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Ready to Share
For me it began when I was old enough to really understand what happened to me. When I finally saw in my reflection something everyone else had already seen. My family never mentioned it but peers always asked me what was wrong. I was raised just like my older sisters were, my mom dressed me like the other kids, and I was daddy’s little girl, too. There came a moment where it didn’t matter that I shared a childhood with two sisters, it didn’t matter that I dressed like the other girls and it didn’t matter that I was daddy’s little girl. It only mattered that I was different.
For my family it began when I was born. My mother fainted while giving birth to me and in a desperate attempt to save her, the doctor pulled on my shoulders more than he should have. I underwent many difficult surgeries and years of physical therapy and now, I have a right arm that has limited mobility, or “Erb’s Palsy.” I should be grateful that it has improved with age, but all I feel is anger. Or maybe I’m confusing anger with sadness.
I have been blessed with a support system like no other. My sisters defend me and push me to be the best person I could be, even when I think I’ve reached my limits. And my parents have taught me to respect myself and have shown me nothing but love, even when I pretended to be strong. My two sisters, above anyone else in the world, have been with me on this journey, from moments when they came to my school threatening everyone because one girl in my class made fun of me, to moments on Skype where I was so down, they would sit there on the other side of the computer and listen to me cry, without saying a word, and that was all they had to do. I have pushed myself to become better because these four people have given me everything, I have become stronger, and I’m ready to share my story: who I am, what I’ve been through, and who I want to become.
When I was 12 years old, my 15 year-old sister came into my bedroom and said to me: “Since you stopped going to physical therapy we should try some stuff at home.” And she began tying my left arm behind me and told me to do everything I needed to do with only my right arm. I thought this would be a great way to finally get back to doing at home exercises. Boy, was I wrong. I went back to my bedroom, all tied up and ready for the battle. After a few minutes, I reached up for a book on the shelf, but I couldn’t get my arm up that high. I got on my tippy toes and stretched as much as I could. I began panting; I became so irritated with myself. How could I not be able to reach a book on the top shelf of a bookcase? I threw my arm back and desperately tried to untie my arm. I realized the worst part of it all; it didn’t matter that I couldn’t reach the book because I couldn’t even untie my own arm. I dropped to the floor and just sat there and thought about it. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I started crying and trying to shake my arm free but sat there even more agitated than before. I stopped crying and waited for my eyes to stop being so red. I marched over to my sister’s room, pretending to be tough.
“Eri, get this off of me, it’s so stupid I have things to do” I declared as I pretended nothing happened. I stood tall and resiliently, waiting for her to obey my order, something she had always taught me to do.
Just last week I went to dinner with my dad while my mom was out with her girlfriends. He mentioned something that he and I have rarely ever spoken about.
“Meg, how come you never made appointments for the neurologists like you wanted to in August?” he whispered to me.
“Well dad, I guess I’ve been busy.”
“Megi, why did you never make the appointments?” he asked, staring into my eyes so intensely I thought he was staring into my soul.
“I was too afraid to hear them say that there was nothing left to do. I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of answer. I’m not ready to handle it,” tears rushed down my face as I continued looking down at my food, refusing to make eye contact with him.
“I know. Listen, I knew this would happen one day. You are at an age where other kids notice, you notice and maybe even boys notice. But we did the most we could for you. I even offered my nerves to replace your damaged ones, but doctors said that wasn’t how the procedure worked. The reason we stayed in America was because I know how cruel people can be in Albania. Here, you are free to be yourself. You are my beautiful daughter, you are my perfect daughter. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Every time I look at you, I see me. But I also see someone so much stronger and kinder and wiser. Don’t let this bring you down. It’s what makes you special.” And right there, was the first time I had seen my dad cry since my grandpa died 9 years ago.
While these have been two moments in my life I will never forget, they have taught me something much more valuable than what is visible. I know that sometime in my life, I will look back at them and smile, instead of tear up. I will be proud to share, instead of shy away. And I will reveal to others what has been revealed to me in each of these experiences: there is no way to come out weaker. There is no taking a step back when going through any insecurity, physical or not. There is only progress. I hope to one-day help others understand what has taken me 16 years to even partially understand; it’s all right to be different. In fact I encourage it.