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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)

TITLE: Just As I Am
By Lillian Rhoades


Just As I Am

Standing on the shoreline of time, I’m awash in memories of Mom and her “pearls of wisdom.” She presented me with one precious jewel at a very crucial period in my life.

“Don’t try to be like anyone else, just be you.”

Mom was an authentic model of her own advice, but her words sailed through the air and fell on deaf ears. At fourteen years-old, her pearls quickly turned to brass. I’d never make friends by just being me! To be “like everyone else,” or even better, to capture the Most Popular title, was every teen-agers’ goal.

Wow! Just the thought sent my fancy into orbit.

At the pinnacle of my fantasy was a girl named Camille who had everything I dreamed about. Not only did she have all the makings of a beauty queen, but she had all the qualities needed to be head of the Student Council, Class President, most sort after by the boys I most admired, and Teacher’s Pet.

Despite the “pet” part, jealousy was never a member of my mutual admiration club. Trying to be her clone consumed all of my thoughts and time. I studied her smile, and the way she waved at her friends. It was a bit harder to figure out how she always made everyone around her laugh.

One day, in between classes, and quite by accident; or so I thought, I came face to face with my secret idol.

Brandishing a Colgate smile and a friendly wave, she called out to me. I had no idea she even knew my name. For a brief moment, she stopped and grabbed my left hand. Luckily it was my left hand. I would have dropped all the books in my right hand had she reached for that one too.

“Hi, Kate, I hear you got a hundred on Farley’s math test. Someday, you’ll have to tell me how you did it. It’s all I can do to keep from failing.”

“Sure, Camille, anytime,” I managed to say.

“That’ll be great, Kate.”

After a quick shoulder squeeze, a wink, and that bright as the sun smile, she headed to the next class.

Camille! She wants me to help her with math! For the rest of the day and for many days hence, clouds were a carpet beneath my feet.

During the rest of my high school years, Camille and I became great friends, and I developed the confidence I needed to be just plain, quiet, bookish Kate.

Just days before graduation, Camille and I met for lunch in the school cafeteria. Halfway through our lunch time, Camille stopped eating and placed her hand on top of mine.

“You know, Kate, the first time we met, you never asked me how I knew your name.”

To my surprise, her eyes filled with tears.

“I decided I wanted to get to know you long before we met in the hallway. You remind me of my sister who died the day she turned thirteen and I was eleven. I absolutely adored her. It never really mattered to her that I got all the attention. In fact, she jokingly named the two of us Beauty and the Brain. Although she had just a handful of friends, I would never call her a shrinking violet, just a confidant one, like you. I really miss her.”

For a moment, I didn’t know what to say.

Placing my other hand over hers, and while my tears spilled over and ran down my face, I finally broke the somber-filled silence.

“I wish I’d known your sister. Thanks for telling me about her. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

Although many years have passed through the straits of time, every now and then, like today, the past floods my thoughts and I think of Mom once more. Her sage advice gave me something more precious than gold.

“Don’t try to be like anyone else, just be you.”

Sure, I still admire the person who can turn a party on its head, the extrovert otherwise known as a “people” person, or the one who can electrify an audience without even trying. However, I no longer wish to be like anyone else.

I’m quite busy being me.

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This article has been read 516 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Catrina Bradley 05/14/11
This lesson is important not just for kids to learn, but for us un-confident adults, too. It's exactly the focus of my kid's Sunday School lessons this month!! I'd like to hear how Camille helped Kate build her confidence, but otherwise this is a great story well told.
Noel Mitaxa 05/14/11
Sound advice that you have fleshed out so well. If only we could learn earlier that constantly trying to be like someone else makes one of us unnecessary.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/15/11
This has wide appeal -all the way from teens to adults who can recall similar feelings of inadequacy. Well written and easy to follow.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/17/11
This is a beautiful story. So many teens want to fit in and be like everyone else they often forget who they are. This is a great message.
Edmond Ng 05/18/11
I enjoyed the read, the story and the characterization. Excellent piece!
Caitlin Dea05/18/11
Here's another little "yellow bar of sunshine" :)

Great Story! I loved the two different characters and their personalities. You didn't endorse any one personality type as the best, but your entry spoke one message loud and clear--- BE YOURSELF!

Keep on Writing !