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Strong and Heroic

You may be much more powerful and incredible than you give yourself credit. If I even help one person with the message I relay on this page, I will feel accomplished.

This page is about becoming strong and heroic. You may be thinking, Well, I am not armed with the suit of armor and mental artillery to be strong and heroic, but I guarantee in this sense you are looking at yourself through others' eyes. How about taking a look at yourself through your eyes for a moment?

Do you envision a bright future for yourself? When I was young, I knew I would accomplish good things, but I never imagined myself accomplishing what I have. Now, technology was not prevalent back then, so designing websites, promoting my vision on Twitter, and blogging were not on the radar when I was say, eleven years old. However, I knew from seventh grade onward I would be a teacher who would change lives. I was relentlessly bullied on a daily basis, quite confused as to why, and I didn't know whether I would have the mental artillery to carry out my vision. Through the eyes of so many people in my middle school, I was seen as a target for wretched acts of bullying. Although I enjoyed learning, I did not enjoy school as much as I could have.

It was seventh grade math class when I decided to be a teacher. My teacher, Mrs. Feeney, assigned a challenge where we had to teach a lesson to the class. I wanted to be revolutionary and accomplish something nobody else had in my class. I remember having to finish a test and sitting in the third-period advanced class one day, which I was obviously not fitted for because I was a pretty average math student. I remember glancing up at this lesson the students were simply not grasping. Being a student in the second-highest math class, that lesson was not going to be taught to us. I believe it was eighth grade math, and it was quite difficult, but I understood it (privately) and told Mrs. Feeney by fifth period that the lesson I would teach the second-highest math class would be a "surprise".

For some reason, the words and methods I used with my class were the right ones, and at least the majority of the class grasped the eighth-grade concept. My confidence was empowered that someone who underwent torment on a daily basis could impact my fellow students in another way. Math was a subject I traditionally struggled with, so I was amazed even more that I had the resolve to teach something that wasn't even on her radar.

Before that moment, I remember laughing at the prospect of being a teacher. In the same math class, I remember we had five or ten minutes of free time at the end of the class when a fellow classmate "read my palm" and stated, "You are going to be a teacher someday." This was before the revolutionary eighth-grade math lesson. I stated, "But I cannot be! I have always thought of teaching here and there, but I've always wanted to be an architect, fashion designer, or children's author more!" The classmate glanced at me for a long moment, shook her head, and stated, "You are going to be a teacher."

I recall feeling deflated, and she just glanced at me. "You would be really good at it. You're all about school. You live school."

I wanted to say, I live for learning, not school, but I kept my mouth shut and just accepted her "prophecy".

As I got older, into high school, and eventually into college, I remember being shaken by another reason why I wanted to be a teacher. I truly wanted to instill confidence and hope in my students. As the years progressed, I evolved into a much stronger teacher, focusing on my students' positive attributes and getting them to appreciate their classmates in ways they had never before. I began promoting affirmations, which made a monumental difference when I would head on college camping trips. It was always the last thing we would do before heading on a nature walk, and we went around from person to person, telling them how incredible they were. Admittedly a "Hallmarkian" person, I was always one of the most teary-eyed, fervent affirmers.

After being affirmed by everyone, I remember how my spirit was lifted and a stronger confidence was instilled. I like being able to bring the same feeling to my fifth grade students. Recently, I had them take out a piece of paper where as many people who would fit would write surprise affirmations on there. I told them to try to affirm everyone as much as possible-- but especially those who they did not speak to that often. The students were not to see the sheet until I distributed them right before winter break. When I distributed the finished affirmations face-down and had the students turn them around at once, some of them were completely amazed. One burst into tears, but I guess she was fitted with my "teary-eyed, fervent" attributes. So many thanked me. I then sighed gently and stated, "When someone tells you that you can't, or you are going through a really hard time in your life, or you don't feel appreciated by your friends, or you're discouraged about something, even something I teach you, glance at this sheet."

It's easy to get discouraged. It's very, very easy to give up. It's extremely easy to let your dreams go because then you won't have to do any hard work, but is that what you truly want from life? It's easy to retreat and hold back from being your true self because then you won't have to excuse yourself for being "different". But in the essence of life, to make a true difference, does our world need a "clone" like everyone else? Never be afraid of being a revolutionary.

In middle and high school, I was discouraged by "friends" or people who claimed to be friends. However, I look back now and realize those people were not fully mature yet. Neither was I. I should have never let their comments define me, but I'll admit, there were times I did. I now look back and realize those comments were made because some of those people were not as confident about themselves as they could have been.

Let me tell you, I was even discouraged by teachers here and there. I do not want to go into the details, but a few teachers felt it was their mission to inform me that I couldn't do certain things well. I do not want to be specific because perhaps they regretted their proclamations or did not realize how much they permeated me. There were times I was not intrigued by a class, but I never stopped doing the very best I could.

I am grateful for never giving up. When I was young, I never thought I would grow up into the woman I am today, that I would have incredible opportunities to grow personally and professionally. I have blogged for Scholastic, been behind the scenes at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, and attended Space Camp. I followed through with my dream of visiting Hawaii as well as so many other places.

Life is incredible. Hindsight is 20/20, and the future is never clear, but we can make it amazing by resolving to be our best selves. Here are some quotes for you--

"Make each day your masterpiece."- John Wooden

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” Pamela Vaull Starr

“Only surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Health, learning and virtue will ensure your happiness; they will give you a quiet conscience, private esteem and public honor.” - Thomas Jefferson

“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only be that, only by self-respect, will you compel others to respect you.” - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

(c) Ms. Jasztal, over the course of many years--2014-2019, and beyond.