Teen Essay: Cultivating My Own Happiness
Every day at Peace in Schools, we are privileged to hear inspiring and heartwarming stories from our teens. As part of their final project, we asked the students to reflect on their experience in Mindful Studies class. One teen shared this.
Growing up I came to understand one thing to be true: I was a weirdo. I didn’t talk as much as other kids, and when I did, it was usually to tell a joke that nobody understood or to say something about fairies or dragons which made for good times as a youngling, but other kids grew out of it before I did. I didn’t like to play with kids growing up. I preferred to tag along with my mom, galavanting about the city, discussing local fairy habitats and aliens. I got along better with adults anyways. I grew up thinking I was weird and I suppose that belief stuck with me. I grew up thinking I was weird, so for years and years, as interacting with people my own age grew more important to me, I tried not to be. I became the most convincing chameleon. This uncanny knack for shapeshifting has been handy these past 16 years. However, one of the many things I’ve learned because of this class and the space you provide is that I don’t need to be like everyone else in order to be loved.
Our class has meant more to me than words can describe but I will try. Sometimes in class we talk about how rare it is to walk into a classroom and feel connected with everyone in it; not often do we walk into a classroom authentic and eager. For me, as the year has gone on and my love for the class has deepened, I find myself taking that attitude with me to every class.
Of course I’m not always so optimistic, I still complain out of habit. But our class has also taught me that acceptance and growth are what I should strive for, not perfection. The fact that I’m saying this and believing it is kind of a miracle. I have long since been labeled as a perfectionist and my own worst critic. When I started high school, it didn’t take long to pick up on what others expected of me and what I expected of myself.
Another truth I have come to know: in high school, the frame of thought is that if you get through this miserable time and do your best, you’ll get into college. If you get into college and get your degree, then you’ll get a good job. Somewhere along the road after you get a job and make lots of money you’ll finally be happy. We are taught that if we do all these things we can earn our happiness. But our right to happiness is granted to us the second we come into this world. Before our class, I didn’t know that I was allowed to cultivate my own happiness whenever I wanted to. My peace does not have to depend on any factor outside of myself.
I have learned so much from you; I have learned so much from this class. I genuinely love every single person in it. I’m still working on knowing these lessons to be true in my heart and in my head on a daily basis, but this class has given me a place to start the work. Here in this class, because of you, I have truly commenced a lifelong practice that will help me cultivate a life I enjoy living. And for that, I will forever be thankful. Thank you so much for the year and the life ahead that you two have given me.