Utah seniors share their stories of resilience.
Shawnee Jones, Dixie HS, 2018 Awardee
As hard as I have tried to let that day slip from my mind, I knew I would have to face the fact that my nineteen-year-old sister was pregnant. When my family and I found out Shaylee was pregnant, there were no words that could describe the anger and hurt I felt. My best friend in the entire world had lied to me. How could I trust someone who had lied to me for so long? I thought we trusted each other enough to share our fears, mistakes, hopes, and dreams. The hurt and betrayal felt like being stabbed with a knife over and over.
When Shaylee walked out of the bathroom with her positive pregnancy test, I wanted nothing more than to throw my fist through the wall. At the time, all I could feel was anger and disappointment. Why was this happening? Why would she put us through all this heartache and grief? Shaylee tried to talk to me all that day but I couldn’t even look at her. In one moment, I was reminded of all the years she had caused our family heartache and I felt my love for her had diminished over the years as a consequence. I felt like I was suffocating. I was angry for hours. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. It was better for everyone to stay away from me, especially Shaylee. As I cooled the fire that was burning inside me, I realized my anger was only causing Shaylee and myself misery. This wasn’t about me. Shaylee needed all the support she could get from her little sister. I knew if Shaylee was going to make it through the next several months, she would need the entire family by her side.
My childhood changed as a result of this experience. I listened to my parents cry every night after hours of fighting with Shaylee while I constantly worked to calm Shaylee down and show her that our parents were trying to help. I dreaded waking up and having to face the hateful judgment directed toward Shaylee and my family. I would have to put on a smile to prove that I was perfectly fine despite all of the questions and whispers my family would get in the grocery store, at the mall, and at church. At school, I would ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom where I would sit in a stall and cry. When I was out of tears, I would go back to class and pretend like everything was perfect. The exhaustion I felt from pretending I was fine was overwhelming but it was nothing compared to what I was witnessing Shaylee go through. I didn’t know we were strong enough to survive something like this, but we did and we are better because of it. Even though this experience challenged me everyday, I don’t regret having to go through what we did.
One perspective this experience changed was my thoughts on adoption. Shaylee made the courageous decision to place her baby for adoption with a wonderful family. I had previously thought adoption was a heartless act that involved a selfish mother giving up her child to strangers. I feel the reason Shaylee and I have such a strong relationship today is because of this selfless act. She loved her child so much that she gave her a life she would never be able to provide. The strength Shaylee showed throughout the adoption process taught me what selfless love looks like.
My general perspective on life also changed. Before this experience, I was judgmental about any situation I felt wasn’t “normal” or “right”. During the months of Shaylee’s pregnancy, people would judge her both openly and in private, and I saw how much heartache it caused her. I knew I could not judge anyone because of the hurt Shaylee and my family experienced due to the judgment of others. Everyone has their own challenges and trials, and it is my responsibility to help them through these trials and cheer them on in whatever way they need. As I step back and reflect on that pain-filled day and the months that followed, I see that happiness can come from misery and judgment only brings pain and sorrow. I’m a different person because of what I learned from Shaylee, and I am proud of the person I have become.
This experience has taught me how to become a better me. Ever since this moment I have made a promise to myself that I will live every day to the best of my ability, and never let anyone bring me down. I have lived a positive life ever since that day, and I have chosen to see the brighter side of every situation because life’s too short to dwell on the miserable things in life. This motto has helped me to become a strong, courageous, kind, compassionate person to the people around me.
This trial helped me draw out my inner leader and with this newly found trait, I became volleyball captain for my high school team for three years in a row. This taught me how to be a strong leader of a team but most importantly be a friend to the people around you. This also taught me how to connect with my friends when they were experiencing difficult trials in their lives I could provide them with a shoulder to cry on and pieces of advice. The feelings that came from that day were contention, heartache, mistrust now look back on that day with comfort and joy in my heart. I am forever grateful for this experience and all of the valuable life lessons that were taught to me in that day and months after. As I look back on this day now I realize all of the relationships that grew, my sister and I have never been so close than on that day may have seemed to destroy lives but it brought my family closer and for that reason, I have forgiven Shaylee.
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