I believe in the power of choice.
To be a gang member or a teacher, to do drugs or to save lives. There is always a choice.
People in our society love to use excuses. We all use them, the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated. People love to choose to be a victim of their own environment. However there is nothing more empowering than realizing you have complete control over your life. To rise above adversity, or to fall, the choice depends on you.
I acknowledge that some grew up with a harder life than others. I would know. My father is an alcoholic, who did unspeakable things not only to my brother and I, but to my mom as well. I watched my mother work her ass off to provide for two children on her own, while simultaneously trying to deal with a nasty and costly divorce with my father. I’ve also watched her break down when her best efforts to give us everything we wanted fell short, but in those critical self defying moments my mom made a choice. She decided to raise her kids to the best of her ability with the means she had. She didn't give up, even though the cards she had been dealt weren’t ideal.
I am also aware that there are some curve balls life throws you that you simply cannot predict or control. I couldn’t predict the crumbling feelings of depression, or the fact that one of the parents who brought me into this world would be the reason for the troubles I felt deep down in my heart. When I was little I didn’t realize I wouldn’t have a father to give me flowers and a hug after my graduation, to walk me down the aisle, or be there when I have my first child. At night, those thoughts would torment me, because my father is still alive out there, and part of me hated myself for hating him despite all of the awful things he had done to me and my family. But much like my mother, in those defining moments, I decided to rise.
There is a poem, my favorite poem in fact, called “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou that I read every time I feel discouraged, or as if I cannot gain control of the chaos around me. One of my favorite lines reads as follows, “ You may shoot me with your words,/You may cut me with your eyes,/You may kill me with your hatefulness,/But still, like air, I’ll rise.” We may not always be able to control what life throws at us, or the hands we were dealt, but I firmly believe we have complete control over our reactions. We have a choice to rise or fall, and another choice to rise after we fall. And time and time again, life has taught me that there is nothing more fulfilling than to rise.
If I am being honest, statically my brother and I should be doing drugs, doing god knows what on the streets. But we aren’t because we made a choice. We decided not to let our father win. To not only want to be better, but to strive for better, we decided to rise. Every morning, we wake up and we make a choice. Do we want to be a victim of our situation? Do we want to use that as an excuse to be complacent? Or do we use our hard situation as motivation?
We made our choices. I am now at one of the best private schools in the country practically for free, and my brother received an offer to play basketball in college, all expenses paid. My brother and I both knew early on that our mom wouldn’t be able to pay for our college, but that didn’t mean we just gave up on pursuing a higher education. We decided to work harder, I studied longer, and he spent more hours in the gym perfecting his game. Despite the curve balls and unfair circumstance life threw at us, we choose not to feel powerless, but rather acknowledge our control over our reaction.
Life is not fair, it’s fact. But each day you are granted with the opportunity to wake up, which means someone has decided that your life has value and meaning. However, what you decided to do with that opportunity is up you. Personally, I wouldn’t let your environment hinder you from reaching for the stars. The world loves to tell us where we belong, or who we are supposed to be. They love to tell those born on the streets that they’ll never leave, they love to say that rich kids are entitled and ungrateful. But at the end of the day, no one can make those stereotypes true for you, only you can do that. How truly amazing is it to know that you have complete control over who you are as a person? No, it is not the fact that you grew up poor, it is the fact that you choose to let that hinder you. No, it is not the fact that being rich that makes you spoiled, it is the fact that you choose to not venture into, or to understanding other circumstance some faces in life. It all boils down to not taking control over your reaction, choosing not to rise.
So I encourage you to make your choice. I encourage you to rise, to prove the stereotypes wrong, to prove those who have doubted you wrong, and to show life and the awful things it has to throw at you that time and time again you can rise. I mean, my brother and I did, and it seemed to work out pretty well for the both of us. As Maya Angelou would say, “ You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”