There are a lot of people who speed through life, instead of taking it one step at a time. So many people get caught up in the hustle of everyday living without taking a step back to enjoy the little things. For example: family moments, personal achievements, laughing, loving, spending quality time, and living each day as we go. Life is a journey and should be lived that way, not as a race. Sometimes life shows and teaches us how strong we actually are, as well as what we are made of. In my adolescence, I learned a life lesson that would stick with me for a lifetime.
My adolescence was a challenging time. From second to eighth grade, I was a victim of bullying. For those six years, I literally hated going to school – hated it so much that I would fake being sick just so I did not have to go to school that day. As each school year passed, I fell more and more into a deep depression, keeping my feelings to myself. I constantly asked myself, “is this worth it, is this worth being mentally and physically abused?” I never told anyone what was going on out of fear that this would infuriate the bullies even more and make my life much worse. I kept telling myself that it would be over soon and that they would leave me alone. Six years later, that finally happened. Over the summer before my freshman year, I grew three inches and lost forty pounds. When school started back, those same people who had picked on me for so long greeted me with handshakes and humor. I was confused as to what was going on. I asked myself, “Do they understand the pain they have caused me for these last six years?” I had forgiven those individuals, but I had not forgotten all the times I was pushed down, spit on, punched for no reason, laughed at, or was picked last in gym class and recess. While I carried that hurt inside of me, I did not realize that the hurt I experienced would help develop me into the person I am today.
Through that experience in my life, I realized how strong I really was. The events that happened to me may be surprising to others, but they inspired me. They inspired me to not only be all I can be in everyday life, but to help anyone in time of need no matter what they may be going through. I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to shine a light toward someone in their darkest of days, to let them know they are never alone. I have chosen a career path that will indeed live up to the promise I made to myself. These days I am always on the go. I am an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), a firefighter, a full time student (awaiting the nursing program at Southern State), and also a full time State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA). I sometimes lose sleep, become irritable, pull extra-long hours working and studying, but that is a side point. When you are able to impact someone’s life it is definitely worth all of the long hours and sleepless nights that come with it.
We all have had our hardships in life- some more than others- but there are always learning experiences, not only in difficult times, but in the good times as well. There is not a day that goes by that you shouldn’t bless someone you have passed in the hallways of school, of work, on the street, or at the grocery store, with just a simple smile. We live in a world today where people would rather walk by an individual in need, or point and laugh at someone, instead of lending a hand or an ear to listen. No matter how hard life seems at the moment, the hard work and hardships you have endured will pay off when the time is right.
I will end with this: life is a gift, not a privilege. As an EMT I have seen some horrible things but I have also seen amazing events as well. I have seen young lives taken too soon and it has really impacted my life, not only because they were taken so early, but because of the pain I see on their families’ faces. I strive every day to better myself, either working hard to get good grades in school, going the extra mile at work to help someone, or out in this frigid weather without sleep, helping someone who called 9-1-1. We cannot control the past, it is done and over with, but we can use the past to inspire our future.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. People come and go in and out of our lives and we learn something every day from them. Life is a journey, not a race. Take a step back and look around you, go talk to someone who looks like they are having a bad day. Not because you feel sorry for him or her, but out of compassion and the desire to be a friend. Lend a helping hand to a fellow co-worker, student, friend, or even a stranger. The smallest act of kindness can change an individual’s life. Take time out of your busy day or week and spend it with friends and family. We were never promised tomorrow and that, I can tell you from experience, is true. So as you are sitting there asking yourself, “is this worth it?” realize, ultimately you are in control of your destiny, and only YOU can make that decision. The decisions we make in life sometimes have consequences that stay with us for a long time. Stay safe, stick it out, and enjoy the journey of your life. My big dreams started at Chatfield and I will always be grateful for the memories shared there. Good luck to you and your future endeavors.
Zach Downing, Class of ’15