2024 – Awardee – Emmalee Gardner – Viewmont HS

Mar 26, 2024

How My Worst Days Made Me My Best Self

In the beginning of my life I used to think I had the worst life. I struggled with self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts. These are things that ae many peoples personal hell. I used to think that that was rock bottom. Although those are things that are so hard, life gets harder when you stack trials on top of them. In December of 2022, I was at Smiths with my family. While there, I saw a woman on my dads phone. Within an hour, my entire life felt like it had collapsed on top of me. I found out my dad was cheating on my mom. I was the only one who knew, and to make it worse, I worked with her and had to see her every day I worked. This started one of the hardest years of my life. We later found out there was a second woman, also someone I worked with, that my dad had been struggling with opioid use, and that he did not really care about this family. Before I had found out about this I set myself up for a rigorous course load in school. I had 11 classes instead of the usual 8, and 5 of them were college classes. I struggled through Migraines, so much pain, secrets, and being my parents scape goat and support person. But despite all of this I thrived. I finished all my classes with a 4.0, worked, and proved all my self-doubt wrong. Later that year, after everything had settled, I got a phone call in class that my dad had been arrested for domestic abuse. All over again my life crashed down. I left class, collapsed in the hall, and then found my friend who got me to a councilor. The next day I booked a flight to Hawaii and spent a week journaling, meditating and protecting my peace.

My life is like a rollercoaster. Some days I resent the pain I have been through, and my parents for putting me through it. Some days I live as though the experiences I have been through have sculpted me into a gem of a person. One of the most common compliments I get is on my resiliency. I have been taught to be resilient through many arguments, lies and disappointments. My mom has taught me to stand up for myself. Her strength to stand up to my father in any way she can is an inspiration for me. I have learned to be compassionate. Each day I stive to show a bit more compassion to those around me than was shown to me. I am honest because I have seen all the harm lies create and the damage it does to those you love. I am mature because I have been looking out and caring for my siblings far longer than anyone has been looking out for me. 

I cope in many ways. One of the biggest ways I cope is not glamorous. I often cope through endless scrolling. It distracts me from life. It is one of my coping mechanisms that is not so good. The other way I cope is through people. I love to be around my friends and realize that life truly is beautiful. I also work in a Childrens hospital. I see people having the worst days of their life. Through them, I receive the opportunity to show compassion,  kindness, and support. I cope by making someone else’s hell a little bit easier. It helps me put my life into perspective and help others along their way. Although the things my parents have put me through are not justifiable, they are rejuvenating. They have created a better person. Most parents teach their kids what to do. Mine taught me what not to do. That has shaped me into the person I am today. 

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