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Whenever the world turns on its head and things don’t go as planned, my mother consoles me by saying “I feel like the Rock of Gibraltar.”
My family visited that monstrous slab of stone two summers ago. The sheer enormity of it was overwhelming. My attempts to compress the entire rock, its bulging corners and powerful presence, into the small frame of my camera proved useless.
Although I was hesitant, my family convinced me to board a rickety, tourist-filled bus that would bring us to the top of the rock. As we slowly careened our way up a narrow ledge, I could not help but look down in horror. The solid comfort of the ground was vanishing; the once looming buildings quickly became indecipherable specks. My father chatted unsuspectingly with an old married couple across the aisle, my brother pointed gleefully at squawking monkeys dangling from tree branches, and I gripped the arm rest, trying desperately not to let my panic morph into a full-fledged heart attack.
But as soon as my breathing became irregular and I started to fear the worst (after all, an ambulance certainly wouldn’t fare well on this dangerous road), my mother placed her hand over mine. She began rubbing smooth, comforting circles over my trembling palms, and my panic soon ceased. I marveled then, as I had countless times before, at her composure and complete lack of fear.
Last year I suffered from a severe bout of depression, and it came as no surprise that my mother was there to comfort me. Day after day, she resolutely convinced me that the dreary storm cloud perched over my head would soon vanish. It was then she told me that she felt like the Rock of Gibraltar. I’m sure she wasn’t alluding to its frightening height, but rather to its sheer solidity and strength. She, too, knew what it was like to feel as if the world was ending. But rather than accepting her fate with the resignation of a prisoner headed to an execution, she decided to treat it as a learning experience she would surely overcome.
I eventually took a cue from my mother and resolved to overcome my illness. The task was, by no means, easy. Yet the process taught me that I had underestimated myself. All of those years that I wondered at my mother’s courage, I never once attributed the same characteristic to myself. Looking back, however, I realize that without strength, it would have been nearly impossible to recover. Although the odds were stacked against me, I’ve never been one to shrug off a challenge. A potent combination of determination and strong will forced me out of bed and back into the real world.
Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I barely recognize myself. The transformation that I have undergone since last year is truly incredible. I attend school each and every day with an upbeat attitude and the confidence to achieve my goals. I have learned that small bumps in the road should not be treated as mountains—and even mountains can be scaled with fortitude and self-confidence. So when the world turns on its head and things don’t go as planned, I simply say “I feel like the Rock of Gibraltar,” and I can do whatever I set my mind to.
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