We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMarina Meas

From a young age, I’ve always had a difficult time controlling my emotions. I screamed at my sister for not cleaning up after herself, or I raised my voice at my mother when she nagged me. I seemed to always end up hurting my loved ones and also myself. 

Starting in my freshman year, I began wondering: why am I like this? Everyone around me was so calm and collected, so why was it that I was so different from others? Every time I lost control of my emotions I remembered, later, after I sorted out my thoughts, feeling so regretful. It’s not like I wanted to do that, so why did I? I had fights with my siblings that would never end up well, I was always very aggressive towards them in our arguments, while they, on the other hand, would be rather calm. I remember how my mother would always yell at me to stop acting like a fool. I wanted to change. I did not like this part of me, but I never really seemed to put much effort into changing. 

Then, one afternoon in 2021, I came home after getting my little sister from school. It was a typical day, nothing too serious. I walked into my house, and stopped to pick up mail from the floor. My grandma walked up to me and asked me to read this certain piece of mail to her. 

My grandma is a sweet lady in her mid 70’s. She came to America from Cambodia to take care of me and my sister when we were little, when my parents went to work. My grandma wears baggy, comfortable clothing the kind old people would wear. She doesn’t speak English well. She always talked to us in Khmer, but this never bothered me since I can speak the language as well. I look up to her and loved her with all my heart. 

That afternoon in 2021 I did as she asked. I opened the letter and started reading it first to myself so I could then know how to translate it. In the process of reading, my grandma kept interrupting, asking what it said. I couldn’t explain to her yet, since I wasn’t finished reading. But she kept asking questions. I began getting really irritated. Finally, I snapped at my grandma, “I’m still reading!” 

My grandma stared at me silently for a few seconds. Then she told me that she was just asking because she wanted to know what was written, and she added that when I raised my voice it scared her. Then quietly, she proceeded to go into her room, closing her door softly. 

I tried to ignore what had just happened. I opened my laptop to do my homework. Yet I couldn’t focus. The incident just kept replaying in my head. Why did I do that? Could I have said it in a different manner? So why didn’t I? I felt ashamed, disappointed, angry, and upset. I then realized that I needed to apologize. 

I was never the type of person to apologize, but my grandma was so important to me, that I realized I needed to make up with her. I went to her room and sat on her bed. “I’m sorry for acting like that.” My grandma told me it was okay. After apologizing to her, it made me relieved knowing my grandma didn’t hate me for what I had done. She also told me how back in her country, people didn’t raise their voices because it wasn’t well mannered and people would dislike you for it. 

As I listened to my grandma I realized she was right. I needed to change. I realized this part of me didn’t define who I am as a person. I couldn’t let it be the reason that held me back from becoming a better human being. I know I’m capable of changing. My grandma taught me to become a person with a beautiful soul.

© Marina Meas. 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.