Guest post by teen contributor Esmeralda Segura
As we grow up, challenges in our lives come here and there, sometimes out of nowhere in life like water balloons in a water balloon fight, but the difference is that the challenges hurt there, not like water which are harmless.
We try through it sometimes, and we also give up and don’t try at all. We lose all that hope that was inside of us, some never find it again at all when we need it, when we want it. Others do find it and maybe they don’t want and take it for granted, others appreciate it and cherish it.
Life is a maze, we lose our way in different ways, but we all fall down and it’s okay we’re only human. No one is ever truly alone, as girls we go through a lot, emotionally and physically, but time is too precious to waste. We go through challenges, the thing that make a difference is whether you decide to fight for it or not. Don’t rest til you make your good to be better and your better the best.
Esmeralda (Ezme) has been a TIME program participant for nearly 4 years. She hopes to become a journalist and a musician, and she loves to write anything and everything! Ezme was kind enough to share this beautiful, important piece with us.
People look at her and say she’ll never change and stay the way she is, can’t they see they’re destroying her soul, she puts a smile on her beautiful face and acts like she’s got everything together so they won’t see her weakness, she is changing little by little and is trying her best, but is it enough? She wonders as she lays down on the fresh green grass and looks at the sky,will she really change? would her past come back to get her? would they stop? will anyone be there for her? Tears start coming down and she can’t stop them, she is really sorry for what she has done in the past and hope if they would ever forgive her and realize she never meant to do what she did.
She says a silent prayer to God to bring her a friend who she could laugh with, tell secrets with, talk with, to guide her and catch her when she falls.She looks up to the sun, her eyes shine in the light ,she’s not like anyone else, she’s special and has a pure heart full of love. She smiles and hopes she could make it till the end.
by Megan Renehan
Those of you who know me probably know that bad television is one of my major vices. I’m addicted to the shows that I can zone out to, the ones with so much drama that I can get completely absorbed. Thanks to Netflix and Hulu, all that drama is right at my fingertips, and I find myself getting immersed in shows that surprise me. Case in point: Gossip Girl.
When this show premiered six seasons ago, I watched it. It reminded me of the movie Cruel Intentions, but in quick, 45-minute chunks. After about two seasons, I stopped watching, likely due to the fact that I got rid of my television. Recently, though, Netflix has all seasons available to watch instantly, and I jumped right back in. It’s exciting! There’s lying, backstabbing, deception, deviousness. All the things that are not a part of my life at all.
Over the weekend, I was sick with a cold, or allergies, or something. I spent most of Saturday on the couch, making my way through Season 4. Watching so many episodes back to back really got me thinking about this show and others like it, and their influence. When I was in eighth grade, Beverly Hills 90210 premiered. I loved it. My friends loved it. It was a soap opera for people our age! The things we were going through – boy trouble, friendship issues, family discord – were suddenly there in a relatable way, not the sugar-coated stuff of sitcoms. The show was basically wholesome, and touched on social issues like homosexuality, homelessness, alcoholism, eating disorders, etc. It wasn’t a model for behavior, of course, but it legitimized for us the issues we were facing.
Fast forward to today, and shows like Gossip Girl, or the new version of 90210. There is nothing wholesome about today’s shows. There’s no realistic touchstone, nothing legitimizing. The shows push the envelope on how far a character will go. Selfishness abounds. Bad choices are glorified. Do today’s shows have the same influence on girls the shows of my adolescence had on me? Likely not. But I don’t think we can deny that some influence still exists.
So, how do shows like these influence adolescent girls today? I’m not sure. There are a lot of theories that run the gamut. I’d love to hear from girls and women of any age who watch or have watched these shows. Do you notice an effect? The actions of the characters are all about shock value, but I find that I’m not shocked. These actions are so far beyond the bounds of my reality that I’m not surprised by them. It’s almost like a different universe; I haven’t lived it, but I can understand it, and I’m not surprised by it. Do others feel the same?
There’s a lot more to say about this topic, I think. The fairy-tale idea that’s forced on girls through the absurd plotlines, the way girls and women are portrayed (almost always negatively), the focus on negative choices – the list goes on and on, and I hope we can have a discussion about it here.
All I can say for now is that, after spending a day with Gossip Girl, I think my desire for dramatic television has vanished. It’s time to go read a book.
by Megan Renehan
WOW, it’s been a long time since we’ve written a blog post! By now, you probably know why. Over the past year, TIME has gone through a lot of changes. Our Board has changed, our programs and program directors have changed, and, most recently, our leadership has changed. You can read this letter from our founder, Heather Sattler, to learn more about that.
I want to say straight out that Heather’s shoes are impossible to fill. This Is ME is here because of her incredibly insightful realization 13 years ago that Chicago adolescent girls need a safe, supportive organization that could give them opportunities to help them choose the kind of women they hope to become. TIME has served approximately 800 girls. 800! That’s pretty amazing when you think about it, right? 800 doesn’t even come close to the lives this organization has touched, though. The number of volunteers, friends, families, donors, and supporters that have been affected by TIME is probably in the millions by now! That just goes to show what a strong foundation Heather created. Without her, and without so many fantastic supporters like you, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
I’m writing this blog post for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to say how excited I am and how privileged I feel to be working with TIME as Executive Director. I’ve been involved with TIME since August of 2008, and it’s become an indispensable part of my life. I’ve served on the Board, ran the writing workshop in 2010, did some graphic design work, and attended as many of our events as I possibly could. I’ve met some incredible girls and women, and I look forward to meeting so many more. I’m really excited to work with the Board and Emily Weber, our new Director of Programs. As I said before, Heather’s shoes are impossible to fill, but we’re all going to do our best to keep TIME running as the amazing organization she’s built it to be.
The second reason I wanted to write is to let you know that I think something really cool is happening in America right now. Have you noticed that this issue of helping adolescent girls thrive is gaining more and more awareness and importance every day? Heather was ahead of the game when she started TIME. WAY ahead of the game. Now, others are starting to realize the importance of helping girls navigate adolescence in a healthy way, and that’s tremendous news.
Seems crazy that some people are just now catching on to this idea, right? I know! But it’s true. So, TIME supporters, you’re crucial right now! Spread the word. Let people know how important it is that adolescent girls are able to thrive, and that TIME can help. Introduce the girls in your life to our programs. Tell your cashier at the grocery store about us. We’ve already served 800 girls…help us serve 800 more!
Thanks for all you do to help Chicago adolescent girls thrive!
by Lindsey Groves
Approximately one year ago I made the decision to pack up a handful of my belongings, put the rest in storage and set off on an adventure in Asia. I took a position teaching art and literature at an American school in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Teaching has turned out to be everything I expected and nothing at all that I expected. It has impacted my world and my view of the world at large to an intense degree. In light of the work I had been doing with This Is ME before I left on my adventure, I think I’ve looked at this experience from a unique perspective. It has been rewarding to know our students and learn about what drives them and what discourages them.
I think all schools are a community and should encourage their students to respect and contribute to their community in a positive light, but sometimes I feel that it is especially important to push this in our school. We have a small and culturally diverse student body that is comprised of 60 students ranging in age from 8 to 18 that hail from: Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, France, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. Our students speak anywhere from 2-4 languages a piece. Some of them have grown up in Taiwan. Some of them have been living abroad for several years now. Some of them are brand new to this ‘international community’. As an adult I found the transition difficult. So I couldn’t help but think – growing up is hard and growing up while throwing one of the following into the mix: a new school, in a new country, in a potentially new or second language with students that span several different continents and several wildly different cultures, must be even harder. Especially for those students in the (often dreaded) Middle School age range. You’re struggling through the formation of a physical self. You’re struggling through the formation of peer relationships. School is getting intellectually harder. Your teachers and your parents are expecting you to have more self-discipline and to properly manage your own time and increased work load. Would there be some sense of general camaraderie among the students as they navigate an environment that could easily feel alienating? Would this cause a greater divide among them? With all the sincere and overwhelming stress that I felt these students might face, would they have less time to be concerned with the superficial pressures of the world and their peers? I am here to tell you, for the most part: teens still have plenty of time to be concerned with the superficial no matter their home country, current location, cultural background, appearance, or native language.
As a group my middle schoolers have struggled, academically and socially, this year. I have seen the most struggles with our female middle school students though. As someone who has worked with girls in this age range previously and who conveniently used to BE a girl in this age range, I empathize with them. They get angry with each other. They become jealous of each other. The new girl comes to town and regardless of whether she is actually cooler or just new; she attracts attention and rearranges alliances. They compete with each other. They lash out at each other when they don’t know what to do with or don’t understand their own emotions. They’re afraid of being embarrassed. They’re hard on themselves. They suffer extreme insecurities. They succumb to gossip. They want boyfriends. They read fashion magazines. A girl’s idea about beauty and popularity and what it means to be a girl might vary and be unique based on her individual cultural background – but they all have ideas about beauty and popularity and what it means to be a girl and these things influence them and can breed disappointment.
My observations may seem totally apparent to some readers. Some of you may be out there shaking your heads and thinking “of course girls around the globe share the same struggles!” I’d traveled previously and considered myself to have a well-rounded, cultured and observant head on my shoulders. I am learning so much about the world and humanity here though. I believe living abroad is an experience everyone should have. My students’ struggles with each other have been wearing and emotional for me at times. It’s hard to build a relationship with these girls, see parts of yourself in them, and see them struggle. I sometimes find it comforting though too. It doesn’t just make me realize that there is a certain sense of unity among girls and women (and people) everywhere, it makes me FEEL it. I wish every girl in the world could know what how that feels. We are not so far from each other in our ideals and concerns and questions and self doubt.
What another great reason for us to get out in the world and our communities and help each other through the rough spots. Not that we needed another reason other than, just to help each other through the rough spots.
by Katie Vannucci
So one of my favorite organizations, The Girl Effect, just posted this great story of an all-boys high school in Australia that started a movement for gender equality. They created a video and presented it to their peers, encouraging each one to turn things around for girls and women. It’s the “Boy Effect” for the Girl Effect – and it’s wonderful. Great job Sydney Boys School!