Danielle Knuth: First Place 2013 Anne MacKay Scholarship Winner
By Danielle Knuth Mattituck High School
“Pinocchio” and “Jew nose” were names I grew quite accustomed to hearing throughout elementary school. These names gave me a complex, which led to me being a little awkward in my high school years. I did not feel comfortable in my own body. I was self conscious about everything I did since I had been a target as a child.
I spent the majority of my days after school sobbing to my mother and listening to Taylor Swift’s songs about high school experiences, knowing I wasn’t alone. My mom would always tell me that everything would get better. But I didn’t want to hear it. I was so desperate for friends and to be accepted. I would kiss up to people just to be established into a group. Eventually I gave up on the whole process and kept to myself for a while. I figured high school is only four years of my life, and if people want to get to know me they can make the effort.
This new attitude enabled me to really focus on my studies. Not much of my time was wasted with hanging out with “friends”. It was the basis for my strong desire to persevere in life and become successful, not only for myself, but also as an “in your face” for all of the kids who made fun of me.
My mom was right though; high school did get better. Kids eventually grew out of the name-calling stage. Once people saw I didn’t care anymore and that I wasn’t going to change to have friends, they began opening up to me. They started conversations and began inviting me places. I had finally found my niche and made friends who like me for me.
If I hadn’t experienced this bullying growing up, I wouldn’t be nearly as strong a person as I am today. Because of the pain I experienced as a kid, not much fazes me anymore. I’ve come to the realization that good things do come out of bad things. I came out a stronger, more driven person with lifelong friends who appreciate me for who I am. They were lucky enough to get to know me personally and didn’t care what I looked like. Therefore, as much as I despise those kids who tortured me in school, their actions helped transform my disposition. Thanks to them I have never been more determined to thrive and make achievements in my life. Thanks to them I am now more comfortable than ever in my own skin, knowing that there are people who will take me as I am, and they’re the ones who are going to be my supporters and are here to stay. Thanks to them my character was molded from a timid, awkward girl afraid of being herself to a strong, confident young women who will not bend to society’s standards.
My experiences have also stopped me from drawing conclusions about people from first sight. I’ve become more outgoing through my struggles since many people could be feeling or going through what I have gone through. My childhood has made me an overall better person who is always willing to include others since I was the one left out as a kid. As a young adult I have so much interest in others and am very curious to talk to new people and learn about their backgrounds or beliefs possibly because of the lack of interest people displayed in me when I was younger. The struggles I faced also gave me a very strong conscious. Because of how badly I was mistreated because of my appearance, I could never have the heart to judge someone based on their exterior. I give people many chances. This is why I am always eager to include new people in my life; those who may seem different may end up being some of the most fascinating people you have ever met in your life, so I always make it a doing of mine to make the effort to talk to those people. Maybe if people had taken the chance to hold a conversation with me they would have seen that I am a very insightful person with a lot to say, but much like themselves also. Diversity is so important for that reason, among many; just because people look different or seem to not fit in doesn’t mean they are unapproachable, they may have extraordinary ideas. Sure, their beliefs or thoughts may be different from your own but you will learn something by making the effort to talk to them. I have gained so much by talking to those who society views a as “different”. By including diverse people in my life who are not similar to me or fit in with the norm of society, I have learned so much abut other cultures and religions that I never would have been enlightened on if I followed the crowds in school and kept to a clique.