Overcoming Hardships in Life


Author: Serah Oommen – Second Place Junior Division 2023

Sometimes it is hard to remember that everyone experiences difficulties. When I was thirteen years old, my parents divorced. It impacted my emotional, social, and even academic life. I withdrew from my friends and family. I felt lost and forgotten. When my friends tried to step in, I would shut them out, and I felt that they could never understand my emotions. My guitar teacher finally talked to my parents about my loss of interest. My mom reached out to a child therapist, and that’s where Cindy Lou came in.

Cindy Lou who? Cindy Lou Green became my support. She discussed managing my anxiety and stress with extracurricular activities, particularly exercise. My friends all played basketball, so I decided to give it a try. As practice began to start, I learned to manage my stress while on the court. A year later, it was time to try out for high school basketball.

“Girl are you ready for basketball?” asked Olivia Smith.

“Yes, I’m excited,” I replied.

We hustled down the hallway to get a good spot at lunch. By the time we sat down at our spot, Maria and Eleanor were already there. As I scrolled through my notifications, I saw my daily quote: Ali Ibn Abi Talib AS — “Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety, after all it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.” I smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” Eleanor asked.

“Nothing,” I said, still smiling.

Then I looked at my grades as Maria looked over my shoulder.

“D+ in English! How are you supposed to play at the big game this Saturday,” she asked.

“Oh, ha-ha, I just saw that,” I responded.

Truthfully, I had seen it way before. I had been struggling to get that grade up; my mom was over-worked, and my dad was not involved. I didn’t know how to bring it up with Cindy Lou, so it had been stressing me for a while. This big game would be a huge opportunity, and if I had to sit on the bench, it would not be good. I didn’t really know what to do about it anymore. At practice, Coach Collins called me over. The last thing I needed was this dreaded talk.

“Hey Laney, how are you doing?” she asked sympathetically.

“I’m good.” What else was I supposed to say?

“Are you aware you’re failing English?”

“Yes.” My voice quivered.

“I don’t want to have to say this, but if you can’t get it up by Friday, you can’t play on Saturday.”

“I’m aware; may I get back to practice please?”

The coach nodded.

I tried to be respectful, but my emotions were all over the place. I started shooting and swishing some threes to try to help me feel better. I asked Coach if I could leave practice so I could catch Mrs. Schmidt to talk to her about my grade. She agreed, so I left. I caught Mrs. Schmidt right before she was about to leave.

“Mrs. Schmidt, can I talk to you?” I asked desperately.

“Hey Laney, what’s going on?” she asked.

“You probably know my grade is low; is there any way I could get it back to a C by Friday, our big game is Saturday, and I can’t play with a D+.”

“Yes, I see what you are saying. I know that you have been working hard, so how about you present your book report to the class for extra credit? I can’t promise an A, but you might at least be able to get a passing grade,” she suggested.

I mentally tensed at the word present. “Thanks Mrs. Schmidt,” I took a deep breath. “I-I’ll do that.”

“Ok, you got this Laney.”

As I walked home, I thought about the presentation. I had to finish some work for the presentation. It made me nervous though. I always tried to avoid presentations, but now I was forced to choose between my fears and basketball. When I opened the door to my house, my dad was sitting on the couch asleep with a beer in his hand. James, my brother, was playing on the ground with Hot Wheels. I changed and showered and checked the fridge for food. I made some mac and cheese for James and me. After cleaning the kitchen and folding some laundry, I sat at my desk to finish the presentation. It was already Wednesday. I would have to present tomorrow, and I was not ready. I sent Cindy Lou a message about what I should do. She walked me through a breathing exercise by breathing through my nose and out through my mouth. I practiced while finishing up the presentation. It was late, so I put James to bed and finalized my presentation. I was exhausted so I went to bed.

The next day I didn’t feel like getting up, but I helped James get ready. My dad was already gone who knows where. We headed to school as I dropped James off at the elementary school. I practiced breathing again as I tried to forget about the presentation. During lunch, I kept quiet. I had already told my friends what was going on, so I ate my chips and left to contemplate in the bathroom. Olivia met me in there and comforted me.

Olivia and I left the bathroom and headed to English while I tried to not think about my presentation. Mrs. Schmidt called on me twenty minutes to the bell. I sunk in my seat, the chewing of gum and tapping of feet grew immensely louder. I walked up to the front of the room, my legs turning to Jell-O as I struggled to mutter the words, “My name is Laney…” I looked over at Olivia giving me a huge smile and thumbs up. I rushed through the presentation, trying to do it to the best of my ability. After school, I barely could practice. It was all I could think about. I was constantly checking PowerSchool to see if there were any updates. At the end of practice, I finally got the update. I got an A on the presentation! My grade was a C+. I could play in the game!

After seeing the grade, I told my friends and coach and they both congratulated me. I was proud to have worked for something I love. We played the game and won by a few points. I learned that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. Also, I couldn’t have managed my anxiety without Cindy Lou. My experiences help shape who I am, and they have helped shape me into a better person altogether.

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