It was the end of August 2015 when what everyone saw as a new beginning felt to me like the end to my ambitions. It was the first day of AP Summer Bridge (a week-long session to introduce the curriculum of some Advanced Placement classes), it was very hot and the sun was shining, but I couldn’t see its light. Everything seemed like a maze and everyone seemed to know the right direction- except me. I was more than lost, but I knew my only way to get out of this labyrinth would be to do the best I can to make my goals come true.

In September of 2015, I felt like I was going insane and that reaching the moon was easier than what I was asking myself to do. I spent the first three months of my junior year lost and terrified of failing. I used to cry every day; I didn’t know how much I was going to be able to handle. I kept asking myself, “am I really insane for taking five Advanced Placement classes?” realizing the fact that I’d never taken one before- especially English because it is not my native language.

Every time I talked to someone about it they would just say one of the three things “Reem, are you crazy? You have been in the U.S for only two years, you are going to die,” “Reem, do you know how much work this is? It’s impossible, you won’t make it,” or “ Reem, you are going to drop your GPA because you are going to struggle with the language, it’s so hard.” Hearing all this negativity from friends and everybody around me made me feel like I was living in a nightmare every day. What made this situation even worse was the fact that I ran track, and I really loved doing it. It was a huge dilemma for me; I did not know what to give up. I did not know what I would sacrifice. I did not know if I should even give up something.

These questions were always in the back of my mind everywhere I went. The day that marked the end for me was the day I got the score for my first English timed-essay. It was definitely not what I wanted. I went back home and started crying as usual, but this time I decided to look at myself in the mirror. As I looked I saw a very weak version of myself with swallowed eyes, red nose and shaky hands. I didn’t know who this girl was, but I knew it wasn’t me. As I was looking through my eyes, I made my final decision: no matter what it takes I’m going to make it! This is my chance to prove to myself that I’m a lot stronger; I’m not going to let it go. I repeated these words over and over again like a song until they became a reality in April of 2016 when several months passed and I was able to maintain my grades while also run track. It absolutely could have been better, but I believe I’m comfortable with where I am right now.

I decided to run up this very steep hill, and I’m still at the very beginning. I have a long way to go but I will never stop. Even when very strong wind hits me, I will try to stick my feet in the ground so that I won’t fall, knowing that the finish line won’t be reached until my heart stops beating.

Just as I made this decision, you can make this decision too. Nobody knows you better than you know yourself. My story can be insignificant compared to your story and your accomplishments may far surpass mine. Use your opportunities and take the difficult route!

We all have been exposed to the feeling of underestimating our individual abilities. This feeling might have been caused by fear of inadequacy, preoccupation by people’s opinion, or multiple failures, but the key is to endure and overcome that feeling.

Now let me ask you this: Do we all look the same? If not, then why is it necessary that we all have the same abilities? Why can’t each one of us have his/her own perspective?

Life is like a wave. We will never be able to go back up unless we go down first. Yet, the downs can vary. Some of them can be rougher and more demanding than others. But what can also vary is people’s descriptions and reflections over these downs. Some people may have found it harder than others. Some may have survived, but others may have just decided to drown. The questions become: “What do you want for yourself? Do you just want to keep listening or do you want to go out there and try?”

David Wilson, from The Sydney Morning Herald, believes that “no matter what you do, you’ve got to believe in yourself – and that you’re capable of achieving your goals.” Your confidence is what leads to your desire and your desire is what leads to the ability for you to face all of your obstacles and embrace them. Once you reach your destination you will look back and with no doubt you will appreciate every second you spent putting in a tremendous effort to make it happen. Every time you will look at yourself in the mirror, you will be thankful that you didn’t listen to people, you didn’t listen to your fears, and you just listened to that little voice inside of you.

Have you ever wondered why we ask if something is hard or not instead of asking why is it hard? Because fear is what we are born with but we always forget that we are also born with faith. It doesn’t have to be a religious or spiritual faith, it just has to be faith in yourself , faith in your own aptitude, and most importantly a faith in your ambition to perform better and better. As the fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg mentions in her interview with New York Times journalist Adam Bryant, “I am not a good C.E.O., but I have the passion and the force of a founder, and therefore I can make things happen. I can inspire people and motivate people.” Achieving your goal doesn’t mean achieving perfection, it only means that what you once wished is now a reality.

Fear is a human’s worst enemy; it keeps him back and chains his mind. Gregory Berns from Emory University mentions in his article that in hard times, fear can impair decision-making. “Fear prompts retreat. It is the antipode to progress. Just when we need new ideas most, everyone is seized up in fear, trying to prevent losing what we have left.” Fear is a disease, agrees Gregory Berns, who proved scientifically that “when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk- taking are turned off.” Fear of failing means losing success. Fear of confronting problems means weakness. Fear of people’s judgement means bashfulness. Is this what you want for yourself?

If you let fear control you, you will become a preoccupied person. You will always demand attention and doubt your own worth. You will place too much trust in what people say. You will always be a follower and never a leader. You will have suppressed your inver voice, asking for people’s opinions instead of creating your own.
Don’t let people control you. Don’t let fears stop you. Create your own tomorrow. Learn to sketch that very first line of your future and the very last one. Just make it your own future!

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Reem Al-khoja

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