I have a very distinct memory back from elementary school. Fifth grade. I’m sitting in the classroom with one of my teachers. She had wanted to talk to me after class, and she had told me to not go to lunch right away.
I was sort of nervous because she looked kind of serious, and I’m not very comfortable around teachers. She told me to come sit behind her desk, which was weird because no one was allowed behind her desk. There are only a few teachers I’m comfortable around, and she was one of them, yet still something didn’t seem right.
She said, “You helped bring a student’s grade up from a C to an A. You must be a genius!” She laughed.
“No,” I answered honestly, “I’m not.” She looked at me and said, “Emmalina, don’t give up, okay?” I laughed half-heartedly, and smiled, “Me? Give up? I’ll give up when cows fly! And you better believe that!” Ha! That’s what this was about? It didn’t take a genius to know that I tried harder than over half the kids in my class. I was ready to go if it was that simple, but she motioned me to stay seated.
She smiled slightly and said, “Emmalina, I’m serious now. You know and understand things half the students in this class haven’t heard of. I know you always strive for perfection on everything. And classes can be so easy for you. Especially math-”
“Only math,” I interrupted. She smiled slightly, but it really wasn’t funny to me. I wasn’t going to have her thinking as well that things came naturally to me.
“Fine. Only math. But Emmalina, I promise you, you would easily earn the Most Improved Grade Award. If you could improve. Because if you could, you would. And obviously, you know that life isn’t about stupid awards, and it isn’t your intelligence that’s astounding to me. It’s your persistence and perseverance to keep on going. I see what you go through, and you are one strong, young lady.”
“And no, don’t interrupt me this time. Students will laugh all they want at you now for being so smart. But you might be the one developing the cure for cancer. And Emmalina, when you grow up, you’re going to fly right past these laughers and bullies. You’re going to fly so fast, no wind and no cow will be able to catch you.”
I cried that night. I cried because I couldn’t understand how one person could have so much faith in me, when I had such little faith in myself. I couldn’t understand how I would amount to anything in the big world. How I would ever make a difference when the world was so set on proving me that I couldn’t?
We’re faced with so many obstacles each day, and we think when is something finally going to go our way? Because it never does. I realized that we often don’t understand what other people are going through, just as they don’t understand what we’re going through. We have to work and persist through these tough times, and in the end, I promise, it will be worth it.
Just because everyone does it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Just because no one does it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But if you truly believe something is right, then stand up for it, and stand up for yourself. There are going to be people who purposefully tell you you’re wrong, but you’re going to make it. I know you will. Because you’re strong, and no matter what you say, you were never on your own. And somebody will always be there for you. So you’ve got to keep trying. And if not for yourself, then for the people you love.