Have you heard of Humans of New York? I had an opportunity to hear the project’s founder, Brandon, speak in New York City. Brandon roams around New York City asking complete strangers to share their stories. He is astonished how strangers open up so freely — people want to tell their stories. When they have the opportunity, they are able to heal and motivate others. It is a win-win situation and a chance to make people feel visible and understood. It’s changing the face of humanity — for the better.
Just like people in NYC, locals in Michiana have stories that may inspire YOU to rethink your potential and attitude about the world. I had the opportunity to coach a brave and eager teenager who works to be resilient in her everyday life. Her story will inspire any teenager who often feels invisible.
“I still manage to strive for success.”
Monica Murphy is a writer whose community blog
for The Elkhart Truth, Live Out Loud
, shares stories and motivational columns. She’s from South Bend and graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a social work degree.
Jen, who Monica interviewed for the story, preferred her last name not be mentioned.
Let’s face it: School can be tough for teens who are bullied and put down on a day-to-day basis. Jen, a recent high school graduate, experienced consistent put-downs by others during her formative years.
“It was really tough and hard to get through it,” she said. “I remember one time when people threw staples at me, causing me to bleed.”
She remembers going to school wearing shoes with no bottoms. Her dingy look was a turn off to others, and they called her “stinky girl” and often whispered behind her back.
“I always stayed strong,” she said. “I was determined that I would get through this and reach for success.”
Jen had little family support; thus, she solely relied on her self-determination and the constant encouragement from her mentors, as well as a few reassuring teachers.
“At some points in my life, I wanted to give up,” she said. “I did give up. I wrote a suicide note and did attempt suicide, but I did not succeed at it. I heard an inner voice saying, ‘Jen, you are here for a purpose and are here to change this world.’ I was scared to death with all the uncertainty, but I stayed strong. I had to for myself.”
She experienced a lot of trauma: the negative words, a dysfunctional household, dehumanizing attitudes and emotional abuse.
Jen is making a visible mark on all of the lives that she continues to touch. This past spring, she graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, 12 college credits and a spot among the top 100 students in her graduating class.
“A lot of people never thought that I would make it, but I did.” She made it because she believed she could.
When did people start believing it’s OK to treat others so poorly? Unfortunately, many teenagers today do not feel visible and therefore, carry through with destructive acts. If you know a hurting teen out there, be a leader and offer him or her a hand. If you are a hurting teen out there, let me share this with you: I think that you are worth it and your purpose is HUGE. Find support in the community, and keep going. There is someone out there who will understand you.
Moral of the story: You determine your life. You do not have to be a victim — you can be a survivor. Like survivor and friend Eshanya Walls said, “To become a survivor we have to learn how to survive. We have to build positivity, self-esteem, logic of happiness, and know what life can be without being a victim.”
Would you like to become a community blogger for The Elkhart Truth? Get in touch with community manager Ann Elise Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.