We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofEmina Sabanovic

As a little girl, I adored playing with Barbies and sneaking into my mom’s room and taking her makeup. Living in Bosnia, I had some struggles and I wasn’t accepted by the way I looked or dressed be-  cause I had a very different style than others. I was born in America, but my parents moved us to their native country when I was in second grade. The mean comments other people made about the way I looked became a normal thing. Sometimes I felt lonely, even though I had friends. It was hard to relate to anyone.  I had dreams that I was running away from a deep voice in an infinitely white space. It was talking to me and asking me questions. I don’t remember everything, but every time I had that dream, I remembered a question asked by a calmer voice fading away. “Who are you?” it asked me. I would wake up to that voice, drenched in sweat, as if I was actually running from someone. It was scary.  One day, I woke up to a terrible message from my friend. A group of girls who I knew, posted my picture on social media and were making fun of my appearance. Some of the girls went to my school and a couple of them were even in my class. One day they talked normally with me, and the next day they talked behind my back. It hurt me. Laying in my bed, I asked myself, _“Why do people need to talk about others? Is appearance the only thing that matters?” _I got tired of it all, and I started to believe everything bad that was said about me. Even if someone gave me a nice compliment, it would go in one ear and out the other. My trust for people was not there anymore. I be- came my own worst critic and started to change my appearance. I was never on time because I wanted to look the best I could. I got really sick because I didn’t eat anything. Almost every day when I woke up, I got dizzy and light- headed. My mom was scared to let me hang out with my friends because she thought that I would get dizzy and fall over.  Every day I would wake up and go through the same routine. I got dressed, did my face and hair, and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. One day, my routine changed as something unusual happened to me. As I was walking to the fridge to get some breakfast, I got lightheaded. Suddenly, I blinked and saw a black canvas. Opening my eyes, I saw the opposite, a white canvas, which was the ceiling. My mom rushed towards me trying to pick me up. I didn’t know what was going on. I felt what I thought were tears, rushing down my face, but it was blood. I didn’t feel pain, but when I saw myself in the mirror I started to cry because I didn’t recognize myself. The first thing that I noticed was a massive cut from the corner of my eye to the middle of my check. I went to school the next day and everyone was looking at me. Some of the students even made up rumors that my parents were violent towards me.  Thankfully, everything changed when I moved back to America. I remember the first time I went to the mall. I saw a young man wearing his pajamas. I could never imagine someone wearing something like that in Bosnia, be- cause people were so obsessed with their looks.  I’m not mad or angry at anyone because everything bad in my life has made me a strong person. I’ve learned not to waste my feelings on people who don’t value me. Now, I can express myself in the way I always wanted to. I finally feel like me again. This is who I am. 

© Emina Sabanovic. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.