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Paige Herel

Paige Herel

Editor's note: This is the first installment in this school year's series to give local teens a voice in media.

Being a teenager is the prime time of struggle, especially for the struggle of figuring out who we are. This struggle is not limited to just teens; in fact, everyone struggles to find themselves, to find what makes them happy.

Throughout history we have associated success with happiness – and the belief that only those with success are happiest. Sometimes, it seems that those who have answered the prompt of life correctly are waving their “A” in our confused faces, and we are left just wondering what we did wrong to not be as successful as them.

In my own life, I’ve noticed a crowd of people who bury their emotions in a self-censored essay, living a life unfulfilled. I have found my own happiness came about when I threw the more accepted concerns of success out the window. I took a step back, looked at my life through a wide motion picture screen and witnessed what truly made me happy.

I love body painting and makeup. I was hiding what I loved because people found it too creepy. I lost a friend because I didn’t stop posting my art work online after she asked me to stop.

I admit my happiness may seem strange to others, as they may not understand I don’t only care about the A grade. I care about my message.

While others see life as a rubric, a set of bullet-point achievements we must achieve to be happy, I believe every move we make is a new paragraph in our essay of life. We have the opportunity to make the story interesting or bland. My wish is for everyone to see that we choose what we do in life, and that no “outline” should limit what we do. The prompt for our life is to be happy.

I see these lessons played out in high school, because life is high school. We can’t graduate and escape one of the most stressful times in our lives, until we learn how to stop competing with everyone for the best grade -- that of success -- in our class.

We are constantly writing a story with our actions, and the people around us are grading every mark we make. Some essay outlines will work well and earn the A of acceptance. But what’s the point of an A if we are not happy? I suggest that instead of focusing on the tiring chase to fit into the perfect image -- to get the perfect grade -- we choose our happiness first.

Recently, I was assigned an essay to define something, anything in the world. I was given total creative freedom, and I took this liberty and ran with it. While many classmates were describing their lives or political statements, I wanted to tell a story and paint a mural with my tale. I have never liked essay-style formats because I feel too limited, but I found a way to dance around the expectation while also answering the prompt.

Certain things in life are unchangeable. There are times we must abide by the rules. But we can still bring out the creativity and colors of the world in how we approach a problem.

Life is a coloring book without the solid outline. Life is a wall asking us to find the ladder and climb over to the other side. Life pushes us to make our existence better than it could ever be, to not worry about what others may think and to color outside of the lines because we think the picture we paint looks better that way.

We aren’t given a cheat sheet before we take the test of life. We get to make up the answers as we go -- and that’s what makes existence so exciting.

I believe in taking the path that seems the most inviting to us. I believe in taking risks, tearing up that boring essay to success and writing our own. I believe in enjoying full freedom from concern.

And when life’s elusive deadline comes, as long as we made every decision of exploration and learning, an opportunity to make ourselves happy and fulfilled, we will turn in our essay with a smile.

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Paige Herel is a junior at Lincoln East High School.



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