We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMadi Whalen

“Birds teach their baby birds to fly by pushing them out of the nest!” I exclaimed, hoping this odd argument would convince my mom to let me drive to my older sister’s house for the weekend. It would be about a 2-hour drive on the highway by myself for the first time so she was nervous about it, but I really wanted to go. Besides, she wouldn’t have to push me out, this was something I wanted to do. Eventually I won her over and she allowed me to embark on the journey. As excited as I was to go, I was still a little nervous about it myself. It would be the furthest I’d ever gone all alone. However, I was still ready to at least try. It was kind of like a trial of my independence and I conquered it. A few weeks later I had to fill out a form for my schedule for next school year, my senior year. I know something like this probably seems like a small, easy thing for most people, but doing it filled me with anxiety and sorrow. Thinking about how next year will be my last year of high school and feeling like everything will suddenly change after that was and is difficult for me. I was sitting on my bed with the form in front of me, staring at it, wishing it would just disappear when my mom walked in and sat by me. I think she knew that this was something I didn’t want to be doing and how it made me feel - I had been putting it off for a while after all. After sitting there for a while, she said, “You know, we aren’t going to just push you out of the nest and you’ll always have a nest to come back to.” The day after that, I went to school thinking it would be a regular day. After first block, I hurried down into the cafeteria to talk with some of my friends. They were all standing and watching something. Curious, I went over to investigate. Over in the corner there was a little bird stuck in the building. The poor little guy was frantically flying into the windows trying to escape. “Do you think we can try to save it?” I asked them. No one really knew, so I decided that I had to at least try to save it. First we tried holding the door open and guiding him out, but after trying and trying, that wasn’t working out - and we were already late to our next class. The bird kept flying away and bumping into the windows. Since that wasn’t working, I decided I should just try to pick it up and bring it out. I scooped him up and held him close by me while I took him outside. Luckily, I knew how to do this from handling my own pet birds. When we got outside, I lifted him up and he flew away just like that. Throughout the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. It was such a weird thing. I mean, how often is there a bird trapped in a school? And for me to be the one to save it? I just thought it was strange. Later on, after thinking about it nonstop, I connected it to the analogy my mom had used the day before. I thought I could see the bird as a sort of symbol, or as a reminder that everything will be okay and will work out. Or as a reminder that my future will be okay. I know that I’ll have a nest to come back to whenever I need to. I know that I won’t be pushed out of the nest, but I’ll be able to go when I am ready.

© Madi Whalen. 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.