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Contest Winners #212
When did you ignore good advice?
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
A Dangerous Obsession

Anonymous, 14
Chapel Hill, NC

Named have been changed.

When I was only 11, I started to become more self-conscious about my race and later, my weight. I went to a school with a lot of perfectly proportioned, blonde-haired white girls, and being Asian made me stick out like a sore thumb. I knew it was impossible for me to go from being Asian to being white. I think that knowing this is what made me settle on hating my body instead of my race– changing my body wasn’t impossible.

I got my best friend, Anne (one of the few other Asian girls in the school), sucked into it too. When we hung out, Annie and I spent most of our time standing in front of a mirror pointing out the parts of ourselves that we thought were fat or ugly, flipping through fashion magazines, or watching America’s Next Top Model and wishing we had those girls’ bodies.

One day, I was over at Anne’s house when Anne’s mother, Mrs. Wu, came home from work. Once again, Anne and I were standing in front of the mirror, making note of all our physical faults. Mrs. Wu came up to check on us and sighed. She often told us, “Girls, just go outside and play. You are both gorgeous, so stop looking in that mirror! Have fun and cherish your childhood, for God’s sake!”

Anne and I had heard those words so many times we could recite them from memory. We would simply roll our eyes the moment Mrs. Wu turned her back and continue to look in the mirror.

We made a pact to do anything to attain the perfect body. We started working out at the YMCA, exercising until sweat coursed down our bodies and we felt like we were going to pass out. Then we realized that doing the exercise wasn’t actually making us slimmer; instead, we were bulking up with muscle. We abandoned the gym and chose to go on strict diets instead.

After a month, one of our teachers noticed that Anne and I regularly skipped lunch, and told our parents. My parents were so angry. My mother yelled at me that it wasn’t healthy for someone my age to diet and that my body needed nutrients. She grounded me for two months. Then, she hugged me and told me that I was perfect already and didn’t need diets to be pretty.

My parents and Anne’s parents decided that Anne and I were not to be in contact with each other until our parents were 100% sure that we weren’t pressuring each other to lose weight. Near the end of 7th grade they relented, but it was a mistake. Immediately after we began to hang out again, Anne told me she’d seen her sister forcing herself to puke into the toilet after eating dinner one night. We decided to try it.

Soon I was throwing up after almost every meal. My eyes turned red from popped blood vessels because you have to really strain when you puke. Anne became worried when she saw how far I was taking my bulimia. I had gone down to 85 pounds. My chest area started to hurt, my period stopped, and my arms and legs felt heavy all the time. I began to think of stories I’d heard about bulimics who eventually had strokes or heart attacks. However, I was convinced that I’d never let my problem get that far.

In the end my dentist, Dr. Smith, told my parents that I was bulimic. The enamel of my teeth had been corroded by stomach acid when I threw up. My mother was destroyed. She quickly enrolled me in rehab and therapy. I was enraged at first, but now I know she did it because she loves me. I’ve been out of rehab for a month now and I still have some problems with food and the desire to purge, but I’ve gotten much better.

I’m exceedingly glad Dr. Smith caught my problem before I died from a heart attack or stroke. I wish I had listened to Mrs. Wu’s advice. Maybe I can grow to love myself for the person I am instead of hating myself for the person I am not.

2nd Prize
Trusting Ancient Brains

Nargiza Rakhmatova, 16
Rachel Carson HS

My mom always told me that boyfriends can come and go anytime, but your education and your beliefs will never leave you. She advised me to take my education seriously.

At the time, her words didn’t make any sense to me. Like other teens I thought that my parents’ words were senseless and that they had ancient brains. I thought that I was grown up enough to live my life without them.

I used to hang out with girls who were older than me. I started dating guys very early and I smoked. I thought that these things made me cool and that education was not cool. I even dropped out of the music school in which I’d studied for five years.

When we moved to the U.S. I met new friends in my high school. They often talked about education and I felt very stupid beside them. At the same time, my brother couldn’t find a good job because he’d dropped out of college. He worked very hard and I did not want to work like him in the future.

I saw that everyone around me here thought seriously about education, and I saw that to become someone in life you have to get an education. That’s when I remembered my mom’s words and they started to make sense to me. I wanted to finish my music education here, but my parents couldn’t afford it.

Now, I’m all into education and all I want is for my parents to be proud of me. Every day, I remember advice my mom has given me and try to follow it. I understand now that no one loves me as much as my parents do, and no one wishes me happiness as my mom does.

Parents give advice because they don’t want their children to make the same mistakes they did, and regret them in future as maybe they do now. If I’d listened to my mom’s advice, I would have finished at music school and now I’d be living without the pain of regret in my heart. So before I do anything now, I ask myself: Would I advise my child to do that?

3rd Prize
Family First

West Side HS

Looking back at my life, I remember life-changing advice I received from my grandfather. The advice was that family comes first, and I should always support them, because they will support me back.

I went through some tough times and that’s how I learned his advice was right. When I was 10, I lived with my mother and my sister in Boston, Massachusetts. My mom was a single parent who worked extra hours to support my sister and me and even though we were not rich, we lived a very happy life.

Then, when I was 11, my mom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and a year later, she passed away. I became a man by the age of 12 and my sister and I ended up living with my grandparents in the Dominican Republic.

At first after this terrible event occurred, I felt that all my extended family was visiting me to learn the story a little better, so they could gossip about it later on. As time went by, though, I saw that I was wrong and I began to understand more and more the advice that my grandfather had given me. These were not random people, they were my family and they were there to help. My sister and I received an immense amount of support from them and I was very grateful for it. It made our whole nightmare ride a little bit smoother.

Even though I felt sorry I hadn’t done anything to support them back, I like to think that when my family saw that my sister and I had made it in one piece, it was a good enough feeling that they didn’t need anything else. After all, your family is there to support you and not to charge you for help.

Though their help may be free, it’s priceless, and I’ll be there for my family if they need me. Like my grandfather says, “Family always comes first.”

A Few Shots Aren’t Worth It

Anonymous, 16
Ankeny, IA

Parents are always preaching the “dont’s”—don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex, don’t be out past curfew. It got old fast. But recently I had an experience that made me realize why my parents had spent 16 years trying to brainwash me. The first time I proved to my parents I wasn’t an angel was the first time I picked up a bottle of vodka. At first, it all seemed harmless. I would take a few shots with some close friends, then come home to my empty, parentless house to crash for the night and wake up scratch-free, still the little angel.

My two closest girlfriends came over and we had a few shots. Now intoxicated, we went to do what every teenage girl loves most: hanging out with the guys. Little did we know it would turn out to be almost 10 high school guys equipped with pictures, Tweets, and status updates of the three of us making complete drunken fools of ourselves.

In the moment, we loved the attention. Then I reached my house just as my parents were pulling in (although I wouldn’t have even comprehended it if the sober driver had not pointed it out). At this point, despite the fact that I was drunk, I knew why my parents had told me how awful teen drinking was. The rest of my night consisted of puke and tears and angry parents spitting words of disappointment in my face. The next morning, I awoke to the social networking world commenting and retweeting pictures of me all over the internet.

If I had just listened, I’d still be my parents little angel, and a summer full of friends and fun ahead of me. Instead, I’ll spend my summer doing chores and watching my friends have fun while I stay cooped up with the people who warned me about the danger of teen drinking. Maybe next time I’ll actually listen to my parents’ lectures.

Save Your Money

Matthew Mendez, 18
HS of Graphic Communication Arts

When I was 13, my mom started giving me an allowance. Every time she would give me my allowance she said, “Don’t waste your money on stupid things that you don’t need. One day you will need that money for something more important.”

My family sometimes struggles financially. But I thought it was OK to spend all my money on toys, video games and candy. I didn’t think about the future. At 13, I didn’t have any bills to pay, and didn’t know how to save. I wanted to use my money for fun.

One day my mom needed to borrow money from me to do our laundry. When I confessed to her that I had spent it all on foolish things, she started to cry. She told me that the reason she gave that advice is that she wanted me to have a better life than she’d had. My mom knew about hard times and didn’t want that for me. Saving is something you need to learn from a young age, she said.

I learned a good lesson about not spending money recklessly. Now, as an 18 year old, I’ve learned how to follow my mother’s advice and I’m on my way to becoming an independent adult.

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