NYC255 cover image See all stories from issue #255, January/February 2017

RK-YD image Get great stories in 'Teen Success Library'
ISBN: 9781935552017
Contest Winners #235
Write about a New Year's resolution you either kept or wish you had
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Fighting Through My Illness

Julia Chamon, 18, University of Houston, Houston, TX
At midnight on January 1, 2016, I was standing in my shower as hot water beat down on my back. I felt an immense sense of numbness. Last year at this time, I had promised myself I would recover from my eating disorder. As I stared at the white tiled wall, I realized that not only was my illness at its peak, but that if I couldn’t find a way to honor my resolution, I would spend the rest of my life being controlled by my weaknesses.

youthcomm logo

Eating disorders, despite popular belief, are not vain attempts to lose weight or become attractive; I developed anorexia nervosa to cope with my inability to perform simple tasks effectively as a result of undiagnosed ADHD. Despite my desire to recover from anorexia, I found breaking my unhealthy habits excruciatingly difficult. Every day was a war against the voice in my head screaming at me that I was weak-willed, pathetic, and that I deserved to be unhappy because I was bad at everything, even starving myself.

I began therapy in February, where I learned that my eating disorder was a side effect of other illnesses, like depression. I had to try seven different antidepressants to land on the one that worked for me. By that time I was halfway through 2016. Even with the support I get from friends and family, I have setbacks. I occasionally skip meals after a bad test grade or a week of high stress, and I still internalize my self-doubt even though I know doing so only hurts me.

However, I recognize now that recovering from a mental illness takes a lot more than just making a resolution to do so; it is a long journey. Even though I did not achieve full recovery this year, I learned that I am closer to it every time I choose self-care over self-punishment.

2nd Prize
A New ’Do and a New Self

Meagan O’Hara, 18, Chelsea High School, Chelsea, MI
Many New Year’s resolutions are the same old same old: “I’m going to join a gym and lose 30 pounds!” or, “I’m going to find my true love!”

But by the second week of January most of us are right back on the couch with a tube of cookie dough watching “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” having made no progress toward our goal.

The problem is those are pretty extreme goals. I think the best goals are those that are smaller.

Last year, my New Year’s resolution was to shave part of my head. I thought that kind of hairstyle looked super cool and I was tired of looking average. I was also so timid, that I think it was quite a shock to my poor mother.

After ridding myself of some locks, I felt unstoppable. I took more art classes, signed up for the water polo team, and started drinking coffee. (I tried to drink it black to be more edgy, but that didn’t quite work out.) I started writing more for our school newspaper, where I was granted my own column, Sulking While Soaking: My Thoughts in the Bathtub. In my column I discussed life and what to do when everything seemed too bland or times got tough.

Being able to go against the grain helped me develop more of my personality. I felt proud of who I was and I finally felt more confident.

For instance, I want to be a nurse when I’m older, and I recently earned my nursing assistant certification. I’d had the requirements for a while, but I never had the guts to follow through and get certified. Now I have an internship at an amazing hospital.
I’m glad I didn’t pick a typical New Year’s resolution and thought about what would help me change for the better. It could be as complex as opening your own business or as simple as mine—getting a sweet new ‘do. You’ll never know the feeling of success if you don’t try.

3rd Prize
Finding My Real Beauty

Pana Xiong, 17, Champlin Park Senior High School, Brooklyn Park, MN
Every New Year’s Eve, I’d sit on my couch and watch the pretty people on television have the time of their lives. Female celebrities had bodies like hourglasses, perfect teeth, no insecurities. I was angry, ashamed, and insecure because I didn’t look like them. Acne invaded my skin like a dictator. My body shape resembled a rectangle. I had the Great Wall of China flat on my chest.

When the clock struck midnight, I thought about how I wanted to be a bit curvier, a cup bigger, and have skin that didn’t resemble the Grand Canyon. I wanted to be called pretty for once. But this year, instead of feeling angry and bad, I decided to take a different route.

I unsaved all my tabs selling products to achieve the perfect body, the ageless skin, the magical breast creams. Instead, I decided to find the beautiful and unique things about my body.

Slowly, I began to fall in love with myself. I noticed my chocolate brown eyes in the mirror. I adored my silky hair that never knotted. I loved my legs. Gradually it became clear that I, too, was beautiful.

My goal every year had been to look like a walking Photoshopped image. I kept thinking if I was able to fix my outer appearance, maybe I’d be happier with my life, but deep inside the true problem was the absence of self-love.

I had failed each year to mimic the appearance of what society deemed to be beautiful, but this year I achieved a different goal. I realized I didn’t have to meet an unrealistic beauty standard to feel valued.

Runner Up

Determined to Lead

Junyao Li, 18, Army and Navy Academy, Carlsbad, CA
“Who is you to tell me what to do,” I mumbled in my broken English when the lieutenant ordered me to march for another five minutes. The fact that I was a plebe, the lowest rank in military school, irritated me. Further, I had not adapted yet to this environment with its new rules, structure, and students; it made me defensive. I had been a top student in China, one who leads and not follows. I was now at a military academy in the Unites States, which was more my parents’ choice than mine. This conflict between my self-perception and this new reality made me bitter and defiant. As I continued marching sloppily, the lieutenant asserted that I would never become a leader. I was infuriated. Though I opposed the military system here, my pride urged me to yell back: “I will be BC, just wait for it!”

BC stands for Battalion Commander, the senior student commander responsible for enforcing rules, directing activities, supervising the corps of cadets, and disciplining those who do not follow the rules. The lieutenant grinned and said, “BC? I have never seen one who speaks Chinglish!” I clenched my fists and decided then to become the first BC who is an international student, and one who would change the leadership selection system from favoring those whose parents donate money to the school to a system based on qualifications and input.

My English greatly improved after much effort and consistent practice. I realized that I could champion change if I moved up in rank, since cadet leaders’ opinions were valued. I resolved to behave and become more engaged in student activities and social life. My conduct won over my TAC (the retired military officer in charge of cadet life) and I was designated platoon sergeant at the conclusion of my sophomore year.

As the end of my junior year approached, and with a promotion to first sergeant, the goal of becoming a BC seemed attainable. I shared my objective with friends, and was reproached with: “Junyao, there has never been an International BC in 107 years of the Academy,” or, “While you are a good candidate, you may want to aim for a lower position.” I even heard some of the teachers commenting: “Junyao is just too busy studying; he can’t handle such an onerous position while maintaining a 4.3 GPA.” I asked myself: Does a BC have to be an American? Does history dictate the future? Does academic excellence preclude one from the becoming the top leader? I made a decision to run for the BC office because I refused to be afraid of defying tradition and stereotype.

On the day of the election results, we gathered in the gym. “The 2016 to 2017 Battalion Commander is Junyao Li.” I was surprised and felt grateful to be selected. I feel I’ve already made a constructive impact. For example, I have begun introducing a leader selection process that rewards effort and performance. I have created transparency by expanding evaluations to include input from teachers and students so that the cadet board considers various ideas and suggestions.

My resolution was a transformative one. It helped me realize that I am not afraid of breaking stereotypes and traditions. Nor am I afraid of taking the initiative toward creating equity and inclusion.

Contest #235 - New York Honorable Mentions
Angelyne Acevedo, Jeeba Begum, Anjum Biswas, Saida Bogdanovic, Dina Cantor, Michael Cupelli, Stephanie Duran, Andrea Hernandez, Manuljie Hikkaduwa, Aniya Horry, Joy Julius, Tammy Leong, Kenyatta LeSeur, Michelle, Lynnsey O’Connor, Karla Olivo, Zahrea Reece, Justin C. Rivera, Victoria Van Tassell, Yanibel Vasquez, Julie Wicik, Natalie Wicik, Derrek Yang.

Contest #235 - National Honorable Mentions
Omowunmi Awelewa, Avery Axford, Elizabeth Becker, Naomi Bereketab, Amber Berns, Carly Bettinger, Emoijah Bridges, Malik Brooks, Karah Bryant, Julia Chamon, Hana Cooper, Shelby Copeland, Michael Cupelli, Emily Davis, Cody Dyer, Calista Foster, Amanda Furnia, Omari Garrett, Akansha Gupta, Alexis Hacking, Grace Harper, Allyson Mackenzie Heet, Kaylee Henley, Andrea Hernandez, Sarinah Hernandez, Jenna Hicks, Manuljie Hikkaduwa, Tariq Hopkins, Aniya Horry, Kenya, Jecel Lawi-an, Chance Lee, Owen Leipelt, Junyao Li, Timber Mabes, Angellic Nolasco, Meagan O’Hara, Lacy Pierce, Angelee Reyes, Alexandra Sanial, Scarlett Shapiro, Rajpreet Shergill, Kaytlin Sims, Lisa Skaggs, Dasia Smith-Goble, Alexis B Sutherland, Isabella Trasolini, Sarah Trevino, Cristal Ramirez, Jasmine Ramirez , Mya Robinson, Joseph Rodriguez, Ellie Rogers, Paola Velez- Miranda, Courtney Ward, Danielle Wheeler, Julie Wicik, Pana Xiong.

horizontal rule