进入高中后, 我会花几个小时的时间来思考我的不安全感来自何方, 和爸爸说说妈妈在的时候的那些事。在这段时间里, 我常常望着爸爸飘摇的衬衫，长时间地发呆。那种无助的感觉，是一辈子忘不掉的。但正是这种重复的反思，我开始到达用另外一种方式看问题的临界点。想想她的成长环境，被暴戾、酗酒的父亲和粗壮大意的母亲抚育成人，被好几个没有自制力的男人纠缠不休，为生活的不公平而酗酒麻木自己，然后意识到为时已晚,。我扪心自问，难道我的生活与她的有什么差别吗？
我开始变得开朗，开放。在我读高中的这一阶段, 我开始和其他人谈论那些让我着迷的想法, 比如太空旅行和哲学, 而不是疯狂地寻找共同点。我退出足球队, 是因为我认识到自己很大程度上是为了获得参赛带来的地位；我加入跨州长跑，是因为我真正喜欢跑步。几乎每天早晨，我首先为我的同学们敞开教室的大门, 在他们抵达学校时迎接他们, 希望能点亮他们的每一天。我开始投身于学生会的工作中，当选学生会主席时, 我觉得所做的都很值得。实际上，我也觉得主席这个角色并无多大意义，但我找到了帮助他人的途径。我的友谊的基础，从相互考验转变为真实、真诚的尊重。
那天夜里, 我听着爸爸的心跳, 心里充满了愤怒和悲伤。然而事后, 我内心感激我从母亲那里学到的教训。我曾经历的痛苦，是我成为今天的自己的一个必经的路程，我不再担心表白自己。
The soft thumping of my dad's heart provided a small degree of solace as I cried with my head on his chest. I was in fifth grade. He had just told me that my mom, having been attacked by her boyfriend, was in the hospital. I remember being surprised with myself, surprised that I would be sad after all she had done. This was the same person who, when I was eight, threw a drunken party at our house for teens younger than I am now. This was the same person who would disappear after spending nights at the bar, the person who went to jail for trying to strangle my dad in an inebriated stupor. She had not been a part of my life for over a year since my dad received sole custody; I thought I had closure, that I was ready to move on. Yet, hot tears still ran down my cheek as I imagined her swollen face and the bruises on her arms.
I had always been shy as a kid and the absence of my mom exacerbated this problem as I tried to unhealthily suppress my insecurities and fill her absence with others' approval. In sixth grade, I constantly sought the attention of a group of kids who, in turn, bullied me. Consequently, when I switched schools going into seventh grade, I was shy and timid, afraid to engage with new people. I pictured myself near the bottom of a rigid social hierarchy. The next year, I started to branch out more, but inside, I remained obsessed with how others perceived me.
Entering high school, I would spend hours at a time thinking about my insecurity and talking through memories of my mom with my dad. During this time, I would always remember how I had stared numbly into the ripples of my dad's shirt as a fifth grader. I could never forget that feeling of helplessness, but with repeated reflection, I began to understand this moment in a different way. Given her circumstances — raised by an abusive, alcoholic father and a neglectful mother; involved in several dysfunctional relationships with controlling men; drinking to numb the injustices of life, but then realizing it was too late to stop — I have no way of knowing if my life would be any different from hers.
For the first time, I began to understand an idea that has since granted me freedom: I cannot walk in my mom's shoes, and thus, no one else can truly walk in mine. The way others perceive me is inherently inaccurate, so I do not need to concern myself with what others think. This realization provided me the freedom to become untethered from the approval of others, finally at ease with myself.
I started to open up. Throughout high school, I began talking to others about ideas that fascinated me, like space travel and philosophy, rather than frantically searching for common ground. I quit football, realizing that I largely participated for the status it brought me, and joined cross country, because I genuinely enjoy running. I started holding the door open for my classmates almost every morning, greeting them as they arrived at school, hoping to brighten their day. I became engaged in my role on student council, which paid off when I was elected student body president. Even then, it wasn't the role itself that I found meaningful, but the way I could use it to help others. The basis of my friendships shifted from validation seeking to mutual, genuine respect.
As I listened to my dad's heartbeat that night, my mind filled with anger and sorrow. However, in hindsight, I am thankful for the lessons I learned from my mother; the pain I felt was a necessary step in the process of becoming the person I am today, someone who is unafraid to express himself.