We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMichaela Parajes

Before I moved to America, I was an innocent and naive kid just like most other kids. I didn’t know a lot about the real world, I was clueless. I didn’t even know that drugs or marijuana existed. I did know that cigarettes were a thing. The only alcoholic drink I knew of was Corona or Hennessy. I knew that drugs and alcohol were a bad thing, so I never even thought of doing it. Since it was very unhealthy, I thought that other kids wouldn’t do it. I never even knew about the “N” word that people easily threw out, or the struggles that immigrants have to go through every day. I never even knew racism existed.  Things changed when we moved to America. My dad was already here since he didn’t have any choice and he also believed  that it would be a bit easier to get all of us together. My mom arrived in America first, then my siblings and I followed after. When I got here, I had mixed feelings about it. I had to leave my friends behind, not that it really mattered to them that I was gone, but it mattered to me. Moving to a whole new country made a huge  impact in my life because I would have never thought that things would change; I would change. Before, I used to be that kid who thought that the world was a great place; that there was more good than bad, that I barely had to worry about anything. I was wrong. The first few weeks of school were great, I made my first friend, and her name was Dominique. My teacher was so nice and helped me a lot. When we would learn History, I really thought that Christopher Columbus was a hero.  Then things went downhill. My only friend, Dominique, had to move and I was alone. I made a few friends, but it didn’t feel as real as it was with her. I started to hang out with a bad crowd, and I crossed boundaries. I admit that when I was little, I made fun of someone for their weight which I regret. Looking back at it, it was childish and mean of me but this one was different. This one, I knew I was crossing the line, but I thought that it wasn’t a bad thing. I started hanging out with this boy, and I felt comfortable around him. He was nice to me, but mean to other people. He would tell me to take this kid’s lunch, and I would do it. I wouldn’t steal it or anything, but I would try to take it. When the kid would say no, I would respect his decision but then the guy I was hanging out with was persuasive. So I started picking up and became more persuasive with the kid. Deep down, I knew it was wrong and I felt bad, but I was a weakling just like him. I used to speak up, but I stopped knowing that it would not only get me into trouble, but it would harm me. As I grew older, I became a troublemaker and mostly everyone thought bad of me. I was known as the untrustworthy and annoying kid who people would blame for almost everything. There was this time where I was playing basketball and someone was being mean to me, I got mad and threatened him that I would throw the basketball at him. His other friend, who was taller and bigger than me, came and dared me to do it. So, I didn’t because I was weak and I didn’t stand a chance. When people would make fun of my eyes or the way I spoke, I’d just laugh along with it. One time, while driving with my family,, there was this guy who told us to go back to our country and also called us Chinese when we weren’t. When I got involved in social media, it made me view the world differently. I saw videos of people fighting for small reasons, cops being brutal, kids my age smoking or drinking, and finally learned  that Christopher Columbus was never a good person to begin with. As time passed by, I became more aware of my surroundings. Due to what my family and I had to go through, due to the way I see people treat immigrants or people of color or basically each other, I put up walls and started minding my own business. I became more observant, open minded, and started working on myself. I knew that I still made mistakes and every time I did, I learned from it. Bit by bit, I’ve started closing up and distancing myself. I still had pure intentions, and never hesitated to help like how my parents never do, and still kept it friendly. I don’t know whether it was the environment that changed me or was it  the fact that I was growing up and seeing the world for how it really was. 

© Michaela Parajes. 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.