I once knew this girl. She was the most upbeat and cheerful person you would ever meet. Her smile was infectious, and I never once saw her cry, until one day in eighth grade, when she received news that her grandmother had suffered from a major stroke. Her grandmother lived, but lost most of her memory and struggled to survive daily life, still I watched her smile, with teary eyes, and move forward with hope.
That summer I texted her and learned that her nephew had passed away. It was apparently the first dead body she had ever seen, she described the experience as shocking and numbing, but the worse part was seeing her brother in shambles, screaming and weeping at the loss of his firstborn. She knew that she had to be there for her family though, so once again she wiped away her tears and finished out the summer, visiting her brother and taking his mind off the tragedy.
I finally saw her again during the freshman year of high school. She was beaming, as if nothing could get her down. She got a 4.0 GPA, and was told that next year she would make the varsity team for tennis, her favorite sport. However, the following summer, during practice, she tore her rotator cuff doing a serve, and was told that her tennis career was over. I saw her refuse to give up though, and she learned how to play left-handed, surprising her coaches. She would still only be on the junior varsity team, but she could play, and that was all that mattered to her. However, the following season during sophomore year, she received two concussions back-to-back, and her tennis career ended for good. Her grades dropped as she missed weeks of school at a time, due to the pain. Many of her “friends” stopped talking to her, and members of her family began calling her a screw up and accused her of faking the injury.
I myself, even stopped talking to her…
Still she reached her junior year. At this time, in order to escape family issues, she moved away from home and began living with her best friend. She didn’t converse with her family often, but one day before school she received a call from her mother. In a dark tone her mother apologized as she expressed that the girl’s sister had passed away that morning from cancer. The girl’s phone dropped as she fell to her knees, she knew the cancer was deadly, but after going into remission the girl had hoped that her sister would make it. Not only that, but because of issues with her family she had stopped visiting her sister at the hospital, and later she learned that her sister died crying, wondering why she hadn’t been there for her.
To this day, I believe that it is her biggest regret.
At last high school ended, and I learned that the girl moved to Vegas where she and her best friend attended college. All started off well until a handsome boy came into the picture.
This part is especially hard for me to write so I apologize if it is poorly written.
After attending her first party, the boy that she had met continued to drink more and more liquor, along with her best friend. By the middle of the night her friend was passed out and unable to hear the screams of the girl as she was raped, by the boy with a nice smile. Weeks passed and the girl found herself alone, her friend had moved out after finding a boyfriend of her own and no longer conversed with the girl.
Eventually enough time passed that the girl tried to move forward. She had started to date someone who was helping her overcome the rape and inevitable miscarriage, and she was playing tennis for fun. Classes were going well and she was becoming more assimilated into his family. On their eight month anniversary, during thanksgiving, she however found out that the man had been cheating on her, and the next day she packed up and went back home to California. Of course she didn’t just drop out of college because of a boy, but there had been a mistake in her paperwork and she was asked to pay in full her out-of-state tuition in order to continue schooling, which she simply couldn’t afford, thus ending her college career as well.
Of course most people didn’t see it that way and treated her like a good-for-nothing dropout, even I snickered, due to feeling superior, rather than taking the time to understand and help someone who I used to call a friend.
She spent months crying to herself, she disappeared from social media, and stayed locked up in her house. Then one day, she remembered her childhood dream to join the military. That day she went to a recruiting office and signed up. After learning that the Navy was now allowing women to sign up for the Navy Seals, she made it her goal to become the first female Seal. She trained for seven months, and during this time she began reforming her broken relationship with her family. She posted pictures of herself fishing with her father, training at the gym, and even being honored for her service at the retiring of the colors at Disneyland. It was the first time in years that I had seen her smile so brightly.
Today she serves in the United States Navy. She failed to pass the swimming qualifications to become a Seal, but didn’t let that stop her as she blew through boot camp and her first year in the service. She is now married to a man that is loyal and treats her well. They have plans to build their own home, and behind her stand a group of true friends, shipmates that are there for her through thick and thin. Everyday now she smiles and laughs, and is optimistic about life.
Every bit of this story is just a small portion of the tragedies that people all around the world experience on a daily basis. Add up everything though, and people could easily use this as an excuse to do nothing with their lives, and fall onto the relief of drugs and alcohol. This girl however, used her tragedies to shape herself as a person. Even when I asked her how she felt about her life, she simply responded, “I wouldn’t change anything. The bad things I’ve experienced, led me here. Now I have the power to help those in need, and I’ve never been happier.”