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I will never forget the look of the freshly fallen, pure-white snow that blanketed the streets just outside the car when my mother said, “I don’t even consider you my son anymore.” The white snow was suddenly blinding, glaring at me with its purity. I never imagined that those eight words could have such a profound effect on me. Eight words simultaneously shattered my world, and opened a whole new world. It was in this moment that I had a choice; I could let these words define me, break me, ruin me, or I could overcome these words, rise above my mother’s shallowness and become a stronger individual; I chose the latter.
The whole ordeal began in February 2012 when, finally, I realized that something was wrong. There was an unexplainable weight on my shoulders. A weight I was no longer willing to bear. For years I knew that my relationship with my mother was unnatural, unbalanced, and chaotic. Not knowing any better, I figured that the constant barrage of yelling, the continual arguments, and her sporadic need to verbally unload her anger upon me, was normal, something every child went through one way or another.
However, it was on an early February day that I realized this wasn’t normal by any measure, this was emotional abuse, and I was no longer going to withstand it. Fortunate to have a supportive father, grandmother and aunt (who was once technically my grandmother), my father and I petitioned the Wisconsin Family Court System for a change in custody, allowing me to escape my mother and live with my dad in Georgia.
In the ensuing months after my decision, I experienced numerous ups and downs with the progress of my case; one moment I was moving, the next something still had to be signed off on and I wasn’t moving. Needless to say, on top of dealing with my now infuriated mother I was on the brink of a situation I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I would tell myself, You’ll get through this… You’ll be a stronger person because of this… You cannot let this destroy you… Ultimately, I was right, and within six months my life was vastly different.
In July 2012, I packed 16 years of my life into three moving boxes and a carry-on suitcase. But I also packed something that was more valuable than anything found in these boxes or my suitcase, I packed something inside of me, I packed something that has become so integral to every part of my soul that it is almost indescribable. I packed a never ending supply of confidence. I now find that those moments when I was down in early 2012, the moments when my future was in the hands of people I didn’t know, people who didn’t really know me, those moments when all I had to rely on was myself, I found that I could survive. I could thrive. I could live. I turned an incredibly complex, difficult, life-altering moment into fuel. Fuel to push myself to be the very best I could be, in everything I do. I found that I was no longer fighting to make my mother, my father or anyone else proud, I was fighting to make myself proud. I discovered that in the end of the day I was in the driver’s seat of my life. What I wanted to achieve was up to me, and me only.
Fast forward to August 2013: a little more than a year after my life-defining ordeal began, I was living as a completely different person. Awakened to my new power, I took my junior year at a new high school, in a new city, in a new state, by the horns and began building my life from the ground up again. I became involved in a program called Future Business Leaders of America, in which I was fortunate enough to be elected President for the 2013-2014 school year. Competing at the state level, I placed first in Management Decision Making out of more than 500 competitors, allowing for me to attend the national level competition in Anaheim, CA. There I place tenth in the nation.
Additionally, I was awarded the unique ability to attend Boys State this past summer. At Boys State I spent a week with the most politically and civically engaged juniors Georgia has to offer. Together we formed a mock government and furthered our knowledge about government. Being unable to sit still for more than five minutes, I was also selected to attend both the Air Force and the Naval Academy Summer Leadership Programs – selective programs for rising seniors who are prospective candidates for the Academies. So while my life was uprooted, without the weight of my mother’s oppression, I have become the person I’ve been dreaming of being for years.
Ultimately, while my childhood is by no measure one to brag about, I feel I’m ultimately blessed beyond comparison with regard to the lessons I have learned. Without going through the past year of my life, I wouldn’t know that in the end of the day I am my biggest secret weapon. My sheer determination to succeed despite the roadblocks placed in my path is so pivotal to everything I am today that I honestly don’t know where I would be without it. To this end, my mother is right, I am no longer her son, I’m someone entirely different from who she raised me to be, I am someone who looked oppression in the eye and rose above it. I am me.
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