We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofSophie Cerrone

My journey to change began after middle school. In those three fleet- ing years, I dreaded every day of my life. Waking up to go to school became a challenge. My friends at the time were draining the life out  of me and tearing me apart every chance they got. It started the Halloween of sixth grade.  There are some words in your life that you can forgive but never forget. A girl, who I thought was my friend, started me on the wrong track. It was the first time I could remember that I heard I was overweight. From there I became self-conscious about everything, but most importantly my body. I stopped wearing clothes that I normally would. I only would wear black yoga pants and a graphic t-shirt. It made me sad when I saw everyone else wearing cute clothes. I could never feel confident enough wearing such clothes, no matter how many times my friend would convince me to buy them. The follow- ing year I convinced myself to stop eating, like that would somehow change my weight and life. The only thing it did was wreck my mood and cause me to gain more weight. I became angry, angsty, and bitter. I quit all the clubs I was in and my grades began to drop. I felt myself breaking.  As an athlete, I always seemed to struggle as well. I was never the most skilled, and I was definitely not the fastest. I hated running. I used many excuses during the cross-country season that exempted me from everything but the meet. At the meets, I would come in last. During the soccer season, I couldn’t catch up with teammates or opponents, and I lost my breath easily. Then, during basketball, I was never where they wanted me to be when they wanted me to be there. It also hurt when two years in a row, I was pushed to the B-team. The same girl would tease me about it. Every time I stepped off the court, I wanted to cry.  Eighth grade is when all of these problems weighed on me most. I disliked myself and I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror. I couldn’t see that it was the people around me making me feel this way until I made a big leap to get away from everyone. High school would be my excuse to shape up and reinvent myself - I would choose the other high school in the city that my friends were not attending. I already knew people from sports and I was excited to be with them again.  The excitement dissolved when I was told I would have to run an eight-min- ute mile and sprint six times up the field in twenty seconds to be part of the Soccer team. Rather than quit, I decided to push myself as hard as I could. That summer I worked every second. I promised myself that I would eat for energy. I tried to run a mile a day, which for me was a lot. With all that effort, I went from a ten-minute mile to an eight-minute, fifteen-second mile. I also lost thirty pounds. I felt like I could do anything.  The treadmill, my former enemy, is now my best friend. I can now run longer and faster. My relationship with food has improved and I now have a lifestyle I’m comfortable living. Throughout life, everyone has their own idea of what is perfect. It took me a few years of training and a strong sup- port system to realize that perfect for me meant taking control of my choices. I needed that shift in my life. You can’t control what others think of you, but you can always change what you think of yourself and how you respond to other people. That is what really matters in life. 

© Sophie Cerrone. 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.