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I lost a lot before I got to middle school: our family business, my parents’ marriage, my childhood home. This series of big losses were not enough to prepare me for losing my relationship with my father and most of my mother’s guidance.
Although bad decisions, mental health issues and probably some plain, old-fashioned bad luck took these things from me before I was even 13, they left me with something far better. Take a look:
1) Science tells us that feedback from facial expressions affects emotions and behavior; a simple smile can work wonders. Even if you’re feeling sad, smiling and staying upbeat can significantly improve your mood.
2) No matter how hard I try, some things are just out of my control. Instead of grieving over things that I cannot change I try to see the positive. For example, in a life full of abrupt transitions and unpredictability, I have naturally become accustomed to change. I choose to love and embrace it.
3) I believe that success in life is not just handed to people; we must make the choice to do ‘whatever it takes’ to achieve goals. I have made the conscious choice to chase my dreams and become something great. I take pride in being positive, open-minded, and original.
4) I was an incredibly shy child, which was a big disadvantage. I missed out on many opportunities simply because I was afraid to “put myself out there.” When circumstances required me to change that part of my personality, I made amazing friends and am happier than ever.
5) Even though some routines are necessary, it’s important to get away, try things and immerse ourselves in something totally new. I call monotony “life’s kiss of death” and believe that the “daily grind” is what weighs people down.
6) Growing up I endured many unpleasant experiences and those memories will stay with me forever. However, I have become incredibly thankful for them because they have forced me to mature and molded me into the strong, motivated person I am today.
While I would not wish this sort of upbringing on anyone, I am profoundly grateful for its gifts and lessons. They make up a foundation that nobody can ever take from me.
Anna is a first year student at The College of New Jersey where she is majoring in psychology and plans a career in psychiatry. In her limited “free” time she plays club volleyball and is active in a variety of campus groups.