It Runs In My Family
By Jayla Greenberg
My family means everything to me, so I’m giving back to them when I succeed. This piece reflects me giving back by making them proud, and by rewriting the course of my family history.
Ever since grades had started to matter to my future, people held high expectations for me. It seemed a bit odd, considering that most of my family did not do well in school. I’ve been told that I was different, that I’d be the one to break the cycle of failure that seemed to run through my DNA. I couldn’t see what they saw in me. But as I got older, I realized that I was different from my relatives.
From then on, it felt much more difficult to uphold my success, as I had so many people putting their faith in me. School had gotten harder, and every time I outdid myself I felt the overwhelming need to do better. It was as if the higher my average became, the higher the stakes got raised.
I started as a prodigy in elementary school, with perfect grades and a newfound passion for reading. But diving into middle school, tasks became more demanding and I fell off the ladder a bit. Seventh grade had not been a good year, and eighth grade followed suit. I started to lose faith in myself and struggled under the stress of making my family proud. After failing to get into any high schools of my choosing, I began to worry much more. I felt as if I were on track to spiral downwards in life, just as my family always seemed to do.
For a while, I questioned how I wanted to proceed with my studies. I was more unsure than ever of the road I was on. I felt as if I had let my parents down and that I didn’t try hard enough.
Ninth grade had given me some clarity on my high school goals. I was back to the grades I’d been comfortable with and I felt more confident in myself. In addition, I loved my friends and my courses, especially my Intro to Law class. For a while, I was content. But towards the end of the school year, many problems arose, one after the other like dominoes. In short, I had to re-evaluate my priorities. Over that summer I realized something felt missing the previous school year, but I couldn’t be sure what it was. I figured, as long as I was a ninety-and-above student, I was reaching my goal. Going into tenth grade, I assumed that I had a pretty decent plan for the year: Join a club, study, possibly get a job. But right from the first day, my plans were turned upside down.
One day, I found myself walking home from eighth period with my friends. The next, I had nine periods and I decided to join the girls soccer team. I was far from my comfort zone. I’d never played soccer seriously and I barely knew the rules. I needed equipment. And practices were four days a week. It was a challenge.
From my first game to the very last, soccer sparked something in me. That feeling of competitiveness and being a part of an amazing team gave me a new sense of identity. On the field, I was shaking away the troubles of school. I was reborn.
Following the end of soccer, I was left wondering where I’d find my next adventure. And it just so happened that it found me. My friend had mentioned Moot Court/Mock Trial to me on the train one evening. It was a team I thought I’d never join due to the extremely demanding requirements. And that evening, on impulse, I joined.
The day I walked into that law firm and met the lawyers, I felt like I belonged. From the time I first presented my work, my fear turned into adrenaline. And to this day, I have not once regretted joining. Moot Court/Mock Trial is an experience that completely changed my high school life and that I’ll continue until senior year. It so greatly fuels my passion for the law and criminal justice and I love to work with my peers, coach and lawyers on the cases. When I compete, it is as if I’ve found my calling.
During the first semester of tenth grade, my grades had risen high above any expectation I set for myself. I was ecstatic. So many things had changed in the course of the year, and all for the better.
I used to believe that there was a good chance that I’d end up like many of the adults in my family, struggling to stay afloat in life. I was nervous with all the pressure I felt to do better. And most of all, I was constantly doubting myself. It was difficult to picture things any other way. But I miraculously found a path and stuck to it. And I’ve been making great strides since. Now, I’m on my way to becoming one of the first in my family to graduate high school and go on to college. I’m in control of my life. And I will be one of the first of many.
Jayla Greenberg is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Brooklyn, NY.