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Scarlet Letter
A high school experiment teaches Carly Miller what it's like to be conspicuously different.

By Carly Miller

On a crisp Friday morning my classmates and I arrived at school wearing our issues on our chests. We had just finished reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlett Letter" and, to connect deeper to the book, our teacher assigned us to wear a letter that represented our own character flaw for 24 hours.

My high school is big: 2,000 kids. Few students understood why a cardboard "C" was hanging around my neck.
    
Friends rushed up to me and asked about my letter. Their excitement to hear about my character flaw, something I'm not very excited to share, felt strange and almost wrong. "The C stands for Control," I repeated over and over that day, "because I get anxious about things that I can't control." I later realized that I wanted to control how I told people about my letter because I wanted to control what they thought of my control problem.

As I walked the halls, kids would stare at my letter; their eyes fixated on the C until they looked at my face for something to explain this odd accessory. I found solace when I spotted other letter bearers. These people would smile at me and I felt that despite our different letters, we shared a common bond.
    
In those 24 hours, I learned that everyone struggles with something. Everyone has a scarlet letter. Once I wore my problem on my chest and my heart on my sleeve, I was exposed. I belonged to the society around me, like Hester did in "The Scarlet Letter's" Puritanical New England community. But unlike Hester, I wasn't alone when I saw other letters, other classmates. In 24 hours, I became more empathetic, more confident and I drew strength knowing that if passerby who also struggles with control, or struggles with issues in life as we all do, saw my letter, they might know they have a compassionate friend in me.  

With a Perspective. I'm Carly Miller

Carly Miller is a junior at Mountain View High School where she swims and works on the school newspaper.

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