This essay was written by a student at Mighty Writers, an education nonprofit that offers free writing classes to over 2,500 inner-city Philadelphia students a year.
I am 5’11”. At 15, that's abnormal for a girl. Being tall already made me different, and society doesn’t appreciate different. The challenge for me has been accepting who I am, figuring out who I am, and what I'm meant to be. My differences put a setback on my social life and made me question myself. I became afraid of being rejected for who I was, so, I hid who I really was. People would call me weird or different and they used it in such a negative way, like I had to be similar to be accepted. Most of the time they made me feel awkward and isolated. I’ve dealt with this challenge my whole life, and yet, here I am still finding ways to solve it. So, I took that all in and became ashamed.
People don't even realize the power of words. I would say I handled this common struggle in a stronger way than most people my age. I could've let social media or others’ words shape my appearance, unfortunately like most girls will do. It would be easy for me to conform to those standards and try to fit in to others’ ideas of beauty, but in doing that, I’m not being true to myself.
Building up confidence in myself wasn’t easy. I ignored the bullies and society's standards. I’m lucky to say my mother was a model for me in how I could overcome this adversity. She was my guide on how to appreciate myself. I was told that people's negative comments are just a sign of their own insecurities. So when I hear bullies say, “She's like 6’7!” it just goes to show how my height reminds them about their own stature. As much as she helped me, one thing I had to figure out for myself — was ME. If you don’t figure yourself out, other people will do that for you.
I am strong and will only continue to get stronger. Instead of feeling like I don't fit in, I realized certain people just don't fit me. It’s okay to be tall. It’s okay to be a girl with short hair. It’s okay to be whoever I want, because I’m okay with me. One piece of advice I have for teens is to just hang in there, your happiness is yours to own. It’s always there, you just gotta build on it.
My hopes and dreams for the future aren’t so simple. At this point in my life I can’t tell you what my career will be, but I know what I want to do, and I know what drive me. Straight up, I am going to change the world. Yeah, I know that sounds like an unrealistic dream, but I don’t doubt myself, and neither should you. I want to guide and teach people how to deal with the ugly in life, help them find ways to cope and deal, and ultimately find peace within themselves.
I believe so many people in this world need help. Not just with food and money or material things, but also with how to survive emotionally. I want to help others understand how to make decisions when the beauty in life is unseen because of the ugly. I will live a meaningful life and influence others to do good and spread love. My mindset and personality are as unique as my appearance. It wasn’t always like that, and it wasn’t easy, but now I can honestly appreciate myself. I taught myself how to be confident and I can do the same for others. I'm a very genuine and compassionate person who sees the good in everybody. I only do things with an intent mind, which is why I believe I can push myself to new limits.
by Sylvia Valentin,10th grade Mighty Writer
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Mighty Writers was founded in 2009 with the mission to teach kids to think clearly and write with clarity. The organization offers free programs for students from elementary through high school at centers in four diverse Philadelphia neighborhoods, including one bilingual location for Spanish-speaking students. Follow Mighty Writers at MightyWriters.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter @MightyWriters.