Brienna Burkett

2016-2017 Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Brienna Burkett, 15
Honorable Mention, 14-16 Age Group
Simi Valley High School
Simi Valley, California

Ten missed calls. Guilt and distress plagued me in every breathe I took. I refused to answer my mother’s phone calls, even as I continued seeing her name appear on my screen. I was overwhelmed with resentment towards her, for leaving. How could I forgive someone for putting me through so much confusion, just as a small child? I was torn, wondering how she could let herself slip away. I have not seen her since kindergarten, and I haven’t spoken to her for almost a year. I constantly would ask myself: am I truly, honestly doing the right thing by avoiding each and every phone call? Every single day, in the back of my mind, there is a burning question that I am dying to find the answer to.

I have always been a very forgiving person, even if someone has wronged me, I forgive them. When I was five years old, my parents were in the process of a divorce. Instead of handling this the right way, my mom fell into the dark path of drinking her feelings. At a young age, I saw the two loving parents who raised me [to] go down this path and saw my mother morph into a whole new person. After a long time of my mom attempting to get custody of us, my dad won the fight. And then she was gone. Growing up, I encountered the real world sooner than most kids would. A hardworking as my dad is, I knew raising three kids alone was not going to be effortless. Moving into highschool, I felt as if I stepped into a new world. In the small, plain town of Simi Valley, things suddenly seemed to become vast. Everyone around me seemed to know who they were, and that was terrifying. I couldn’t figure out who I was- while there was constant pressure on my to plan my future.

I was always a timid, soft-spoken girl, and I was never sure of my own actions. As I continue to grow, though, I am learning what it means to be confident in myself. I no longer see the past as I used to. As Thoreau writes, “All the past is equally a failure and a success; it is a success in as much as it offers you the present opportunity” With new found passions, such as writing and photography, I am learning to use my voice. Like trees, as Thoreau writes in his journal, we must learn to grow. We must realize that our past can not define us; it can not break us. Our past is what we should use as a guide, and we need to “cultivate the tree”, which means we need to appreciate our life and reap the benefits of what we have been given.  I’ve learned that life is a gift, and we need to live each day as if it is our last. After learning that, I gathered the courage to pick up the phone.

I picked up the phone and said what I always wanted to. I listened to my mother’s words, and I could hear the regret in her voice. That is when I finally gathered the strength to forgive her, and I felt as though a weight was lifted off of my chest. As I listened to her crying over the phone, I stopped picturing a heartless, deranged stranger I always had. Instead, I found it in my heart to see her as a human. I do not know if, or when, I will see her again, but with all my heart I want her to know that I forgive her. In trees that have lived on earth for hundreds of years, we can look into our past ancestors- and connect through history. I am going to challenge myself to learn from the past, let go of the past, and live right in the present. Because that is what truly matters in life. As I look into the mirror, I do not see the lost, hesitant young girl I used to be. I see someone who is growing each and every day- I see someone with a voice. I may not be the fearless, inspiring woman I want to be yet, but I will continue to strive towards that goal. Laugh more. Take risks. Be courageous. Find yourself. Live your life. I challenge all of us to this: live deliberately.