Main

September 14, 2007

I Believe in Getting Back Up

I Believe in Getting Back Up

Almost three and a half years ago, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was ejected and subsequently, the only survivor. My other two friends went to be with the Lord. They are not envious of me; rather, it is the other way around. After the coma and brain injury rehabilitation, I was released into the care of my parents under one condition. I had to move back in with my parents! Being 22 years old and living on my own since 18, I was terrified. I had vowed to myself I will never live under their roof again. Needing 24 hour care and bound to a wheel chair for the next 6 months, I knew I had to get back up and walk again, because getting back up and walking again would lead me to- once again- freedom!

I broke my right ulna, my left tibia, my left femur, an open book pelvic fracture, and traumatic brain injuries. I was a mess; I looked like an AIDS patient, losing 50 lbs in slightly less than two months. I had one goal in mind, the belief I can and will get up and walk again. Under doctor’s orders, I was non-weight bearing for 180 days, meaning no walking for 6 months. To move back into my house, I would have to be able to walk up my steep stairs without crutches.

During that time, I was still able to take baby steps to get towards the larger goal of walking again. Just lifting my leg up and down in the wheel chair wore me out. I was sleeping upwards of 14 hours a day. I had turned into a house cat. Gradually, the strength increased in my legs. This was by no means easy. I broke down mentally many times during that period, telling God “I can’t do this without you! It is in your healing hands! You let this happen to me! You give me the strength to keep pushing. And you know what? He did! God instilled in me more strength and determination. Every time I thought I couldn’t push any more and was about to give up. I prayed for more strength and received it!

After 120 days, without my parent’s or doctor’s knowledge, I acquired crutches from my friend Ryan. Being stubborn, I tried the crutches. My arms were weak, my legs were weak, but I finally regained some sense of being male. I could pee standing up! After 180 days, the doctor lifted the non-weight bearing status and changed it to weight bearing.

My next challenge was those evil inclines known as stairs. Tiring and treacherous, stairs are quite the formidable opponent. For stairs do not laugh at you, do not mock you; do not really do anything. Stairs are just there, silent and intimidating, ascending to a higher elevation. But the stairs in my house lead to my Select Comfort sleep number bed. Oh, how I missed that bed! Living at my parent’s house had to come to an end.

I eventually became able to walk 2 miles on 2 crutches. I practiced climbing stairs for many hours and many weeks. One day, I had to show my Mom and Dad something. I walked with crutches over to the deck stairs, threw the crutches down, and walked up those 13 wood steps all by myself. No crutches, no hand railing, I could smell freedom. Then I yelled, “I am moving out, today!"

Stephen Seward

September 18, 2007

THIS I BELIEVE

I was about ten years old when I had my first drink. I don’t remember why I started to drink alcohol, all I knew was that I got some sort of satisfaction out of it. I did this for years increasing the amount and frequency.
I was always taught to resist drugs because they ruin your life. But my good friend that I trusted told me they were a lot of fun so I made an educated decision to try them. We started out with psychedelics because they were easy to hide. Me and my friend didn’t smoke pot a lot because we didn’t want to end up in a situation where we had to talk to one of our parents while we were reeking of smoke and chuckling at nothing. We were smart about not getting caught. Months of this went by with regularity.
I was always a good student so just for a change I stopped using drugs and became more interested in school. With nothing interesting on the horizon I became bored with the monotony of everyday life. Being on drugs creaped its head back into my life. I made a decision to try out some harder drugs, it wasn't like I had anything better to do.
One day after school I had a national honor society meeting. I sat in the back because being there was the last thing on my mind. While being bored I looked out at the crowd and thought, “I know for a fact that I’m the only one here that has ever snorted cocaine.” This may have been comical for some, but for me it was isolating. I knew that some of my experiences at the time could not be paralleled by the people around me.
For me not using drugs beacme a stupid decision, I thought why have hamburger when you can have steak? As long as they were their I would use them. I became a habitual drug user. I would only fiend over drugs when I knew I could get them. I think that is the difference between an addict and a habitual user, addict’s fiend all the time.
I decided to stop using in the middle of my senior year in high school. I wondered what it was like living normal life for a change. It worked for me so I kept on doing it. In fact, I did it for two years. I flourished in my academics and started to feel physically and mentally better. But again I felt Isolated. This cycle of using, not using, and feeling alone came full circle. I started to use again.
This time it wasn’t with friends, I was alone. I didn’t want to be around anyone, I couldn’t be around anyone. It was just me. I did this for a long time. In the process I hurt a lot of people and lost a lot of friends. It became easy to pile misery on top of more misery. In the middle of loneliness I got to thinking and figured that there had to be something better in life but I had to work for it. I quit using drugs cold turkey.
After looking back through the fog I realized that no one enriches their life with drugs or alcohol, you don’t come out feeling like you accomplished something or your more mature. Drugs just make you feel alone.

Faith from Fear

I believe that fear defines us as human. Most people would argue that love or logic is most important, and would probably tell me that fear is an instinct, designed to protect animals in their evolutionary struggle. They’re probably right. Fear can be crippling and unfounded in reality. But true fear- savage, consuming fear- is powerful and honest. Love and logic can be deceptive, but fear tells us what we love most by how scared we are of losing it.

As a kid, everything scared me. Doctors, aliens, lawn mowers, and even the Brannock foot measurer at the shoe store. My parents, of course, tried to tell me how illogical I was being. As I grew older, my dad subtly molded me into the Roman Catholic indoctrination that there is nothing to fear if you have faith. Nothing seemed to faze my dad. He was so calm and logical, even when his job was uncertain or his father had a stroke. I thought I was just like him at the time, unfazed by changing schools, trips to the diabetes doctor, and the pains of being a thirteen-year old girl. As I saw it, nothing scared me and nothing ever would.

Even as I walked into the cold sterility of the ICU, I felt only a prick of worry. I’m sure it crossed my mind that she was very sick, and I knew to expect the doctors and the tubes and the monitors, but if it ever crossed my mind that she could die, it was quickly rationalized away. Everything happens for a reason, I told myself, and I was reassured that I could think of no reason for a little girl to die, especially one that was rosy, plump, and curious as of this morning. As the sky darkened, and with the increasing whirlwind of orders and tests, the atmosphere became noticeably tense. But my dad stayed calm. He smiled at me and we talked about my school play. He joked with me as I gave blood for a transfusion. Maybe he should have held me or let me overhear what the doctors were whispering. But maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. A few minutes later, armed with food and a smile from my cafeteria adventure, I returned to find the room filled with many doctors and new machines. My mom quickly moved to shield me, but it was too late- I saw my dad, his hands clenching the doctor’s coat collar, begging him frantically, with pleas and bargaining and tears, to work some sort of miracle. I ran to the bathroom in a dizzying, sickened stupor and sprawled out by the door, my head humming with the near continual shrills of machines indicating the existence of things like cardiac arrest and organ failure. Finally, my dad came in. He told me with a forced smile that the doctors might have found another drug and that I should pray and continue to have hope. I yelled at him out of exhaustion and love and fear, telling him that he was a liar, and I blamed him for my blinded faith. He just looked at me sadly and drove me home, and the rest of my night I paced around my room, shaking uncontrollably. Despite my shattered faith, I prayed, or maybe it was just pleading, that there was a way for everything to be alright.

Months later, this night came up in conversation as I was driving with my dad. The following days had brought new medicines and specialist doctors that slowly healed my sister, but that night was a bitter memory that hadn’t yet been brought up, even as life eased back into normalcy. I asked him why he didn’t tell me the truth and let me prepare myself for what I was about to see. He told me simply that he truly believed that everything was going to work out. He paused before admitting that he had never been more scared. With all his faith and effort to make me a strong person, I thought he was going to again preach to me. But he just said, “sometimes, fear is a good thing. It lets you know why you’re alive”.

I’m not a fearless person. Since that night, I’ve had moments of dizzying, gut-wrenching fear. It seems naïve to believe that everything will always work out for the best, because life often surprises you. I don’t try to explain away my fear anymore. But it’s those moments of fear that clue you in to what you truly can’t live without- what you continue to go through life’s motions daily for and what you would do radically irrational things to protect. Fear gives me an explanation of why I continue to be a loving and logical person. Maybe it even gives me some faith.

Jennifer Mamrosh

This I Believe

I am by no means a perfectionist, but I do demand quality. Be it waxing my car, working on my bike, or cooking dinner, I believe that putting forth the extra effort makes all the difference.

From an early age, I was taught to work hard for what I wanted. My father was sure to only give an allowance once all of the household chores and school work were done. My mother had me set goals for myself, so when I reached them, I would feel that I had accomplished something. They taught me that if I pushed myself to go the extra mile, I would appreciate the reward I got in return. Through this, I developed a strong work ethic.

This summer, I took on the project of building my own computer. I wanted to make a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line machine that could last me through college and beyond. With this goal in mind, I began to put away the extra money I made from work. I spent months researching the market, studying the current technology in each component, comparing the prices between competing companies, and keeping an eye on what was soon to come. I read reviews from experts and consumers to get a strong grasp on which products people considered the best. It was only after all of this that I felt I was ready to commit. I had saved enough money, and had ensured myself that this was the purchase I wanted to make. I ordered and carefully assembled the components, paying close attention to each and every detail. Upon completion, I couldn’t be more satisfied. She now sits as a towering display of my hard work and determination.

I am a strong believer that quality of life can be determined by the amount of work you put into it. The extra effort you can commit to school, work, and the people around you can greatly improve your overall being. I hold my friends and family dear to me, and I cherish having quality relationships. I strive to put forth the extra effort to keep up with old friends and stay close to my family. I like to look towards the future, and I have set goals for what I want to achieve. I have high standards and know that in order to reach the quality of lifestyle I desire, I need to push myself to continue to work hard.

To slack off is ever so tempting – to relax, forget about troubles, walk on easy street for a while- but if I do, I cannot see myself reaching the quality of lifestyle I have set out to achieve. It is a sobering reality that nothing in life comes easy, but those things that we are willing to work hard for, we are sure to truly appreciate.

I Believe…

I Believe…
I believe in trying everything once. It has been the way my mom brought me up. I had to eat every piece of food on our plate no matter how bad or good it was. Every sport you could think of was signed up for no questions asked. Taking as wide range of classes was rewarded. That is how I was brought up and that’s the way I live my life today. How many times have you heard a movie was “terrible” or “not funny.” Then you happen to see it and you love it. How many times have you heard “tomatoes are disgusting” and you try a sugar covered tomato and it tastes like candy. How many times have you been persuaded to NOT do something that you regret later? I live my life with the intention of no regrets. I know people that won’t go outside their inner barrier. They aren’t necessarily scared of things but they have no urge to try them. If you live this way, you might never meet the funniest person you have ever met. You might not eat the best tasting food you’ve tasted. You might not have met that crazy guy you laughed with for hours. You might not have found your passion. You might have not found your special someone. If you try everything once you will know what you do not like. You will know what you want to stay away from. In the end, you might experience a more exciting, knowledgeable, courageous and confident life. You too, might believe in…trying everything once.

I believe in laughing at yourself. I believe in being able to take laughter. I used to be scared of embarrassing myself. I used to be scared of being made fun of. Doing many dumb or clumsy things (like I have) attracts laughter. Growing up, my older brother made fun of me for almost everything. I turned into a shy, scared kid as I was too worried about what other people thought of me. I was scared to be me. “People wouldn’t like me.” I’ve been shy all of my life up until this year. I started hanging out with new friends who didn’t care what they looked like, how goofy they acted, how silly they sounded. I started to believe that they might like my weird self. I realized that being you is all you have to give. I’m still becoming freer by the day. These are the people that I can see as lifelong friends. It’s the people that laugh with you and at you that are your best friends. It might turn into someone you can tell anything to. It’s the first time in the 19 years of my life that I can look at myself, make fun of everything that happens to me, and laugh it off. I am not ashamed to win our award “dumb thing of the week.” Sure it might be dumb, but I would rather be dumb than be nothing. I would rather live being laughed at and with than being a fake. I will not be a fake from here on…

-Eric Moritz

September 19, 2007

Acceptance

I believe in acceptance. Growing up my parents taught me about equality and the need to accept others regardless of appearance, but one thing I did not learn from my parents was how to accept myself.
During my childhood I always felt that I was never reaching my full potential. In dance class I was never in the front line, in school I was never the smartest, and in many aspects of my life I could never be the best. As I grew older I became more involved in school and extracurricular activities. I became a very competitive person, yet for some reason I was never able to accept myself for who I was.

During my senior year of high school I began volunteering with the visually impaired students in my high school. Their was a student in particular that really impacted my life, His name was David. David was a very intelligent boy, who was born completely blind. Each afternoon I spent with David I learned more about his life and his impairment. I also discovered the judgments he was faced with by other students each day. I was never quite sure if David knew about the looks people gave him as he walked the halls, until one day David explained to me that he understood that people judged him, and by accepting that he was able to accept himself.

After I graduated I moved on to college and David and I slowly drifted apart. I was so excited to be in a new place, where no one was judged and I could finally be the person I had always dreamt of becoming. As I began my new life I became very focused on my academic life and all the opportunities that college has to offer. One thing that I didn’t notice was the way in which I was judging myself. My competitiveness and inability to accept myself and my need for control slowly formed into an eating disorder. As I progressively got worse, I began to judge everything about my life and others as well. I slowly lost the person I had always dreamed of being. I had misplaced the person I once was. As time passed I forgot how to be normal, I lost interest in everyday life.

You always hear about how certain experiences change you and that life is never the same. As my life changed I soon realized that it wasn’t my life that was changing, it was me. Then one day as I was headed to class I passed a blind person, and I thought about how difficult it must be being blind, then I thought of David. I thought about the afternoons I used to spend with him, and the things he taught me. I remembered the way other students used to stare at him, the way they judged him. As my day progressed I thought of the time I had wasted judging myself I decided I had to change.

Looking back at the experience I realize that by accepting myself and my imperfections I was able to become a better person, a more understanding person, but most importantly a more accepting person.

This I Believe: Personal Essay

I believe in colored crayons.

I believe in golden rod and periwinkle, in sea form green and brick red. I believe in creativity and youth; I believe in difference and the right to choose.

Imagine a classroom filled with Kindergarteners on their first day of school. Bright-eyed and eager to learn; they are given a blank sheet of crisp white paper and that big yellow box of sixty four colors, the sixty four colors of wonder and the ability to create.

While sitting in on classroom one day, the children were asked to draw a picture of themselves. A black girl and a white girl sat next to one another, sharing their box of colored crayons. The white girl handed her friend the brown colored crayon and told her to use that one for her skin. The black girl replied that she did not want to use that color because she did not like the color of her skin. When asked why she did not like it, she replied that she would prefer that her skin was peach like her friend. The white girl replied that she loved the color of the dark girl and wished that she too were the other color. The two friends decided to switch colors for the day.

It was a false representation of them on the outside; however, it was a representation of the girls’ minds. At that moment in time, I realized that skin color, was just skin color. It did not matter whether they were brown or peach, it mattered that they were friends and they were able to create a real-life situation and to learn from it. Children can show adults how pure and simple life can be if you allow yourself to create and learn. Differences are the things that set us apart and allow us to learn from one another.

When you sit down with this wonderful box of colors, it allows your mind to create anything you wish it to. You allowed the right to choose between pink and magenta, green or turquoise, you are allowed to create any life you wish.

You may choose to color the elephant purple, that’s OK. You may choose to draw a house or a spaceship. Your opportunities are endless, the fact is, you can choose to do what you want, you can be anything, so go ahead and draw two left feet or four eyeballs, it’s OK.

The world would be one boring place if our lives consisted of only eight colored crayons. Instead we have many colors, many opportunities to learn and create. So I take my colored crayons and I sit down with my blank sheet I call life, and I draw. I may not draw well but I draw the life I wish and put it up on my refrigerator and I remind myself that differences are good, and the ability to choose allows myself to be anything and anyone that I want to be.

I believe in colored crayons.

September 20, 2007

The Strength of Forgetting (Personal Essay)

I believe in the strength of forgetting.

Honestly, I really do not remember the exact details from the night everything happened. My age was 12, or maybe 11, or even 13. There is only one fact that remains bold in my mind. My father sexually abused me. Every other factor appears much too vague to me now.

I was a common child who embedded all trust in my parents, and why shouldn’t I have? I was much too young to recognize the warning signs and realize the selfish and appalling intentions of my so-called father. Most normal fathers teach self-respect and compassion; however, I was taught how to become an adult at the mere age of 12 and then the importance of forgetting about it.

First, I dwelled on it, letting depressing recollections constantly linger in my every thought, turning dreams into nightmares. A one-time incident of sexual abuse defined my life. A one-time sexual abuse defined me. I was constantly confronted by fear and self-pity, but oddly never anger. I hated the person I had become. Then, I realized the reason I could not forget immediately was because I still had hope for my father. I was abnormally understanding and had pity for my father because I wanted to help him. I realized that I was still a good person. I only wanted the best for someone else, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where he/she needs to be selfish. I needed to be selfish. I needed to just forget.

Occasionally I would think about all of the events in my life my father would never be a part of. I imagined attempting to resituate my dad back into my life, and I imagined my wedding day. I would picture him walking me down the isle, and I would immediately feel a rush of heart-wrenching pain and a sick feeling would thrust into my stomach, enough to make a person vomit. Here a turning point emerged where I became completely determined. I needed to move on. I needed to forget.

So, I simply forgot about my dad. My accomplishment was that straightforward. I did not let his actions run my life anymore, and I felt more control over my own life than ever before. I could have been ashamed, and I could have lived a hindered life, but reflecting on not how my dad changed my life, but on how I changed my life was much more rewarding. I focused on school, friends, family, and my passion for dance. I began living. I had a purpose again.

Never will I wonder about my dad’s life after jail. Never will I wonder if he’s contemplating what he did. Never will I give in to his attempt to ruin my life, because I believe I have been blessed with a gift, and that gift is the strength of forgetting. I have the ultimate faith that my family will soon believe in forgetting as well, for they have now witnessed the life I have been able to create for myself.

This I Believe Essay: Homosexuality is Not a Choice.

This I believe. I believe that homosexuality is not a choice. Many people argue that being gay was my “choice” rather than the lifestyle that I was born with. I can tell you from experience that I (and every other gay person) have been attracted to the same sex since the day we were born. I can remember going back to when I was three years old thinking my brother’s best friend Jeff Fink was so cute. I was three. One can not honestly tell me that I “decided” I was gay at age three. Our brains aren’t developed enough yet at that point to make a “decision” like that. Or how about this: As I was growing up into my teenage years our bodies start developing. Most boys were looking at a girl’s figure and how her chest was developing, for example. I, on the other and was watching as boys developed. I was not interested in how a girl’s legs looked or how her chest was developing. I was seeing how sexy a cute boy’s legs were, or if he had a nice chest and maybe some abs under that shirt.


Now don’t get me wrong, we may have dated or had sexual relations with the opposite sex, but I believe (and other gays do too) that it was a cover up to hide the coming out process or in fear of something larger such as a family member who does not agree with or understand homosexuality. To deal with this struggle that we have no control of, many people will hide “in the closet” for fears known only to that person. I am sure that the idea of wishing we could be heterosexual has crossed every gay person’s mind. Our lives would be easier with no prejudices. But it’s a fact and struggle of life. Because we did not choose this lifestyle for ourselves, we must deal with these struggles just like we struggle with college or a black person struggles with the prejudices against them. We have to adapt and overcome to the changing times.


Why would we, as homosexuals, choose to make out lives harder by being gay? Why would we choose to be looked down upon by others? Why would we choose to have people stare at us as we walk down the street hand in hand with our boyfriends (or girlfriends)? The fact of the matter is we don’t. We chose to be gay the same day that everyone else chose to be straight. Remember that because it is one hundred percent true—despite what you think.


There are days where someone makes a comment about “gays” or “fags” or whatever you want to call us. The comments may not be directed toward me (or anyone else) personally, but they get to you—eventually. And yes, maybe for that split second I wished I was straight. But let me tell you this: I have never been happier with the way God made me. I can not even fathom the thought of dating or even marrying a member of the opposite sex. My life is better than I could have ever imagined. So remember these words: I believe that homosexuality it not a choice.

I believe in family

I believe. I believe in many things. Most of all, I believe in family. Without my family I would not be who I am today.

Families teach so much in life. It is in a family where you learn to love, respect and trust, just to name a few. It is in a family where you can say what you want and not have to worry about what others will think of you. It is in a family where you can fight one day and say you hate the person, and yet, be right back to normal the next day. It is in a family where you can always be you!

I’m not saying every experience I’ve had with my family has been picture perfect. Heaven forbid, I have two older brothers who teased and beat the hell out of me every day for way too many years, and just like any other kid I’ve had my fair share of stupid arguments with my parents growing up. Yet, these are the same reasons I love my family to death. I mean I would never be as ripped with muscle as I am now if it wasn’t for my brothers body slamming me off the couch, and I wouldn’t win nearly as many arguments as I do if it wasn’t for picking as many fights as I did with my parents back in the day.

I understand not everyone has the opportunity to grow up so close with their family, and for that reason I will never take for granted the family I have. I do believe you should take the family you are given and learn what you can from them. I believe like anything else you need to take the good with the bad. There may be times or periods of time when you won’t want to even associate with your family, yet, a few hours, days, or even years down the road you will look back and realize what at that time you learned from your family. I remember when I was about ten years old and I couldn’t figure out why my brothers didn’t want to ‘hang out’ with me. They would only call me horrible names and make me cry until I left them alone. I would have done anything to get rid of my brothers. Trade them in, sell them, anything. Now, I look back and can only laugh. I don’t think I could have put up with me either. My brothers and I talk almost every day now, and if I ever need anything I know they, along with my parents, are only a phone call away. Things change over time, and with that it shows that you need to hang on to what you have. Friends will come and go in your life, but you will forever have your family.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” ~Anthony Brandt

September 21, 2007

this i believe essay by adam herron 524 words

My name is Adam Herron and I believe that children need to realize how important education is at a very young age. Education has been my entire life for the past two years, and has always been a big part even before that. In 11th grade, I attended Hamline University. This year I am attending the U of M. Even my job is to tutor high school students. Valuing, taking advantage of, and applying education are three very important things that this generation needs to acknowledge. These kids are our future leaders, politicians, doctors, and teachers. Education is the base of everything.
Valuing education is the first step to becoming an adult in my eyes. When I was sitting in Earth Science in 7th grade it hit me: who I am now will decide who I will be for the rest of my life. I had seen what slacking, partying, and laziness had done to my sisters. I didn’t want that. I made the decision that education would be my ticket into the adult world. I started taking AP classes and accelerated math, my grades were perfect, and I was happy. Being busy takes one’s mind off of the negative things in life.
Take advantage of everything education has to offer. In third grade I was given the choice to be put into a class with third and fourth graders. I took it because I knew that they knew more than me. It would be a challenge and it would also be good for my brain. Then in 6th grade I started accelerated math. In high school, I was far ahead of the other students and I took every AP class my school had to offer. Then came 11th grade. I decided I had outgrown this high school mess and I went off to Hamline to take my requirements. Surprisingly, this was easy as well. The next step would be to go to the U of M for my senior year and get the total college experience. That’s where I am today.
Now that I have all this education under my belt, with much more to come, I need to apply it. In tutoring one uses every possible trick to remember material, to teach material, and to teach how to remember material. I enjoy working with kids that want to learn. Taking tutoring lessons shows me that they do see how important education is and that they want to get the most out of it. I also work at my father’s lab on the St. Paul campus and that requires a lot of critical thinking, memorization, and education. Education is no good unless you plan to apply it to everyday life.
My life may be consumed by school, work, and study, but I know that when I graduate it will all be worth it. Education is my life, and I chose that. I wish for kids to understand the importance of their schoolwork without needing the pressure from parents and teachers. When I am old and I’m on the operating table getting my back fixed, I hope my surgeon valued his education as well.

This I Believe Esssay

I believe in giving something of myself in order to help others. No matter how bad my life may seem, there is always someone out there who is in a worse position. Be it they have less money, less educational opportunities, or no where to live, there are always people in need. There are so many ways I can help others. I do not need to have a lot of money, and I do not even always need to have a lot of time. Sometimes just sitting and talking with someone is just what they may need. Other times money may need to be raised in order to get them what they need. I believe that I may not be able to help everyone in need, but I should do what I can to help.

I was involved in Habitat for Humanity in high school, and it was such a rewarding thing to be a part of. By giving up a few Saturdays a month I was able to help so many people in my surrounding communities. It is the greatest feeling when the new house is complete and it is almost time for the new family to move in. You can see the joy in their faces and their appreciation because you helped make their dreams come true. A little of my time can go a long way to helping others.
In addition to Habitat for Humanity there are several other things I have done in order to help other people. For example, raking leaves in the fall for elderly people who cannot do it themselves, ringing bells to raise money for the Salvation Army, or spending time in a memory loss center just to sit and talk with someone. All of these have been simple ways for me to give something of myself to benefit others.

I believe in giving something of myself in order to help others simply because it is the right thing to do. It does not take much time, money, or effort to give back to my community. I believe this is something I will continue to do throughout my life and encourage others to do as well.

I believe in motivation & determination

Back in the days of high school when I didn’t think seriously about my future, but rather sports dreams and the glory. I found myself a shy and unconfident person. I rarely worked, studied and finished assignments, outside of school. Even though I knew Mr. Severtson’s physics tests were impossible and was the next morning, I opted for a pick up game of hockey, football or anything to get my mind off school. I began to believe that I would go to college, get a degree and make money. Little did I know that college is a lot harder than high school, I began to worry. I started to gather up hints and pieces to the puzzle of success from my high school teachers, and my own regrets. When I look back today I believe that motivation, determination and desire are keys to a person’s career. Without them I would have found it a lot harder to succeed.
The first two years of high school, school was at the bottom of my list, I did not think about GPA and college. I was quite scared and intimidated by the whole thing. After I saw my sister walk across the stage with honors cords I felt a mad determination, I had to get those as well. I started to realize that I had to do more work in school; every study hall and flex period was dedicated to homework and study. If I worked hard in school I wouldn’t have to work outside of school. I studied most what I liked, math, science and did well in those classes. However, the ones I didn’t care for I struggled.
Mr. Eklund an energetic and popular English teacher, who made one think in different ways about their enemies. Reading was one of my enemies. His words and excitement made me think and motivated to start reading. You’re going to be grandparents one day and read. Many exciting, adventurous and knowledgeable things come from reading so that’s why you should start now! I wish I could remember the exact words he said that day, but those simple yet powerful words excited me and I wanted to at least try a book. I have enjoyed reading, most books, ever since. When I look back that motivation still inspires me to have that fire of desire and determination to succeed by doing things that I never thought to be enjoyable.
Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing hockey. I skated countless hours with the neighborhood boys and played till our feet were frozen. It wasn’t until high school that I tried out for the hockey team. Being shy and unconfident I felt uncomfortable out there like I didn’t belong, I didn’t have determination. I was cut from the team and didn’t make it until the following year, I didn’t get very far. I was scared and knew I was keeping myself from trying harder and wanting to succeed. I regret to this day that I didn’t realize those things I learned in school about determination and motivation to succeed on the rink.
It was only last year that I didn’t want anymore regrets in my career I thought about hockey and how I didn’t have that motivation and determination to succeed on the rink. I wanted to succeed in college and in my career. I think about how I failed hockey and Mr. Eklund’s motivation and my own determination to fuel my desire of graduating from college with an engineering degree.

This I Believe: Personal Essay

I believe that great minds think alike. It all started with the simple purchase of a plane ticket to Mazatlan, Mexico for spring break my senior year of high school with two of my best friends. Little did I know, a certain someone from Eveleth, Minnesota had the same intentions.

The date of our departure had finally approached as we boarded the exact same plane; each with our own group of friends counting down the hours until we would be lying next to the ocean, cocktail in hand, without a single worry in the world. Before that moment arrived, my friends and I were more than ready, having already changed into our swimsuits on the plane.

We were now about midway through our week long Mexico getaway, so we had developed a routine schedule for the day. After the last glimpses of sunlight began to fade, we headed in to glam ourselves up for the nightlife awaiting us. Tonight’s destination: Senor Frogs. We had quite the adventure as we walked the swarming streets; our self-esteem at its peak with compliments streaming in left and right. There were very few American tourists in Mazatlan at this time, so when my friends and I entered Senor Frogs and spotted some across the bar we jumped on the opportunity to meet them. To our surprise, we recognized our newfound friends from our flight into Mexico. I have come to believe spontaneity sparks life-long friendships, for this is how I met Kirsten. One conversation topic led to another, and Kirsten and I discovered that we shared much more than our spring break plans as common ground. We are both from northern Minnesota, both were planning on attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, and the list goes on. Reluctant to part, we headed our separate ways back to our hotels for the night hoping to see each other again in the remainder of our vacation.

The following night as we stood in line on our way into a dance club, you guessed it- Kirsten’s crew showed up shortly after. Our final gathering occurred at the airport and on the plane ride back to Minneapolis. Here, we shared all the details of how the rest of our time in Mexico went and exchanged e-mail addresses before going our separate ways. At the time, it never really occurred to me that I might see Kirsten again.

Possibly the greatest decision Kirsten and I have ever made was becoming college roommates. Sometimes I wonder if we have cloned brains because literally everything we own and/or like are the exact same! On move-in day, we both showed up with identical comforters, sheet sets, laptops, you name it, all unplanned. We then proceeded to go shopping together and picked out the remainder of our dorm décor, since we share a sense of style. As the year progressed, we only grew closer.

Presently, we are still roommates and have never fought once in the existence of our friendship. Every day we catch ourselves picking outfits that are so similar you would think we planned it. I believe it was fate that Kirsten and I met that night, forever instilling in me the belief that great minds do think alike.

I believe in sisterhood

For those who know me they would automatically think that I believe in sisterhood because of my four lovely sisters. Truth be told, they are a lot older than I am and we don’t get the chance to spend a lot of time together. Rather I believe in sisterhood because of the sisters I’ve most recently been blessed with.

I was a very typical freshman when I came to the University of Minnesota; a little lost but mostly excited to be out of the house and on my own. Living at home with my dad was never easy and having my mom out of state even harder. I basically had to take care of myself and at this point I was disappointed in those who were supposed to be there for me. I had come to realization that the rest of my life was going to have to be on my own. I didn’t believe that anyone but myself could truly make me happy.

I was very lucky to get a roommate that I got a lot with and loved to hang out with. We basically became instant best friends, but she was one of the only people I really spent much time with. The year continued on being mostly consumed with school and occasionally going out on the weekends.

I got involved with a club on campus that was planning a big event and met some really awesome people in the process. One of whom is now one of my sisters. After meeting the women of the sorority, that I am now a part of, I was really changed. I spent a lot of time with them and got to know a few of them really well before I decided to join. I had never felt more at home then when I actually lived in my own home. It was the first time in years that I no longer wanted to be alone and do things all on my own. I wanted to spend tons of time with these women and rely on them. They really found that part of me that wanted to be overwhelmed with sisterhood. I began to let myself trust in the people I cared about again. They really showed me a great deal of happiness I was missing in my life. I would have never thought that being surrounded by sisterhood would change who I am today. I finally let myself trust, be a part of a family, and most of all just be myself. I thank a large dose of sisterhood for that.

"This I Believe"- Personal Essay

A belief is to accept something as the truth, to have faith in something, to have an opinion. A belief that is supported by great conviction can also become part of the essence of who we are. Thus, I believe in being a vegetarian. I believe it is wrong to destroy animals for the purpose of nourishment when there are other healthy choices. Living as a vegetarian has become part of who I am.

When I was four years old, my mom and I were grocery shopping at a neighborhood gourmet grocer who featured chickens on a rotisserie. I stared at those headless birds, spinning round and round, and it dawned on me that they once were alive. I vividly recall asking my mom if they were already dead or if someone killed them. She looked at me quizzically and responded with a question to buy herself time. “What do you mean were they dead first?” At that point, I knew the answer. They did not die of old age and were not found along side the road. They were raised for the purpose of killing, so they could someday do the merry-go-round dance on some grocer’s spit. I swore never to eat meat again.

Fairly open minded and supportive, my mom saw no harm in a child pursuing a belief with great conviction. For weeks, my mom obliged and refrained from feeding me meat. Assuming this was some cute phase that would end up as nothing more than an amusing story someday; she didn’t give it a second thought. Months went by, and I continued eating my menu of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other high-protein foods. At one point, my mom even consulted with my pediatrician who turned out to be a vegetarian as well. Months into this new lifestyle, I became incorrigible. However, my mom taught me that not all people have the same opinions and one must be tolerant of others choices.

At age four, I was too young to contemplate the subject of leather shoes, animal testing, or animal proteins in hygiene and make-up products. I was just happy not eating animals. In middle school, other girls found my vegetarianism interesting and would often try it on for size. None, that I recall, succeeded for long. They didn’t have the conviction. It was not a belief, it was a fad, and they refrained from eating meat with willpower not because the idea of harming an animal was unacceptable.

I have often been asked what led to my vegetarianism. I don’t think that one single thing created this belief of mine. Many factors contributed. My mom was, and still is, a person that believes strongly in being kind to all creatures. She was also someone who detested most meat, though not so much from a belief standpoint, but from a taste standpoint. Thus, it was easy for her to support my desire to eliminate meat from my diet. I never knew my grandma, but I learned from my mom that she was an animal lover too, breeding dogs, and having multiple pets throughout her life. I was often asked by curious or critical people how I thought the cavemen would have survived without meat. My answer is simple. They would not have, but we are not cavemen. We are a more sophisticated being with better and more varied choices. If I were starving to death on a deserted island, I might consider eating a living creature to survive. The choice to do so would be based on my desire to live—not my desire to enjoy something for pure pleasure.

The most profound notion I consider when examining this whole topic, is the notion that what we cannot see, does not exist. People, who eat meat, do not see the cruelty that is inflicted on these animals. They only see the steak sitting on their plate; they do not see the slaughter houses. I believe that if we followed an animal from birth to the dining room plate more people would embrace vegetarianism. Though it is impossible to get away from using all animal products, a more conscious desire to eliminate the unnecessary slaughtering of animals is not a difficult thing to accomplish. Being a vegetarian has been a positive aspect of my life. Not only have I avoided many illnesses, I’ve contributed to the preservation of animals. My belief is supported with great conviction, as it is not just a belief; it is part of who I am.

I believe in second chances

I believe that no matter how much a person screws up, they should always deserve a second chance; a way to make up for what they did wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does things that they wish they could take back. Everyone should be forgiven... at least once.

About two months ago, I began speaking to my mother for the first time in two years. For some, this may not be that big of a deal, but for me, this was huge. Throughout my life, my mother and I had always been very close. She was the one I went to with all my issues (hair, boys, a headache, etc.). But this shouldn't surprise anyone; she's my mother.

It all started about four years ago with just casual drinking, which led to heavy drinking, and in the end, she was drunk almost every waking moment of the day. I remember getting woken up five days out of the week to my dad yelling at my mother because she was throwing up in bed again. My mother had a sickness; she was an alcoholic.

Alcoholism is a disease that takes over people's lives and it almost ended hers. It is a very difficult disease to cure and my family and I did all that we could to try to help her escape this sickness. She went to treatment over four times, we went to family counseling, and we tried to do our best to support her. It became a lost cause. After two years of trying to help her, we began to give up on her. We had done everything we could, and saw no change. If she wanted to get better, she needed to do it for herself, by herself. She had lost her job, her friends, her husband of 25 years, and most of her family.

For two years, I did not speak with her. Eventhough she had a disease that was hard to control, I could not get myself to talk to her anymore. She had hurt me too much. I would get phone calls from my grandma telling me stories about my mother. "Your mother just got another DUI" or "Your mother is in jail again" or "Your mother went to the gastrologist and she only has 10 percent of her liver left". Everytime she would tell me something like this, my heart would sink. I wanted to help her but I knew that I couldn't.

My mom has not had a drop of alcohol for 82 days now. She is a recovered alcoholic. She is now working, has her own place, and is making mends in her life. She has turned her life around and I am so proud of her. Although it took time for me to finally forgive her, I have my mom back. She may have screwed up and made terrible decisions, but I gave her a second chance because I believe in second chances.

Kyleen Udermann

Humility

I believe in the power of humility. Possibly the most grossly underrated virtue in the United States, humility can open doors in one’s life that would not usually be accessible to the presumptuous mind. Humility is generally overlooked by our present day society: we are expected to be bold, confident, correct, firm in our beliefs, and to at least appear as if we know. Confidence is the face of America, the big brother super power who must set an example and bestow his infinite wisdom upon the lesser countries. The problem is that confidence in our world today is rarely justified. To question our own ideas, our own philosophy, is simply unheard of, for it would show weakness, and reveal the fact that we don’t have all the answers.

Humility is admitting that we don’t have all the answers, recognition that our knowledge may be incorrect or incomplete. It is acknowledging the possibility that our way of thinking may be biased, conditioned, or purely illogical. And when we let go of that unnecessary shield of confidence, we start to pay more attention to the rest of the world. We start to look at ideas other than our own, thus gaining a broader perspective. Even if we cannot wrap our minds around the ideas of others’, we can at least have respect for them. When we start opening our minds to new ideas, our own views tend to change, and it is much easier to figure out what we want from life when we have so many diverse options and opinions influencing us. If we cannot open our minds, then we limit ourselves to a sickening degree, although those who have no humility do not even realize this, for they live in a fantasy world of their own.

I control my own destiny, this I believe.

I control my own destiny, this I believe. Many people say it is destiny that is responsible for certain incidents in their lives. The happiness they receive in their lives, the bad times they face, and the precious moments they cherish all gets accredited to “destiny.” Destiny is described as pre-determination of events that will happen in one’s life; thus, we have fortune tellers who say they can foretell our future. To me a fortune teller is nothing more than hope for those whom lost it through some crisis that occurred in their life. They need this hope to keep going. I believe that things happen not because of destiny but of individual choices. Things happen for reasons to which we are in charge of. I believe that I control of my own life and the events that fall in place into my life.
I am not born with a preset chronological order of events that are meant to happen to me; my actions are the outcomes of my decisions, and these decisions are made with careful considerations with regards to my surrounding environment and its interactions with me.
I moved to the United States in 1996, it was an opportunity of a life time. It was not fate or destiny that made me decide to come to the U.S. It was due to much consideration and thought on my part about my future. The reason why I left Russia was not because I was meant to, but because I wanted so much to be away from the Russian regime; it required all males age 18, to join the army before pursuing a higher education. I for one thought otherwise. I felt that it should be a choice one makes as to whether or not they join the army. I wanted to have that choice and I wanted first to pursue a higher education; thus, I came to the U.S. I made this decision based on my surrounding environment that caused me to be where I am today, this I believe. I believe that destiny does not play a role in my decision to come here. My decision to come to the U.S. was a hard one, but I based it on many things that I personally wanted for my future. It was hard to come to the U.S. and I could have just stayed in Russia, served my time, see combat, and then pursue college after that; as so many soldiers do that today in the U.S. This decision would have made everything easier. I chose to fight for what I want, not because my destiny had something so important waiting for me in the U.S. that I had to come. Nothing special or out of the ordinary has happened to me that involved me having to be here or have fate bring me here; no, it was because I wanted a higher education for myself and that is exactly what I am doing this very moment.

Stanislav Fayngold

This I believe: America has changed

Matthew Ihrke
EngL 1501W - M. Coleman
“This I Believe” Essay
9/21/07
ihrk0014@umn.edu

In reading what Jackie Robinson had to say fifty years ago it came to me that America has changed a lot since then. We have become better at not discriminating against people and not thinking that one person is better than the other person. Even though after all this there is still some uncertainty with some people about where they fit in America. I believe that America has been a lot more tolerant it is just that there are people that still aren’t comfortable with the whole situation at all times.
In 2004 my high school just got a new student, named Jonathan, who was an adapted African America who just moved from a school that had mostly African Americans to a school that was ninety-five percent Caucasian. Nobody really looked at him that way though as everyone was friendly to him all the time and tried to get to know him. Everyone would invite him to the social gatherings but he would never show up. He always just sat in class and was really quiet the entire time. He was one of the smartest in the grade but he never would say nor do anything. The first thing that anyone ever saw him do outside of the school building was play for our school’s baseball team. Even at the beginning of the season he would not talk much until we played our rival neighboring town. It was a long game and it went into extra innings, both teams were getting excited and there was not a single person sitting down. In the bottom of the tenth Jonathan came up to bat and told me before he walked up there that he was nervous. After the fourth pitch of the at bat he drove a single into center field that scored the winning run for us. He came back excited as anyone has ever seen him, in fact it was the first time many people saw him show any emotion. After the game I asked him why he was so nervous and he explained to me that he thought if he did not get a hit that we would never talk or look at him the same again because of his race. I had to explain to him that ever since the first day he walked into school nobody thought anything about that. Then I went on to explain to him that he never needs to worry about that in this school even though he is the clear minority. Anyways after that he became more social and would come out to the social events for the rest of the school year and throughout the summer until everyone went to college. He thanked us many times for making him feel comfortable at a new school and felt the need to apologize for making it look like he was uncomfortable being African-American at a dominant Caucasian school.
After all that people have been through with one another they still can not get comfortable that we are all different. Americans have gotten better at not discriminating it is just that most people might not be comfortable all around with who they are and their own surroundings. Once that all happens I believe the imperfection that Jackie Robinson was talking about will become perfect.

I believe in music

This I Believe
It was my junior year of high school, only about a month into the year. At this point I had been driving for just over 3 months. I was assigned to take photos of the girls’ golf team for the year book. It was an average September day, the sun was shining it was warm with a slight breeze. I was driving down the country road that the golf course was on. I had my windows down, I had just bought the new Maroon Five cd and it was playing through the speakers. This road was somewhat familiar to me, I had been down it a few times before, and was used to driving on country roads. It was a normal day or maybe a little better the normal. I was enjoying the weather, the music playing, being able to drive myself, and was excited that Homecoming was the next day.

Everything seems perfect, but then something happened that had barely ever crossed my mind. I got into a car accident. I came around a curve that, I realized once I was half way into it, was a lot shaper then it appeared at first. As I came around the curve I hit some of the gravel on the outside on the road. I was quick and able to correct and get back onto the road, but at that point another car was coming at me so I quickly swerved to avoid hitting the on coming car. The degree of which I swerved and the speed I was going together caused my car to not exactly roll but more flip once I hit the ditch. The car got caught up on the on incline of a side road and landed on the tires.

It was a weird experience; everything seemed to happen in slow motion. This was three years ago and there are many things a can still strongly remember about the crash. The thoughts going throw my head, thinking “this is not really happening, this is a dream”. I remember the smell of the dirt that was flying through the air. And I remember the sound of the windows shattering. Once of the worst things that I remember is the feeling I had in my stomach when I was removed from the car and saw how much damaged had been done. The doors on both sides were smashed in along with the bumper and indents in the roof. All the windows were shattered and pieces of glass covered the inside of my car along with me. The rims were ripped right off my tires. If you had only seen my car you might think that the person did not survive. I was extremely lucky; I walked away with two bruises a few small scratches and a concussion.

The feeling I had in my stomach during and after is something I will never forget. The feeling is brought back every time I hear the Maroon Five song that was playing. It is a little strange to feel sick from a song, but it is the truth. That is why I believe in music. This is the most extreme case in which I connect an experience in my life to a song or band, but it is something that happens all the time. It does not always have to be something sad but happy times too. Hearing a song can bring you back to your first kiss or a summer with your friends before you left for college. There are songs that remind me of my cousin that past away four years ago which is a sad but happy experience at the same time. Song help us remember and connect us to memories of our past both good and bad.

Marijuana and Math

I started smoking pot when I was in my sophomore year in high school. It started innocently enough getting high with my buddies to play snow football, or go sledding. I never bought any weed myself it just always seemed to be around. My junior year was the most boring of my high school career which is probably why I started to smoke habitually. My friends who had been smoking with me the year before suddenly started selling it. They sold it to me for cheap and I had some of my own money saved so I would buy small amounts to last me a week or so at a time. Although I found most of school infinitely boring, I was interested in calculus which I started taking junior year. I was so interested in it that I would usually go straight home from school and finish my homework assignment for calculus before doing anything else.
One day I got a ride home from a friend instead of taking the bus. My friend happened to have a joint rolled when we got to his car and we smoked all the way to my house. As was my custom, when I got home I immediately sat down and began working on calculus, but something was different. Numbers and symbols flowed from my pencil like water. I was not distracted by the television or the fact that I had not eaten lunch that day. I found a beauty in the numbers, symbols and derivations, complicated systems broken down to simple mathematical steps, the known and unknown, solve for the latter. What I had found merely interesting before became a way of defining the world around me. The symbols were no longer cut off from the world around me, floating in some mathematical void, they were grounded in reality and could define and predict with a great degree of accuracy. I finished all my calculus homework for the next four days that night. When I finally stopped three and a half hours had gone by. The marijuana had seemed to help me visualize the problems. I had no problem with the number crunching before but I had struggled with the spatial visualization of the problems but it seemed to make more sense now. I received an ‘A’ in both semesters of calculus that year and a four out of four on my advanced placement calculus exam.
As my knowledge grew so did my thirst for it. During my senior year of high school I took more challenging classes like calculus II, accelerated physics and accelerated chemistry. I did not have to be high when I did homework, but when I was it made the sometimes monotonous problems more interesting and valid in the real world. Instead of simply crunching numbers and solving for the numerical solution, I would investigate further to see how changing the parameters of the problem would affect the solution giving me better understanding of the problem. I quit smoking for my first semester of college, but inevitably started again in the beginning of second semester. My GPA actually went up half a point to 3.5 second semester and I had found others in my major who also enjoyed smoking but also wanted to continue their education in math and science.
I still smoke to this day. I have not tried harder drugs, I don’t see the point I guess, and the thought of snorting or shooting anything makes my stomach churn. Some would say I am an addict, but I often go for weeks without smoking and hardly even think about it. I often think about why I smoke weed or if I should. I always seem to decide that as long as it does not interfere with my long term goals I might as well do what I want to do. These are my experiences with marijuana and I realize others have had different experiences. I believe marijuana is harmless and has done nothing but given me a few funny memories, a few new friends and a greater capacity to visualize complicated systems.

The Comfort of Home Cooking

I believe in the tradition of sharing family recipes. Food appeals to the five senses. One can first smell the food as it is being cooked, hear it gurgling and fizzing as it boils over the pot, see the food as it sits on a plate, feel the warmth of it as it glazes across your lips and taste it as it glides over your tongue to be swallowed. When one of these senses is repeated a person is brought back to the time and place where they first encountered that sense.

Being an eleven hour drive from home becomes difficult after awhile. I love being in Minneapolis but not being able to visit my family becomes hard. The best way I have found to reconnect to them is by cooking.

For my 20th birthday my sister handwrote all of her favorite recipes and asked my mom and other sisters to do the same. She then gave them to me as a gift. This simple present is priceless to me. Anytime I make brownies from my mom’s recipes or chicken chili from my sisters, for a moment, I am at home. I am again with that person if only for the time I am cooking and eating their meal. Having the recipes in their original handwriting adds an entire new meaning to the gift, not only am I getting their favorite recipes, I am getting a personal part of them. It is almost as if they are here with me.

A few days ago I made fried rice (not from a family recipe). It was not perfect and by any means as good as my mothers. The next day I called her and asked her how she makes hers and apparently there is a “fried rice” seasoning packet I have never known about. Today I just received a package from her and among other things there were three packets of fried rice seasoning. This example just shows how much food is apart of how me and my mother connect even though it is never blatantly stated between us.

The way food can change one’s mood is another amazing thing. Almost everyone can remember being sick and having someone make them a meal to ease their stomach whether it is chicken noodle soup or a simple scrambled egg. Birthdays are celebrated with some sort of cake and Thanksgiving usually by a turkey. Why are these some foods so reminiscent of their occasion? I believe by repeating these foods on the same occasion we relive every time we have ever eaten them. On our Birthday by eating cake we are brought back to every birthday that has preceded.

I am glad I have found a way to reconnect with my home and my family. Being so far away from home it is very important for me to remember the past and the people who are the closest to me even though they are so far away in reality. Looking through my families recipes I can reconnect with them and be home once again.


This I Believe Essay

I believe the little things are what matter the most.

When I was 16 years old my grandpa, or papa as we called him, passed away unexpectedly. This was the first, and thus far, only time I have seen what it is like to lose someone you love. A majority of my family members live nearby so the support we were able to give each other was something that we were very lucky for. Papa always believed that family was the most important thing and obviously he had instilled that in all of us.

The days leading up to the wake and funeral were some of the most difficult I’ve encountered. As a family we spent a lot of time telling stories. Some we laughed at hysterically and others made us cry. But one thing never changed, each story had to do with the little things about my grandpa that made him special and made the relationship he had with each one of us special. When our loved ones leave the pictures and most importantly the memories of those special moments are what remain.

My papa was a very important person in my life. I know he was a great man, but that is not necessarily what I remember the most. It’s the trips we would make to the candy store every time we saw him and his reasoning for stopping there always being the same; because my sister and I were so sweet he thought we deserved something sweet to eat. It was all the times in elementary school that I forgot my tennis shoes for gym at home just so papa would have to drop them off for me. He always brought some sort of treat with and found some way to hide it so I would have a little surprise to brighten my day when I went to retrieve them from the office. He dressed up as Santa Clause on Christmas Eve until all of us grandchildren were past the age of knowing he wasn’t real, just to make sure it wasn’t spoiled for us. Those are just some of the little things I remember the most about my papa.

When you meet new people and some of them become your closest friends your relationships move to a different level than those you form with the people you interact with more irregularly. You create stories and find common interests that you share with no one else. You learn what all of their quirks are and they learn yours. When go your separate ways, for school or whatever reason, those small things are what stay with you. Hearing a certain phrase or seeing a certain show bring those memories to the surface. It’s not about the bigger picture of just being friends, it’s more than that. My best friend goes to school in another state and we still call each other when we hear our favorite songs to sing together, just to say we heard it. Those songs and the memories of singing them are just one of the things that mean more to me than the story of how we met in middle school or anything of that magnitude.

Although I might be only 19 years old I’ve learned what means the most to me in the relationships that I’ve had in the past, the ones I have now, and those I will have in the future. I believe the little things are what matter the most.

Heaven and Hell

I believe that there is no afterlife; no Heaven or Hell, that when people die they live on only in our memories. I believe this because I see life as our only chance to experience all that we possibly can and that our existence is not simply some test to get into some otherworldly VIP club. Most of all, I believe in humanity; that helping one another brings the greatest happiness and gives our lives value. Belief in Heaven can get in the way these actions of kindness and lessens the value of humanity. This is because a divine promise of paradise as a reward for being a good person can devalue our intentions; that the intrinsically gratifying actions of kindness are reduced to the perception of a ticket to Heaven.

I have seen people who use their belief in Heaven as an excuse for inaction. They say things like, “When the starving people die of hunger, at least they will have left their terrible lives to be in Heaven.” That’s bullshit. They just say that to feel better about themselves for not trying hard enough to help them.

I have seen people who have abused their belief in Heaven and their methods of attaining access to it. I knew someone who repeatedly said, “It doesn’t matter what I do, all I have to do is go to church and God will forgive me. Then I can go to Heaven.” Also bullshit. It was apparent by the way he lived that he truly believed this. His “shoot first and apologize to God later” attitude allowed him to become the most shameless, selfish, and two-faced person that have I ever personally known. I know this because he was my best friend since childhood and I had even lived with him in the same house for two years up until this past summer. Sure, he was fun to be around and he could make you laugh, but it was usually at the expense of someone else. He rarely apologized, and if he did, he was not serious, and he had a lot of things to apologize for. It took me a long time to realize that he was never really much of a friend. I attribute this to his belief in his free ride to Heaven.

I would like to stress that I DO NOT believe that people who believe in Heaven and Hell are bad people, quite the opposite really. If it takes believing in Heaven to make you a good person, by all means, believe in Heaven. My only hope is that you can find happiness in your kindness, and generally speaking, I think people do. However, the science of psychology has proven that external rewards can override the intrinsic motivation of an individual to participate in an activity that is generally internally gratifying. Take for example a child who gets a lot of enjoyment from doing math problems because she finds them fun. One day, her parents decide to reward her for doing so well in math that whenever she completes a math worksheet, they give her candy. When the parents decide to stop giving her candy because she is eating too many sweets, the child no longer wants to do the math worksheets because she is no longer getting the reward. This raises the question, that (hypothetically) if we one day discovered without a doubt that Heaven and Hell do not exist, would we still strive to be good people?

Believing as I do, works for me. I do not intend on offending anyone or any particular religion, but I do ask that people reevaluate their motives in life. I hope that people can discover that helping one another brings out the best happiness and that because I believe that this is our only platform of existence; we need to make the most of it. I believe this because I value humanity. I believe in humanity. This I believe.

I Believe in My Mother

I believe in my mom. I know she is a strong, intelligent, and independent woman. I know she can and will handle anything that comes her way. I know she will be there for me even when she knows I’m wrong and push more forward even when she knows I could fail. I know she can beat anything, but three months ago my beliefs were shaken by cancer.

This past summer my mom was diagnosed with the first stages of breast cancer. Doctors found the cancer early and I had every reason to believe she would be healthy for many years to come. Yet, I was still scared that my mom had been faced with something stronger and more powerful than she. I had doubts. I had doubts that she wouldn’t be her regular self; I had doubts that she would be emotionally depressed and angry, and I had fears that the cancer would take the best of her. As these feelings slowly sunk in, I gave in to cancer’s powerful mind game. My life consisted of only fears, doubts, and anxiety. My mind was constantly stuck on cancer. How did it happen? Why did it happen to her? Will she be okay? I had lost myself and my normal world to the illness.

I spent many days feeling detached from the life that I was once so energized about. I didn’t know how to be happy and full of energy when my mom was diagnosed with a disease that was dangerous to her life. When talking with family and friends about my mom’s illness I forced myself to say what most people wanted to hear, “she is going to be fine.” I struggled internally with the thought that as many times as I said it to people, deep down I had no idea if it was true.

Three months later, my mom has once again caught me right before I was about to fall. Her positive attitude and fearless optimism are what make me wake up in the morning. Some days I am still struck speechless that my mom, the one with cancer, has the ability to give me hope at the same time. As a cancer patient she has every right to sit down and relax and let others take care of her. However, she still has a never ending supply of hope and care to give out to others. She reminds me everyday that one cannot give up on something they believe in. Her passion to fight this illness with a great sense of humor and a “go get ‘em” attitude is one of most courageous things I have seen in my life

Over time, I have realized that although these experiences of both physical and mental strain are rough, I can always count on my mom. Learning from experience can be one of the most difficult ways to learn but it can also be the most profound.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.