choose to be you.

piece written by Serena Graham


We all know it starts with what you learned. Because if you never learn who you are, how will you know?

I have been on this planet for a little more than 18 years, and in that time, I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned how to walk and talk and share my toys. I’ve learned how to color within the lines, and I’ve learned that red and blue makes purple. I’ve learned that umbrellas keep you dry, and coats keep you warm. I’ve learned how to swim and how to cartwheel and how to hit a homerun. I’ve learned that cookie dough is best consumed raw, and I’ve learned to ignore the label that says, “do not consume raw cookie dough”. I’ve learned how to make my best friends smile on their bad days, and I’ve learned that they know how to make me smile, too. I’ve learned how to drive and how to spend too much money in Target. I’ve learned how to read and write. I’ve learned how to read a graph and how to operate a calculator. I’ve learned how to balance a chemical equation and how to take a derivate and how to annotate a novel. I’ve learned that God is good even when my days are bad.

The fun thing about life is that you never stop learning either. Right now, I’m learning how to survive finals week. I’m learning that 4 hours of sleep and 5 cups of coffee can get me through the day. I’m learning that nothing really makes you appreciate a home-cooked meal like a semester at college. This wild process of learning- the learning that sets your heart on fire- is what makes life all the more wonderful and interesting. This act of learning creates passion and world change, and I truly believe that the desire to learn is in the heart of everyone.

The days that I have lived in this life have culminated to me choosing a career as a math teacher. I achieved highly throughout middle school and high school, and I put myself in a position to be traditionally “successful”. Success in an American mindset equates to the numbers on your paycheck, but that’s not how I define success. For some, success is saving the life of a friend on the battlefield. For some, success is watching African children dance in the first rain their land has seen in months. For some, success is simply living and breathing and watching the sun rise another day.

For me, my success is found in improving the lives of others, so I’ve decided to teach. I’ve decided to teach because I firmly believe that education is such a powerful tool. More often than not, education focuses on testing and grades and GPAs rather than the pursuit of learning and the development of character, but the most important lessons I’ve learned in a classroom haven’t been academic. I’ve learned that the best thing I could ever be is myself, and I’ve learned to believe in myself. I’ve learned that a bad grade doesn’t define who I am. I’ve learned the importance of selflessness and confidence and hard work. I’ve learned these things from educators, and my vision of success shows me instilling these ideals in the next generation.

So what does this have to do with you? Everything starts with education, and you have the power to learn more than the standards from your teachers. You have the ability to pursue knowledge and growth and improvement everyday. You get to choose how to define your success. You get to decide who you are in a world of chaos and uncertainty and standards. Choose to be you.

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