AN Essay Contest HOSTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
DOTDASH MEREDITH & REAL SIMPLE
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays.
‘You Don’t Owe Anyone Anything’
By Megumi Jindo
The reality of missing school for a whole two weeks and dealing with the stares of society.
When I got out of the hospital and had to go back to school for the first time in two weeks, I was very nervous—scared to go back to reality. And to go back to school—society. The other kids would give me a mystified look and they would stare at me in surprise, endlessly.
I told my friends and everyone who would listen about my feelings. But they told me to not worry, that it would be alright.
But I still didn’t believe it.
Because…how could I if this always happened anyway?
But the Sunday before my first day back at school, a mentor of mine—that I was meeting for the first time—told me, “You don’t owe anyone anything.” She told me to pretend that I had on a trenchcoat and sunglasses when I walked in as an excuse to why everyone would be staring at me. But the part where she said, “You don’t owe anyone anything”…
“You don’t owe anyone anything.”
…those words were the key factor in me realizing a lot of things. And I think that what my mentor said impacted me way more than I realized.
One, I started to believe a bit more in myself—more passionately.
Two, I started to be more aware that I don’t have to say the words “I’m sorry” so excessively.
Three, I realized that I have a right to speak my words, to speak my sentiments, more strongly and courageously.
And lastly, I realized something else as I walked into class the next day.
The kids looked at me and the teachers all looked at me too. I immediately felt my cheeks getting hot so I bit the insides as my hand quickly went to my neon orange stress ball that I got from the hospital, and clenched all my swirling anxiety into it. But as soon as I remembered that quote of my mentor, I realized that I should keep my head up high, pretend I had on the trenchcoat and a pair of privé revaux sunglasses instead of just an old sweater, and walk through the staring eyes—the nosy people of society. And so I walked to my seat but seeing that someone else was sitting in it, I just shrugged and sat at another seat which had no owner, confidently.
That scene went on for each class, with butterflies in my stomach. And when the last bell rang and the kids rushed out of the classes, whooping, I realized that I had gotten through it.
I got through the hardest part.
And this feeling I always had was called “social anxiety” and everyone had it and it would always happen. But why do people cause us to have anxiety? Why do we let them? Why do we let society claim us? For I had let society judge me and make me feel nervous that day.
It always did. But it shouldn’t and so all we have to do is keep our heads up even if we feel the crown slipping off. Get those trenchcoats and sunglasses on and stare right back. Tell them: “We don’t owe anyone anything.”
Recently, I was admitted to the hospital for the first time in five years. It wasn’t abnormal for me to go to the hospital with the chronic illness that I had but after five years, I thought it was all good until I had to go suddenly, due to severe dehydration after running in my cross country race. Not only was the duration in the hospital tough, but coming back to school after was also definitely hard. I knew that it was normal to be nervous and everything but it was just so nerve-wracking. I had been gone from school for two weeks, people would wonder about me and my existence and where I had been and then they would stare at me as soon as I came in, and then the questions would come bombarding along with the heavy workload that I had to make up. But I met my new mentor the day before I was to go back to school and she really inspired me to not worry about anything and to be confident in myself. And that, “you don’t owe anyone anything.”
I had a lot of realizations. I didn’t need to answer their nosy questions, it was my business, I didn’t need to worry because of them, where I was and what I had been doing was my problem alone. And the next day, the day I returned to school, I totally forgot about what my mentor said. Instead, what came were butterflies in my stomach and red cheeks. But halfway through, remembering what my mentor said, I walked through the rest of the day with confidence. And just like that, school ended and the tough part was over. It was over and it had turned out completely okay. I didn’t have anything to worry about. I learned that was what it was like to live in a society where how you look and who you are mattered more than being confident and being embraced. But I matured and understood that you shouldn’t care at all and you should just be confident in who you are. And because of that whole self-realization experience, I decided to write this piece and share it with everyone.
My Simple Realization: An Essay Contest & Story Collection
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays. This contest was produced in partnership with Dotdash Meredith and the team at Real Simple as part of the SeeHer Initiative.
Megumi Jindo is a junior in high school. She loves writing, reading, listening to music, photography, art, and playing sports. She also loves songwriting and collecting new vocab to expand her writing style. She aims to become a best-selling author one day and wants to use her writing as a way to educate and help America be a better version of itself. Also, she loves sunrises, sunsets, astrology, psychology, and eating junk food!