To most people, being a twin means everything is the same whether its being dressed the same, playing with the same toys or being interested in the same things.
At first that’s how it was with Jay. I remember the first time I noticed it.
My twin brother, Jay, didn’t talk like me, didn’t draw like me and I was beginning to think he didn’t think like me. At the age of three, I started to realize that Jay was Autistic.
Although we’re twins, always dressed the same way and given the same gifts, our lives started to go in very different directions early on.
When I went to kindergarten, Jay went to a different kindergarten.
When I learned to ride a bike without training wheels, Jay just started using training wheels.
Our father died when we were both eight years old. I was devastated, and it seemed like Jay didn’t know what to think.
After our father died from an aneurism one night, my Mother and I were never sure if Jay fully understood what happened, but we moved on.
Growing up with an autistic twin brother was difficult.
While other people become best friends with their twins, a communication gap prevented us from becoming close.
From kindergarten through eighth grade, Jay and I went to different schools, had different teachers and got to know different people. But, when we got to high school that changed.
Most people met Jay for the first time in high school when we were 14. I chose not to share much of my home life before then because I didn’t understand all of it. I didn’t understand Jay.
To some of my friends Jay wasn’t “normal.” To them he was disabled, special needs or even “retarded,” as some people called him when I wasn’t around.
Even though I didn’t completely understand Jay, there was nothing abnormal about him to me. Jay was the “norm” to me, because he was the only brother I’d ever had.
Instead of going to study hall, I felt more comfortable helping out in my brother’s class. It was then, when I started understanding.
Even though we could only talk a little bit, we bonded and at the end of high school my brother became my best friend. This time, when life started splitting us apart, we still stayed close.
When I graduated from high school, Jay stayed there for two more years.
When I started working at my college paper, Jay started working back home.
This summer I’ll be working in Chicago, while Jay will be back home relaxing.
Things are still changing, but now Jay and I aren’t just brothers, we’re friends.
Thirteen years later, I still take Jay to visit our dad’s grave, but he never wants to get out of the car. Instead he plays with his iPad in the car.
What’s different now is that I understand Jay and I now know that he’s understood everything the whole time.
Our mom thinks Jay still doesn’t fully understand what happened to our dad, but I disagree.
Jay still doesn’t like to think about how our dad is dead . It upsets him.
Jay chooses to act like it didn’t happen. So, he waits in the car.
Jay feels and understands everything. His company and personality allows him to be a good brother and friend, just like anyone else.
To me he’s not just one in 110 because his personality truly makes him one in a million.
I’ll be there to help Jay as much as he’s been there to help me understand everything in his world, because now I understand that he understands too.
I believe that over time, brotherhood can breech any barriers.
I believe in Jay.
As I lie on the bench face down, I hear a switch clicked on followed by a consistent buzzing sound. A buzzing sound that makes my body tighten and my hands clammy. The buzzing is subtle. However, it has the same effect on me as nails on chalk board – It makes me cringe. My hands latch on to my sorority sister’s hands, who is sitting in front of me on a stool. A man named “Digger” holds the noisy object in one hand, while wiping a wet cloth along my back.
Are you ready? He asked.
I told him yes, ready as I’ll ever be. I’m only ready because I truly stand by the motto that is about to permanently etch into my skin – “Change is growth”. Given the fact that this is my first tattoo and my emotional state in life at this time, I think it is fitting.
The needle touches my back. My hand grip tightens. I close my eyes.
It’s ironic. I feel that since I received that tattoo, I have been faced repeatedly with the concept of “change.” People fear change because it is different. They fear the discomfort of the process. They fear the receptiveness of those who will have the accept it.
Change is scary. I can’t pretend that I don’t believe that. But in life, things are constantly changing – the world, cultures, the environments, policies. To stand still in a world that is changing so fast is just as dangerous as lying in the middle of a busy street in the dark of the night. Cars are not going to stop for you. You’re going get run over. You’re going to get passed by.
My philosophy is that is something remains the same for so long, it is consistent. Consistency only attracts the usual crowd. Change draws attention. Consistency allows people to go through the same motions over and over. Change causes people to ask questions and challenge the process. Consistency tolerates sitting comfortably in the same position until someone comes to move you. Change forces people to move forward, become stronger, and grow.
Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
I believe change is growth.
By Tia Woodel
There is something about a simple smile that instantly makes a rough day better.
I can’t remember one instance in which a stranger smiled at me and I didn’t return the gesture. A smile from someone I know is always helpful, but a smile from a stranger, someone I don’t always expect it from – that is powerful.
Everybody deals with their own struggles. Whether it’s a death in the family, a divorce, money issues, or anything else, it’s easy to get caught up in the negatives of life.
A smile has always helped me break through some of my own struggles.
My great-grandmother died last year. On top of the stress of being a college student, now I had to deal with the fact that I no longer had any living great-grandparents. After her funeral, I cried the entire one hour drive back to my apartment.
I pulled into the parking lot and dried the tears from my face. A girl my age was walking by. She looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. The gesture was so simple, yet so meaningful.
According to research on what’s behind the smile, “many smiles are simply readouts of positive internal states such as happiness.” Seeing the girl display such a positive expression was enough to make me take a step back and realize I would make it through this, just as I have in every other tough situation.
She didn’t have to say anything to me. She didn’t need to walk over and hug me, or assure me that everything was going to be okay. She simply turned the corners of the mouth up, exposing her front teeth. She simply smiled.
This has happened many times in my life. It always starts with me being distressed, but after a smile from a stranger, my worries seem to be so much less significant.
I believe in a simple smile from a stranger. A smile can make a difference. A smile can change a life.
By Tyler Buchanan
For us, love has been neither patient nor kind.
It was raining the evening Lauren’s car slid off the road into a brick wall. Her car totaled, we walked away unscathed.
It was raining again three weeks later as we approached our highway exit a quarter mile away. The slick roads and heavy traffic meant we couldn’t avoid the stalled car in our lane.
Fifty miles an hour. Slam.
Months later, I’m still reminded of our feelings of desperation and helplessness each time I take that exit in driving four hours across the state to visit her.
The crash left our doors jammed inward. Fighting to escape, we watched behind us as dozens of semi-trucks and cars came directly towards us at high speeds, some nearly spinning out of control on the wet highway. Many came within a few feet of hitting us as we did the first car.
We freed ourselves from the wreckage and were met by the other car’s driver who’d watched from the highway’s shoulder.
She told us her car had ran out of gas and that she was going to get help. She fled the scene, walking off the exit we didn’t make it to, never to return.
It was just us two in the rain, scared and shaken, but safe.
We are stronger together through these experiences. Improbable chance has kept us safe, along with further evidence of circumstance which brought us together to begin with.
At first, she was merely words on a computer screen.
“21 years old, female, Ohio, dream job: travel writer,” read her post.
Neither of us were single at the time or on any kind of dating site. At the break of dawn, I must have refreshed the page at just the right time to even see it.
“Oh, you’re a writer too?”
“No,” she replied, “I just put something down.”
Going to college in southern Ohio and being from North Carolina, she’d never even heard of Bowling Green.
I believed in following my heart, even if it meant taking a 168 mile chance a few weeks later to meet her in person.
David Coleman, the “Date Doctor” and inspiration for the movie Hitch, spoke at BGSU last year on the perils of long distance relationships. Over 90 percent eventually fail, he warned, and communication becomes increasingly difficult.
But who says we’re normal?
Over the past year, maintaining a strong relationship has been aided by the wonders of modern technology. I’ve learned to appreciate, however, the significance of the occasional phone call or even a simple letter in the mail.
Through the tribulations, the countless thousands of miles back and forth and the growing number of wrecked vehicles, our hearts have only grown stronger. If we’ve survived through such impossibilities and troubles apart, I’m sure we’ll do just fine when we’re finally together for good.
I hope and believe that our engagement will come sooner rather than later, provided our finances cease going to more car down payments.
Within a few months, she’ll move in with me and we’ll begin a life together. The intangibles we’ve gained through experiences, good and bad, will sustain us both forever.
By Ryan Satkowiak
I believe that growing up on my own has prepared me for real life.
Going to college exactly 2,392 miles away from home has given me a new perspective on things. As cool as it is to have mom and dad around to lean on, they won’t always be there to hold my hand; they won’t always be able to guide me through life.
I hear a lot of kids complain about living at home. They claim they want to be independent. But when they finally get away, they seem to always find their way back home.
And what is that going to teach you? That when times are rough, and you don’t want to face adversity on your own, that mommy and daddy are just a two hour car ride away?
Newsflash. That isn’t how the real world works.
My dad instilled that message in me for as long as I could remember. He would tell me, “Ryan, life isn’t fair. Someday, you’re going to have to figure things out on your own.”
Never did I think I would have to do that as an 18-year old college freshman. In a foreign town. With no friends, no parental security blanket.
It was then that I learned how to be responsible. As much as my parents wanted to be there to guide me, both them and I knew this was a lesson better off learned on my own.
They were always protective of me as a child, sometimes over-protective. I hated it, I wanted to be able to do my own thing without their input.
Little did I know how difficult that would be.
Having to wake myself up in the morning, having to budget every single one of my expenses, it was all new to me.
It should never have been that way. A paperwork screw up prevented me from going to San Jose State, a two-hour drive from my hometown.
I could have been one of those kids, but I’m not. I’ve had to play the cards that were dealt to me.
And I believe having to go through this in college has better prepared me for the real world, for life after college.
Unlike many of my peers, I now understand why parents get pissed when you leave lights on: electricity is not cheap. I understand how to balance my expenses, to make sure I can afford that new CD, but still have enough money to feed myself for the week.
For some kids, they won’t know what that’s like until after college, maybe even later. A recent survey of college students showed that 60 percent of them plan to move back home after graduation.
I don’t want that. I love my parents more than anything, but after experiencing living on my own, I could never go back to that.
I know how to live on my own. I know how survive without my parents being just a short drive away.
But I believe that their trust, their faith in me has allowed me to feel this way.
I believe in being independent, and that once you experience it, you will never want to go back.
By Sarah Bailey
My parents have always been there for me. Dance recitals, auditions, award ceremonies. Every little moment, whether happy, sad, funny or dull, I spent with the best parents someone could have ever given me. And that’s just what my birth mother did.
My mom says God chose me for her and my dad to take care of. It was the way our family was meant to form.
“We just wanted a child, prayed, and left it in God’s hands,” she says.
When I ask, my mom tells me it was hard for my birth mom to give me up for adoption. She explains that my birth mom wanted me to have a happy life she didn’t feel she could provide then. When my mom and I talk about it, she says that it was the most unselfish gift anyone could have ever given; the gift of a daughter.
I was adopted through Catholic social services when I was around six months old. I believe it was the nurturing of my mother Chriss and my father Gary, that I have been given countless opportunities in life.
I believe that a relationship between children and their parents has nothing to do with if they are blood-related, and everything to do with their bond.
I don’t recall a specific moment when they told me I was adopted. It’s something I’ve always known, something that was openly discussed within our family. My older sister is adopted from a different birth mom. Sit down with us for one moment and you would instantly see our connection as sisters. Our voices even sound the same on the phone.
When people find out I’m adopted, they look at me differently. They act as if it’s a sensitive topic that I would be offended they brought up. I quickly stop them.
I explain that being adopted is part of who I am, and that it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. It’s not politics and it’s not the abortion debate, and I am perfectly OK with them asking me questions.
I’ve come to learn that it is a rare relationship where someone feels like they can open up their hearts to their parents without holding back, which is exactly what I have found. I realize that it takes both the love of the parents and the acceptance and response of that love back from the child. I think that now I am capable of giving that love back as a young adult. And that is what I hope to do.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize it is inevitable for people to not wonder about whether I want or have met my birth mom. I tell them that at this point in my life, I have everything that I need.
By Kelsey Klein
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
That’s from Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll.
I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories. They’re about hope, dreaming, discovery, and impossibility—themes that appealed to me even when I was too young to understand what a theme is. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I had internalized lessons from Alice—especially belief in impossible things.
As a young musician, I believed I would make a mark in my world. Other musicians underestimated me until I made waves in high school, playing what older flutists at my school couldn’t. I was soon playing with an invitation-only flute ensemble and with a university band as a high school junior. Now, I teach young flutists during the summer.
As a granddaughter, I believed my Pappy would live. Nothing could defeat my hero, not even cancer. He never
really woke up after the surgery. Now, when I look in the mirror and see his curly hair and spirited personality, I know he’s still alive.
As a college freshman, I believed I would find love. The tall, tattooed guy with the Rage Against the Machine bag caught my attention, but he never really saw me. Then he showed up in my history class. Now, he kisses me on the forehead every day and tells me how I changed his life.
As a writer, I believed I would someday be published. I knew I was good, if only someone would notice my work. My first poem was published in a newsletter when I was 11 years old. I soon started writing more often and was published several more times. I took up journalism and worked for my high school paper. Now, a piece I wrote on a jewelry artist will be published in a magazine.
As a human being, I believed I could find my passion. So many people go through life doing things they don’t enjoy and living without a real purpose. I didn’t want to be like those people. I ended up in a women’s studies class my sophomore year because I needed a few extra credits. After the first class period, I knew I found where I belonged. I changed my major from journalism to women’s studies a week later. I have found purpose and passion.
As a feminist, I believe violence against women can end. Almost 22 million—that’s about one in five –women in the United States are raped in their lifetimes. About 39 million women experience physical violence from a partner. I believe we can work to end this. It hasn’t happened yet, but with my track record of impossible beliefs working out, I think it can.
Sometimes we want something so badly we have no choice but to believe.
I believe in impossible things. It’s a habit.
By Stephan Reed
I believe that you don’t have to be the perfect parent to make an everlasting, positive impact on your child’s life.
My mother, Tracy Anne Reed, battled alcoholism and drug addiction from her teenage years until the day she died at the age of 47. My earliest memories of her involve her slurring words, driving recklessly and putting the lives of my sister and me in danger.
But I loved her. I still love her. I will always love her.
Even though she seemed to have nothing organized in her life, she tried her best to make a decent life for me. She knew she didn’t have the resources to care for my sister and me, so she put the responsibility of raising us into the hands of our grandmother and later, my godmother.
But this made me care for her no less.
As years went on, her drug addiction worsened and our relationship was strained. We would go months without talking and much longer without seeing each other.
But the urge to be responsible for her never faded.
One time, I arrived at her dilapidated trailer home and found her intoxicated on her cigarette-burned couch. The look of despair on her face as I walked through her torn screen door is unforgettable. She instantly burst into tears. She never wanted me to see her so broken.
After her drunken, yet heartfelt apology, I left her home, leaving $50 on her kitchen counter because, at a glance, she didn’t have an adequate amount of food. I could never let my mother go without.
The relationship with my mother deteriorated as the one with my now ex-girlfriend grew. At the height of my romantic relationship, I hadn’t talked to my mother in six months.
On July 16, 2009, my mother died. I was in Chicago on a church trip with my girlfriend. I was 17 years old. According to a 2010 survey from Comfort Zone Camp, one out of nine people under the age of 20 have lost a parent.
When I received the message, my body went numb. Nothing seemed real.
I told my girlfriend first. She threw her arms around me and cried with me. The first time she met my mother was at the funeral three days later.
The ceremony was grim, yet routine. The same speeches are given at all funerals, yet no words, no speech could give my mother’s life justice.
Her death lingered in my mind. Whenever I saw my girlfriend, I thought of my mother. Eventually, my girlfriend began to fill the emotional void left by my mother. I treated this girl with the same love that I would have treated my mom if she were still here.
Selfless. Eternal. I care this much for the friends I now consider family.
Even though she wasn’t the greatest mother, she was still my mother and I loved her exponentially. She didn’t have the estate to leave me with something tangible, but she left this world with a lesson in empathy, responsibility and forgiveness in her metaphysical will.
I was her sole heir.
By Erin Cox
I believe in being rude to the 3.8 million minimum wage workers who provide me a service. Those people working the check out lines and making my food signed up for a position where their only job description is to make me, the customer, the one and only, happy. That’s easy enough. That’s why they only get minimum wage.
It’s so annoying when the cashier is not waiting for me at the register. I usually just shout across the store. She’s always following me around asking if I need any help, and then, as soon as I need her, she’s nowhere to be found. I have places I need to be, an actual job to go to and I just don’t have the time to wait as she finishes whatever it is she’s doing.
After making me wait so long, I can’t believe she still tries to talk to me as she rings up my purchase. She always asks me about my day when I’m checking out; I just turn the other way. She doesn’t actually expect a response. She’s just asking me because she has nothing better to do with her time at work.
I believe when I want to use my 10 million coupons for one item, it should work. I don’t care what she claims the store policy is; she obviously doesn’t know what she’s doing. I don’t understand how these employees can be so incompetent. They should know exactly how to make my coupons go into the cash register.
While I’m on that point, I also think they should know what the price is for each of the items as well. This is all these people do with their lives. They obviously can’t get a better job because who would in their right mind would choose to work at a retail store or fast food restaurant. I honestly don’t see how some people make this their career. They should go school and get a degree.
I believe the clerk sets the prices. Every time a price goes up, I’m going to complain to the girl working the cash register. When she tells me the total of my cart full of items, I will shake my head in disgust and start adding it up for her to show her she’s wrong. She must have made a mistake in her adding because she controls that cash register and the prices it rings up.
I believe I will tell the person who does not make me happy that she must be uneducated since she doesn’t have a real job. Standing on your feet for eight hours a day, handling money and providing customer service to people like me does not count.
I believe the cashier is not my equal.
I believe she does not deserve my respect.
I believe I am better than her.
A Bond Stronger Than Blood ROUGH By Sarah Bailey