad experience and turn it into something good. I had to come to terms with myself that, people will come, and people will go. I should not dwell on things that will not benefit me and my health in the long run. I overcame this battle with myself, this battle of loss, regret and hurt. Now, I can say that I now am surrounded with good people, good friends, good family members, and a good community. Life is all about the people you surround yourself with and what you make of it.
Meeting my Goals – Anonymous
Last year I lost interest in school. I was still doing decent but not my usual best. I was always tired and always felt down, all I wanted to do was sleep. I started to skip class often. My grades, my GPA, and my class rank dropped which made me feel bad about myself.
At the time I was working two jobs and had more advanced classes than what I was used too. Working two jobs didn’t allow me to have enough time for homework. Getting home late and still having to do two hours of homework was very stressful. Then still having to wake up early the next morning for school caused me to feel like a robot. This constant routine made me feel overwhelmed and suffocated. It felt like I kept redoing the day over and over until three months had passed. I decided this was not a healthy lifestyle and decided to quit one of my jobs.
By the time I quit one of my jobs it was almost the end of the first semester. Which was the first time I had ever failed a class. Seeing this letter grade made me feel like it was defining me. I felt disappointed in myself for not trying harder. To some, it’s not a big deal but to me it was and it is a huge deal. I had always been good in school and had the best grades.
Being the first generation in my family to attend high school put more pressure on myself. Seeing how hard my parents worked to come to a new country and starting a new life with nothing inspired me to keep going. My parents are my biggest inspiration because of what the have accomplished. Ever since I was little my parents had always told me that gaining an education is the greatest gift anyone can receive. As well to always try my best in everything I do and aim for my dreams. I had lost track of this at the time I felt lost, I am now realizing what I am meant to do.
Until this year I came to a realization that this wasn’t me and I needed to get myself back on track. I realized that I was putting so much on my plate that it was too much for me to handle. It was causing too much stress and anxiety for me that I decided to give myself a break. I am now trying my very best in school and putting more time into myself. Having more time to self reflect sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of myself. I am now applying to colleges and waiting on what the future awaits.
The Drawing – Brandon Arrioga
There’s always accomplishments that most of us find very grand and spectacular. Well, my accomplishment isn’t really something big, but it was for me. This small event of mine sparked some personal growth, when I really didn’t think much of it at the time. Especially for something that happened while at jr high.
When I was at Mound Fort, we were having a Hope week. One of the last activities they had was a “hope” drawing competition. They gave us around a week and a half to work on a project of our liking. It could be anything, as long as it was made by ourselves with any sort of media and as long as it dealt with the word “hope”. Before you could start, you had to sign up so they knew who was entering the competition. I didn’t really think much of it until some of my teachers started encouraging me to enter. Of course when people get peer pressured, they usually do it, and of course I did.
I decided I’d forget about the whole project. It was the last day before our artwork had to be turned in the next day. I had erased it off of my mind for some weird reason, and didn’t think about it until one of the teachers that was excited to see what I came up with reminded me. In a panic, as soon as I got home, I remember taking out what little supplies I had and started on a drawing. Me being so creative at that age decided to draw out the word “hope” in big letters. That was my project for that contest… well it was for around an hour.
See, I decided maybe the big bubble letters aren’t going to cut it for something that my teachers are expecting a lot from. I then chose to spend the rest of the day doing nothing but drawing. The end product was something I was somewhat proud of, as I changed my whole design, keeping my big bubble letters as they were but adding way more surrounding those letters. When I called it off and decided it was finished, it didn’t really say “winner” to me. But it would work. Eventually it was entered, it was put up for show, and to my surprise, the drawing I thought seemed messy and weird, won 3rd place.
Yes, I’m aware that 3rd isn’t 1st place. Ever since that weird idea of mine got that award, I’ve been getting asked online, in person, by friends and by teachers if I can possibly make them something similar to what I did before. To most I agree and to all I ask for nothing but a thanks. Of course most of them don’t let me leave without taking their money, but I’m okay with taking nothing. Again, my accomplishment isn’t as big or as grand as others, but it is very personal and close to me. It happened in a time when I thought I couldn’t really do things like this or be acknowledged like i was. It was my period of personal growth, as after that i thought differently about myself, I’m more confident, and im more out there now. I have a different understanding of myself now than I had before.
Learning About Loss – Anonymous
I never truly understood the true hardship that came with losing a loved one until it hit close to home. Me and my grandma had a very close and special bond. She always made it clear to everyone else in the family that I was her favorite. She lived in california so I only got to see her a few times a year. This made everytime a really special time and always a hard goodbye. I was able to see her one last time before her passing and never imagined it would come so quickly after that. Her passing for me was really hard. Being so far away and just just getting to go one last time to see her had to be the hardest part of it all.
It has taken a few years and lots of quiet moments for me to accept and cope with the passing. Today I can say thatI have overcome it but not one hundred percent, and I don’t think I ever will. I still think about her very often and get upset. Today there is still little things that trigger something in me that makes me really her presence in my head really vivid. These little things that trigger the thought in my head most of the times have have little to no meaning to her passing. I still unintentionally make a connection with it in my head. These events I dont think will ever stop. I really do miss my passed family and everything that has changed since. Our dinners, parties, holidays are no longer the same and feel like they deserve to be remembered for who they were and what they did here with us. Memories that will never fade away are memories that I will forever be grateful for and cherish.
My Sister – Ruby Sanchez
One hard thing that has happened to me was adopting my little sister. The adoption itself was a hard thing, but the process and how it came to be was a nightmare. My sister used to be my cousin, Gabby. She was my only cousin on my moms side. A few months after she was born, she got taken away from my uncle and his girlfriend by DCFS. My uncle’s girlfriend walked into a store drunk with the baby. It took her a week to call my mom and tell her Gabby was taken away. My uncle didn’t say anything because he was at their apartment drinking and drinking. When we found out Gabby was taken away, it was my other sister’s birthday. Later we found out Gabby was with a foster care family, and today we are still really good friends with them. But it was definitely a traumatic experience for me and my family. My parents were going to court with my uncle and his girlfriend to see if they could gain custody of her again but they kept failing their drug tests. When she was 5 months she was placed with us temporarily. Then when she was about one, we finally adopted her.
I have overcome it. She’s my sister and I honestly don’t know where our lives would be right now without her in our home. She definitely lights up our world. The process was hard, but we’ve pulled through together as a family. My parents love her unconditionally and her biological father is still in her life. Her mother is back in Kansas but we haven’t been in touch with her. Unfortunately Gabby will have a touch of mental problems which is just genetics from the mother so that is something we as a family have to deal with. So that’s the next step to overcome with her. But she has a family who loves her very much and I hope she knows that when she goes through hard obstacles in her life.
Rough Patches – Erika Vallanueva
Life is hard. We all have rough patches in our lives. A rough patch I’m currently going through is an illness my family. Two years ago on Christmas Eve, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. My grandmother is 65 and she’s had breast cancer twice already, it changed us all. With my grandmother being the rock of our family, we all struggle with even the slightest thought of her not being with us. She barely started chemotherapy a few months ago, and it’s hard. We all have a schedule that we follow to take her on different days to her appointments. We have all sacrificed so much, and it’s changed my life drastically.
I hadn’t noticed I’ve changed until I took a step back. I know that I don’t have cancer, and I can’t even begin to imagine what my grandma goes through daily, but it’s changed me. My mindset has changed, I look at myself differently, and I look at life with a different pair of eyes. I have sacrificed things, but my family has definitely sacrificed much more. Me personally, I’ve sacrificed my Wednesday’s. Wednesday’s are my day to take my grandma to chemo, and before any of it, Wednesday’s were my boxing days. I have quit boxing because I was always missing practice, and my matches. I’ve also had to decrease my hours at my job because I had to take my grandma to therapy. Going through this experience, I have changed physically, and emotionally. My grandmother is my second mom, she raised me while my mom went to school. Seeing her going through the pain that she does, is so hard and I would trade places with her in an instant. She is my inspiration everyday. She has inspired me to go into the health field. Seeing her go through everything she’s gone through so far, it’s made me realize that I want to help people for a living. I plan on going into the EMT program, to become a paramedic.
My Purpose in Life – Audrey Craciun
Honestly this is kind of weird. Or not weird, I’m not sure if this makes sense? I fulfill my purpose when I feel happy. Okay, it’s not that weird now that I’ve wrote it. Like, I see it and it makes sense. I guess my purpose is to feel happy because I’ve felt unhappy for some time ago. And it wasn’t like a constant, long thing being unhappy, but then it was at the same time. Different reasons to be unhappy, you know? I was unhappy in 7th/8th grade because of low self esteem and problems.
My friends were terrible to me about my physical appearance and another problem. But, I’m slowly trying to recover from my middle school troubles and childhood problems. I am also unhappy because of my family life (it’s nothing too bad but I’d prefer for it not to be this way. But you know at the same time I would, I don’t know). So during the first part of freshman year and all of junior year, I hated everything. Okay, so, I was a new student. Except in freshman year, every freshman is new because it’s the first day of highschool for us specifically BUT I was entirely new. New to the school, new to the area, and new to the state. I was horribly, terribly, shy, I couldn’t make friends at all and I was extremely insecure. I can literally back up every reason as to why I was the way I was in 9th grade. Firstly, like mentioned before, my friends were terrible towards the way I looked. They would call me ugly and be very judgmental towards how I look. This led to me being insecure, because I believed them. (Other reasons why people I didn’t know would always call my sister “pretty”, then look at me, frown, then walk away. Also I would watch my sister get complimented all the time for everything but I don’t blame her at all. I’m also not jealous. She can’t help that people can be a not so nice) Also I gained a terrible RBF (which made people think I was stuck up and everything I like to think I am not).
I was also bullied by people I didn’t know/knew for other reasons. I believe this made me into the nervous person I can be. SO, I went half of 9th grade so sad because of my lack of friends and how much I missed the place I used to live. Finally though, I made a group of friends. I had a place to sit at lunch. I became way happier. Next in sophmore year, I felt like I belonged at the school. I felt comfortable with my friends and I loved them a lot. But I think we all know happiness can’t last forever. The summer before my junior year, I moved. I moved across the continent to Utah. And can you guess what happened again? I became super shy again. I was too nervous and uncomfortable in the school. I had no friends at all. But, I had been through this before so I handled it way better. I was still sad. I missed my friends in New Jersey, I missed talking to people comfortably who weren’t my family members. I also started to have that RBF again, making people actually scared of me. I’m not kidding, at all. I was the super nervous person I was as a freshman. So all year I had no friends (except for acquaintances whom I was so grateful for). And the last half of the year I became less nervous and more comfortable. But the year had ended and I am now a senior. I like to think history repeats itself.
AND THE PROOF IS MY LIFE. I am definitely happier. I have friends who I hang out with them, out of school for non school things. I’m adopted fish with them. I am more outgoing and not nervous at all. I sit with people at lunch. I’ve realized more passions of mine and I’m actually doing something about them. The only thing weighing on me is the fact that in a couple of months I will be a legal adult and that I have to choose a college to go to now and If I don’t go to college I will fail and live a miserable life (or not. Anything is possible). Also I still have an ounce of insecurity in me. Also a big (but very small) thing I had was never knowing what to wear or my style, I finally figured that out and my liking for high fashion. Anyways. My purpose is fulfilled when I am happy because happiness has been a hard thing for me to achieve. I enjoy being happy and I hope to never be lonely and unhappy again. This was a lot and probably a lot is written wrong but it feels okay to write this stuff down. Thank YOU!
The Spark of Joy
What I have come to realize in the past is that I didn’t always have an answer to what happened in my life, but I was always curious. This is the story of how I realized that things happen for a reason, just believe.
Growing up I always wondered who was my biological father and now it made sense that I was not meant to be with him. The man who once gave me joy as a kid and disappeared from my life lead me to question who I am. Years later I came to see the face that I no longer recognized. This man that lives close by the filthy smelling sewers and shares a house with a large quantity of his family made me realize to be thankful for the life I have and not the one I could’ve had. I couldn’t imagine the day I was going to see his face again. This experience led me to be thankful for having my mom and all the people who played the role of a parent.
As for my step-dad he plays a major role in my life as well, this man just stepped into my life and became a model in which I can follow. Seriously which man sees a woman with three kids and says “I want her to be my wife.” This man. I am thankful for what my dad has given me, but yet there is something missing, the presence of a dad. Yes this man raised me, but he doesn’t treat me or my two other siblings the same way as his own biological children. As when I met my real dad, he expressed a lot of emotion when he saw me. At that moment I knew what having a dad was like and felt safe. Now I am faced with a challenge that I have to decide what I want and how I will continue to reach my goals.
First Generation – Jennifer Hernandez
For me it can be really hard to talk about my life because I always feel like it’s either not that important or just bland. But I recently discovered that being a first generation high school graduate is something special. I was always scared to tell kids at school that neither of my parents graduated from high school. When I went to high school it was really tough for me to say that neither my sister or brother graduated. I always wanted to have a family tradition of following the footsteps of my siblings but I soon realized that I couldn’t take the path they took. So it was up to me to change the ways of my family.
My parents always gave me lectures of why I needed to go to school, and they would always use their life as an example of what I shouldn’t have. It pains me to say this but I’ve never had someone to look up to, I just have people that I’m scared to become. That’s why I push myself to graduate high school. I want to become what my parents always wished for me and my siblings. I never thought I was going to be the person in my family to be different. Ever since my brother dropped out of high school I always felt like there was pressure on me to do the best and be the best.
Last year was really hard on my mental health because I was scared to let my family down and I was just thinking negative thoughts about not graduating, it really took a toll on me. I guess for me it’s hard to think about failing and disappointing my family. I want to show them that I can do it, and after going through after what I did last year I believe I can do it. It took me a hard time to realize that whatever I am going through I’ll have to push through that and think of me being successful in the next 7 years. I always talk to my friends about graduation just to get even more motivation to go and try my best in all my classes. My friends really help me through my school work in subjects that I have a hard time in. They even understood and were there for me when I had problems last school year.
Overcoming the situations last year took a lot of tears and realizations about what I wanted to do in life and how to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones. I spent a lot of time crying to my sister about how I thought my parents weren’t proud of me or that I wasn’t good enough to achieve my goals in life. That’s when I decided to speak up and communicate with my parents about the things I was going through. I had to have a lot of courage to open up to them since I am not used to being vulnerable. What scared me the most about opening up to my parents was the thought of them not understanding since at times they can be very close minded. Thankfully with the help of my sister they understood after we had a talk. At times I still do feel the way I used to but I try to ignore it as much as I can, and when I can’t ignore that feeling I always write out my thoughts in poems. Me and my family may have our differences but in the end I know they want what’s best for me.
Learning to Drive – Ivan Garcia
When I first started to drive manual, it was difficult, many stutters and confusion I had, and I managed to overcome it over time. My older brother taught me how to drive a manual in an ATV, and I was pretty good at it. However, he told me not to use it in the streets. I didn’t care what he said because I knew that I was confident enough to drive it on the streets of Mexico. The first time I drove the ATV on the road was hard. I basically stuttered a lot when I was driving, and kept on turning off all the time, until one day I was with my cousin’s house and his friend saw me that I was keeping on stuttering on my ATV, he told me to first push on the gas pedal and then slightly let go of the clutch. Little by little I began to teach myself how to ride a manual ATV, not so hard especially when you push the gas with your thumb. After that, I came back to Utah and decided that I should drive my dad’s manual car. When I started driving my dad’s manual car, a 2002 honda accord, I was struggling with it.
Riding a manual car was different than a manual ATV, because the clutch from the ATV was at the handlebars, and the clutch from a manual car was at the pedals, another like pedals in the car.
After a few drives, I finally knew the secret to manual driving. Like I said before you first need to push on the gas pedal and then slightly release the clutch slowly. I’m still learning how to drive a manual car but I can now correctly engage without stuttering. I’m still struggling with driving slow on traffic and parking, but I have achieved in the most part of driving a manual car. I achieved this with hard work, not giving up, and sacrificing my time to teach myself how to drive a manual.
Rachel J. Trotter is a writer at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire, and help you tell yours. She has worked as a writer since her college days over 20 years ago and has articles published on Mormon.org, LDSLiving.com and Meridian Magazine. She loves telling people’s stories.
She lives in Ogden, Utah and is busy raising six children and loves working on family history alongside her husband, Mat.
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