April 18, 2018 Hope Scibal

About an Angel, a Gremlin and a Barn

More thoughtful reflections in speeches by our 8th graders

In the second set of 8th grade speeches, our future graduates turned their thoughts inward and shared personal reflections about what makes them who they are as a person. It’s wonderful — and how rare in today’s world — to see teenagers thinking so introspectively about their own personal qualities, characteristics and passions and sharing them in such a public platform with such confidence and expression!

Here are two more of our 8th grader speeches, which students, faculty, parents and grandparents enjoyed hearing during today’s assembly:

My Attitude
by Cecilia Marshall ’18

I thought I should warn you that I need a guardian angel immediately. Every day, I find a way to get myself into trouble. Everywhere I go, somehow I stumble. Good morning my name is Cecilia, and I have a mischievous spirit on one shoulder and big mouthed gremlin on the other. Deep inside I have a voice of reason who is kind and loving like a sweet little angel.  

I must have a strong character, because my attitude is like a heavyweight champion.

I really think that if I had a guardian angel, it would have given up on me by now. I know what gets me into trouble, it’s my wonderful attitude. When I don’t feel like doing something, I will do the task, but like a smart-alec. For example: I’ll stop and ask stupid questions that I already know the answer to. There have been so many occasions that I have gotten myself in trouble, and it’s all because of my attitude. But, my attitude also makes me who I am, so I guess that the attitude is here to stay. Albert Einstein, a wise man said once, “Weakness of attitude, becomes weakness of character.” I must have a strong character, because my attitude is like a heavyweight champion.

It all started out on May 28th in 2004, my birthday. A tiny girl with a big attitude was born that day. I truly think my parents had no clue about what they had gotten themselves into. They report that as a baby, if I didn’t like something I would cry or I would roll my eyes. When I was little, I encountered the biggest challenge of my life, eating mashed potatoes. I would gag as I ate them, I hated them. When I found out that mashed potatoes were going to be served with dinner, I would cry. I then developed a better system, packing the food into my mouth and not swallowing. As I got older, I got smarter. I would put the horrid food in my mouth and spit it into my napkin. To this day, my parents still think that when mashed potatoes are served, I eat them.

Let me explain something to all of you. I am a troublemaker and a smart-alec. That combination is never good. As I get myself into trouble with my attitude, I know it but the way I work is that once I commit, I don’t seem to be able to turn back.  The sweet angel deep inside is screaming for me to stop and think, but still, I walk down the wrong path until I and my two sidekicks – my Mischievous Spirit and my Gremlin – realize that I’m in the wrong. After I accept that I’m going down the wrong path, I try to find a way out. Sometimes it’s hard finding my way out, but I always get myself out of the bad situation. When I’m back on the right path, I try to be positive and not be a smart-alec but it’s hard. I try not to make smart comments to the higher authority that supervise me, and I have made improvements. But still, I am the biggest smart-alec, and my attitude is as big as the Empire State Building. So I steer toward the middle of my path. For me, that’s a path with choices where my attitude and I can be ourselves.

If you know me, my facial expressions say everything. When I’m annoyed my cheeks are rosy. When I’m mad my face is bright red, and when I don’t care, I just sit and stare off unaware of my surroundings. My attitude makes me who I am.  It’s what makes me happy, sad or mad. When all is said and done if I didn’t have my attitude, I would never voice my opinions or laugh. If I got rid of my attitude, I wouldn’t be Cecilia. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. This attitude is like a child I have to constantly babysit, but eventually she gets away from me. She’s impulsive and takes no prisoners. I love her but she is an annoying struggle for me.

I may get myself into trouble all the time, but maybe that’s part of me. I have always tested the upper hand. I test my teachers, my parents and anyone above me. In my eyes, authority has been put in a place to be tested. They should be questioned.  I do not follow without asking why and then understanding. I’m like a wild beast that is not supposed to be tamed. People never know what’s coming next with me. I am unpredictable. The main goal of a troublemaker is to have fun. When my attitude starts to show, I can tell after a little bit. The big mouthed gremlin on my shoulder tells me to keep it up, and the sweet angel tells me to knock it off. It’s like a battle of wills in my head. Those two constantly fight. Then the mischievous spirit chimes in. She is like the peacemaker. The gremlin gets a little bit of attitude, and the voice of reason gets respect and my mischievous spirit is content.

It is easy to love a rose, but it takes heart to love a thorn.

I know I cause trouble, that’s just who I am. So let me just say thanks to my family and friends. It is easy to love a rose, but it takes heart to love a thorn. I would just like to thank my parents for putting up with me and never giving up. Thanks for putting up with my sense of humor. Over the years, my attitude has annoyed my teachers. Some words that my teachers have used to describe me are: troubled, talkative, distracted, social, but overall happy. I’m a happy kid. I enjoy being who I am and my attitude gets me into trouble, but it can also get me out of it.

I know that I am improving my attitude control because just recently I was in trouble at school, and my gremlin wanted me to confront the issue.  Somehow, the angel forced me to sit in place. The discussion went on and on and my angel convinced me to just listen. My voice of reason in this case really saved me. I have learned that even if I am innocent, I don’t have to prove it every time.  I have a choice. You have to choose your attitude in any given set of circumstances, so you have the choice. You better choose wisely!

From here I’m going to high school, and I realize that I still have a lot to learn about me and about my out of control attitude. I think that my attitude will always need adjustments, but it  makes me who I am and I won’t change for other people’s’ convenience. I am a sassy,spunky,feisty person and nothing will change that. I enjoy being myself, and I am happy almost all the time. There are so many reasons to be happy and my attitude has taught me that. I may end up in the headmaster’s office once in a while, but maybe that’s just a part of my personality.  It adds spice to the recipe of life. I used to think that I was the worst kid ever but now realize that I’m not. I never thought I would ever talk about my attitude problem, but here I am. So watch out for my Gremlin, welcome my Angel and enjoy my Mischievous Spirit. All of these things add up to Cecilia, a tornado with pretty eyes and a heartbeat.

 

The Power of Fear
by Nia Dowling ’18

My throat closes up, my heartbeat quickens, my breath stops. What if I mess up, what will everyone think? My head fills with all the horrible scenarios that could go wrong, but I stop myself in my tracks. Breathe I tell myself, breathe. I slowly take a deep breath in and then release it. The unfamiliar horse frantically shifts beneath me, as if sensing my nervousness.  Then everything starts to move in slow motion as I enter the ring. The task at hand takes over and my terror dissipates.

I was barely confident enough to speak a word to another human being, much less talk to a large group of them.

I’ve always been fascinated by horses, and they have always been a part of my life to some extent. I still wonder how and when I started riding horses.  but I’m glad to say that it happened just in time. Why am I glad? Well, there was a time when I was quiet, yes, me, Nia Elizabeth Dowling, was quiet, too quiet.  In fact, I was barely confident enough to speak a word to another human being, much less talk to a large group of them. That’s kind of ironic. I would freeze and literally shut down. My brain would stop and my throat would tighten up. I couldn’t control when my nerves would take over, and for a while I didn’t know how to stop it. Then I discovered this lovely activity called horseback riding, introduced to me by my mom. If she knew what she was getting herself into, she would’ve suggested I pick up a few books.

When I walked into the barn at Touch Point Farm on the first day of riding lessons, I was in my usual state – fearful, but as the summer went on things got easier and I made friends with horses and with people.  Looking back, I think perhaps learning to ride gave me the gift of confidence. If a small young girl can control or at least exist in tandem with a 1,000-pound beast then she feels about ten feet tall. Then, perhaps she can do anything. Fear became a stranger and I found my inner self, my inner voice, my inner warrior.

Now, I wonder how does fear stop us?  From where does it come? Do we need it?  Everyone here has experienced fear. If you haven’t you must be hiding out somewhere under a pillow. Fear is needed to alert us to danger. Without it, we would be putting ourselves in harm’s way. One needs just the right amount of fear, enough to protect one’s safety but not so much that it prevents one from trying new things or speaking one’s mind.  

However, learning how to control fear is extremely difficult.  Society plays a huge part in learned fears. Some fear embarrassing themselves in the public eye. In Middle School, this plays a big role. Society has so many morays that everyone is expected to follow, and those who don’t are frowned upon.  This need to belong to a group is very strong and, I might add, needed to survive. Therefore, many in Middle School will opt to give in to fear of rejection and avoid all possibilities of embarrassment. This leads to a life without risks which is really no life at all.

I was guilty of it myself. I was very afraid of messing up in front of other people.  From stumbling on words to tripping in the hall, these all used to be mortifying to me. I simply couldn’t bear to mess up in public.  Why? Because I want to be liked. I want to be part of the group, not an outcast. I have learned over the years that our strongest instinct is to survive and being part of a group or something bigger than just oneself is paramount to survival.  

As I changed and grew more confident and less fearful, I noticed a correlation between riding and being myself regardless of embarrassment.

As I changed and grew more confident and less fearful, I noticed a correlation between riding and being myself, regardless of embarrassment. Riding has helped me conquer this fear of not being perfect all the time, and pursuing what I love has become my new focus in life, not my fears.  Controlling a horse is a lot harder than it sounds, and it definitely is not without its share of heart quickening episodes, but it helped me find the real me and I am thankful.  The barn became my safe place where I could experiment with being me, the brave girl who messes up on occasion – well daily. I can essentially be me without being judged for it. The community that surrounds me at the barn is unlike any other that I have ever been a part of in my 14 years of life. I have no idea where I would be without the family that I have at the barn.  I have grown so much as a person since the first time I put a foot in a stirrup.

There is no such thing as a perfect person, but there is such a thing as a good person and that’s what I strive to be.

When I was little, I imagined growing up to be this perfect person. I guess I just set unreasonable goals for myself, because now I know there is no such thing as a perfect person. There never was and there never will be, but there is such a thing as a good person and that’s what I strive to be. Fears come and go but being a good and decent person will last forever. So, whatever comes my way, I know that if I stay true to trying to do good that I will be able to conquer any fear that comes my way.

I’m not perfect, I talk loudly, I make mistakes, I’m weird, I laugh way too much. But I’m me, Nia Elizabeth Dowling, and  I hope I continue to conquer fear and maybe even win a horse show along the way.