Mental Creed

How my family and community history has affected my journey for a healthy mindset and personal growth.

By Sophia E. from Royal Oak High School in Michigan

American Creed has a different definition to each person you may ask. For many it may be a expedition to achieve a type of growth; economic, intellectual, mental, or even emotional growth. My family history and community helps to steer and guide me on my own expedition by creating the person I am today and how I trek towards my goal of self-acceptance. Events in my life that have impacted this journey are my parent’s divorce, moving homes and school districts, and my parents marrying again.

To begin, my parents solemnly told my sisters and I that they were getting a divorce when I was in Kindergarten, but afterwards followed long processes of change that still affect me to this day. In the article “Is Divorce Bad for Children?” by Hal Arkowitz, professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, Arkowitz states “When marital conflict is muted, children are often unprepared when told about the upcoming divorce. They are surprised, perhaps even terrified, by the news.” This was the case with my parent’s divorce. I had zero clue that it was coming and when it did, it felt like a rug had been pulled out from under my life. It was hard recovering from the blow and it forced me to mature a little faster as I dealt with changes that soon came, but it made me stronger and more resilient. I interviewed my mother, Joanna Emmi-Blalock, and asked “How do you think an event like divorce has affected my sisters and I?” She responded, “It was definitely a lot of change you guys had to endure in a relatively short amount of time, which must have been hard on you all. But you guys were so strong and patient through it all and I feel like that is still apart of you today”. My mom also believes that ​pushing through that rough time in my life, as described by Professor Arkowitz, has enabled me to face even worse challenges in the future. This includes my uphill battle against anxiety and working towards a positive view of myself.

What followed my parent’s divorce was my mom moving out of the house and buying a home in Royal Oak. This meant my sisters and I travelled between two homes regularly (50/50 custody agreement) and eventually started going to school in Royal Oak rather than Ferndale. This was because RO had been reported to give better education. In the article “Moving as a Child Can Change Who You Are as an Adult” by Christopher Ingraham, writer for the Washington Post, it is stated that “Switching homes can be a highly disruptive experience for a child, particularly one navigating the complications of the early teenage years”. Switching homes back and forth has always proved a challenge for me, especially so often. I would constantly ​leave things behind and get confused as to where I left them, and still do. I also felt like I didn’t truly have a home anymore because I was always on the move. My mom commented on my switch from Ferndale to Royal Oak Schools and said “On top of moving between your dad’s house and here...”(referring to her home)”...and having to leave any friends you had behind weighed on my mind a lot. I felt guilty and responsible when you struggled to find friends and were bullied by ‘friends’ you did make”. When I transitioned to a new school, I did find it hard to make friends. I came to Royal Oak in 4th grade, and looking back, I realize I never had a true friend until my freshman year at ROHS. Being shipped back and forth along with not being able to find a group of my own to bond with, led to becoming stuck in feelings of self-loathing and isolation. However, as I have grown older, I have “come out of my shell” in response to these events which has aided me greatly in sharing how I am feeling and leaving toxic thoughts in the past. I feel like if I hadn’t been forced to start speaking up, I wouldn’t have found the courage and strength now to address issues such as self-loathing and loneliness.

Thirdly, my parents eventually started dating again to find someone who would be their new partner. They each fell in love with someone new and got married. This was something that brought up even more change in my life. In the article “What Your Child is Experiencing When You Remarry”, written by the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, it is mentioned that children wonder "Where do I belong?" As they see their parent starting a new family, they may feel more like an outsider than part of the new family structure. This is still a question I often struggle with today even though it’s been a few years since my parents each got remarried. I struggle with my father’s remarriage and as a result i've spent significantly less time around him. The article goes on to speak of losing connection with a parent do to sharing time with them with a new step-parent and step siblings. When my dad remarried I gained three younger step-brothers which needed lot’s of attention from my step-mother and my dad. This caused me to feel like maybe there was something wrong with me. Why wouldn’t my own father want to be around me? Though, like moving schools, it had some negative effects on my psyche, it also led to me developing caring, open-minded, and empathetic characteristics when taking care of and bonding with my step-siblings. I feel that these qualities have become a central part of who I am as a person. I've gone through my battles against anxiety and self-hatred so these qualities have become a key piece in my journey towards accepting myself individually as well as for other.

In conclusion, my American Creed has been defined by how I have been working towards a healthy self-love attitude. This journey has been inspired by, and at the same time, enabled by events in my family and communities history such as my parent’s divorce, remarrying, and moving to a new city to start anew. 

Royal Oak High School

AP Lang 2019

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