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2018, Kennedy Johnson, HWRA, American Fork HS, Awardee

Apr 24, 2018

Rabindranath Tagore once said, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” I love this quote, and honestly, it saved my life.

Service is the most joyous thing I have ever chosen to focus on in my life because beforehand I was in a world where I lacked self-worth. I am a person who is working to overcome the negative thoughts that try to bring me down.

If you asked for a friend or outsider’s opinion of me, they would probably never say I had issues with my self-confidence, or that I struggled with my value as a person. I have always been outgoing, and have been taught to be confident even when I may not feel like it. Over time, I realized the way I was acting was not the real me (which is ironic, considering theater is what I am going into as my career). Not only was I in a shaky state myself, but I had several of my dear friends suffering from depression. By surrounding myself with this disheartening energy, I had become engulfed in the idea that having a lack of self-worth was normal. This is when I realized I had hit an all-time low.

Another school year was ending, and two of my dear friends passed away from suicide. It was the final crack that broke my mirror altogether, and I knew I had to get help. At a young age, I was scared to go into therapy, because I thought I would be made fun of by anyone who heard I was struggling, but a wise person once told me this: getting help means that you are willing to be taught by someone who knows more than you. This changed my entire perspective, and I went in with questions and a curiosity to know more. I wanted to understand more about what these friends of mine were going through. I wanted to know why I wasn’t happy and where I should go from there. This wise counselor and I would have conversations, one after another, and I felt like I was being educated in a way that opened my eyes and changed my way of thinking. He taught me it was okay to be sad, it was okay to be hurt, and how to learn from it. Afterward, he asked me what truly made me happy, and at first, I didn’t have an answer. Then, I thought of my friends who I had lost, and of my family and I knew.

I told him I only truly felt joy when I was looking outward, toward others. I was so engulfed with my own problems and hardships, that I had forgotten to look around and see all the other people struggling along with me.

Service became my priority. Lonely lunchtimes became an opportunity to meet people who needed a friend. I came out of that experience having found more meaning in life. I love to be happy, and I knew where to find it. I knew I wasn’t alone. One of my favorite musicals, Dear Evan Hansen, has a song in the score called, You Will Found. Part of the lyrics go like this: “Even when the dark comes crashing through when you need a friend to carry you, and when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.”

I am forever grateful I am able to use the knowledge I gained to help inspire others and let them know they are not alone. Through four years of High School, I have been learning to overcome the negative thinking, through practicing self-love and then serving others. I also get to use it in my performing career, and carry empathy into my acting, then share with an audience, giving them a message they can apply to their own lives. I love life, and I love to help others discover that too.

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