My Silent Battle

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I love to learn. I love to participate. I love to help.

It's a great feeling to be in class, and absorb so much knowledge while I share it with others. But the feeling quickly goes away. I am hushed by those who hate that I talk. It's a silent battle I go through every day, and it's time to let it out.

Suddenly everything I do irritates others. Online, in the halls, in class; I am judged at every angle. From walking funny, talking stupid, being fat, or just breathing in general.

In class, I shrink away slowly. The knot in my throat grows bigger. My eyes begin to water, but I quickly wipe them clean. My head fills with thoughts: "Will I get yelled at for saying this?" "Am I even allowed to whisper?" I answer all the questions in my head and fear helping others.

Nobody notices what happens -- not the teachers, not my peers: no one, but me. I can hear them behind me as I walk to class, "Look she can't even walk right." They post about me online. They might not use my name, but I know it's about me. I know this happens, even if nobody else does.


I try and try to have a voice, but it's hard when I don't have anyone to stand up and empower me. I want someone to help me find my voice again. Someone to help me feel confident and push me to participate, to help others, and help me raise my hand.

Then something changed: a friend noticed, then another, my boyfriend, a teacher, then another teacher, my family. People began to see that I wasn't myself and they didn't know why. All they knew was that they wanted to help. They were that extra push I needed in order to make a change. I was now finding my voice through people who care.

Now it's up to me. I need to remember why I go to school -- to achieve greatness. I help others so they have the confidence to do the same. With my teachers, friends, family and boyfriend, I am my nerdy self again. It feels great to absorb knowledge just like before.

And I always remember: I love to learn. I love to participate. I love to help.    
With a Perspective, I am Karina De Leon.

Karina De Leon is 16 and attends the Life Academy for Health and Biosciences High School in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood.