Ever since fifth grade, Mia vowed to herself to find out what she was good at. She was a good reader, but only liked to read out loud to her stuffed animals; she could hardly pay attention in math; social studies was boring to her, and, though science was interesting, she wasn’t hands-on in the slightest. Throughout her elementary school years, she had been known as the clumsy, quiet girl who didn’t have much personality. She wanted to open her mind and try every new thing available to her to discover her talents. She had to be good at SOMETHING, right?
Mia’s school offered fifth-graders a chance to try an instrument, as well as to be in the school choir. Maybe I’m good at music, Mia had thought then, signing up for both. Before either activity started, she decided to go to a special event where she could try many instruments and choose which one she wanted to play. The night of the event, she went to her school with positive thoughts, thinking one of the many choices would call out to her immediately.
But that was not to be. Flute, trumpet, violin, cello- she tried one after the other, becoming more and more dejected as each one proved to be a failure. Mia tried all the presented instruments in vain, none of them speaking to her. The drums had sounded easy enough to play, but it turned out she had no hand-eye coordination whatsoever. With the trombone, she thought all she had to do was just blow into it, but she still failed to make a sound. Even on the piano, which she thought to be one of the simplest instruments to play, her fingers refused to hit any of the right notes in a scale. Maybe I just need some practice and I’ll get the hang of it, she figured, hesitantly deciding to join band with her friends, Emily and Sophia. At least I’ll get to be with them. Still, at the end of the night, she felt a little hopeless.
When band sessions started, the class specifically focused on band instruments. Again, Mia tried them all with no real success- but since she had to choose one, she chose the clarinet. As the weeks went by, Mia showed little improvement. Most days she could hardly make a sound; and when she did, it was almost always out of tune. She envied Emily and Sophia, both of whom at least made progress in their respective instruments. Another of her friends, Grace, proved to be very talented at the cello in orchestra. But, as for Mia herself, musical instruments were just not a fit for her.
Choir didn’t end up being much better. She was okay at reading the music, and could carry the tune, but struggled to memorize the lyrics. Many nights before a concert she would stay up late trying to engrain the words into her mind, able to just barely stumble along in the song. By the end of the year, Mia was happy to quit band and choir and call it quits- music was not her strong suit.
Well, that was just fine, because now that she was entering middle school, Mia could enroll in a variety of new electives. For the next year she selected art, Spanish, cooking, and theatre, excited about all the options now open to her. Maybe I’ll be good in at least one of these, she thought hopefully. Many of her friends also chose the same classes, and she prayed that she would have a friend in each one to experiment with.
When the summer had come to a close and the fresh new school year arrived, Mia was a little overwhelmed, moving to an entirely new school and meeting many other new people. But her teachers were kind and helpful, her old friends were still there, and gradually she adapted to sixth grade life.
She was required to take a full year of Physical Education, which was a bit of a stretch from the once-a-week sessions she’d had before, but she got used to it and came to like the games they played. During the year she learned how to play many different sports, including soccer, volleyball, badminton, and a little archery when the weather was good. The middle school even had a pool, in which Mia learned to like swimming. Her favorite activity of all was running, which prompted her to join the track and field team in the spring. There she seemed a little slow compared to people like Sophia, who had long legs fit for sprinting, but she still enjoyed the sport and continued to participate every year.
Art brought some of Mia’s imagination to life as her teacher encouraged the class to be creative and draw whatever came to mind. She experimented with acrylic on canvas and watercolor on paper, as well as pottery, sculpting, and origami. Each week brought her great excitement at the unpredictability of which project she would tackle next. Emily was in the same class, and the two shared their work and ideas together. Mia wasn’t exceptionally skilled at any of the units, but when she admired Emily’s flawless work, she felt no envy.
Both Spanish and theatre class were interesting enough, but she found no joy in them. Spanish was tedious and slow; in theatre she discovered that she had about as much acting talent as a turtle compared to Grace, who fit into each character she portrayed like a hand in a glove. Cooking turned out to be a total disaster for Mia’s clumsy side. Almost every day she had to stay after class to clean up whatever mess she made. She appreciated the straightforwardness of just following a recipe but was exasperated by all the precise measurements.
When enrollment for seventh grade opened, Mia continued with art, decided to try French, and grudgingly filled in the empty spaces with a computer and sewing class. She pushed herself to audition for the cheerleading team but changed her mind at the last moment, intimidated by all the popular girls who were surely much more likely to get in than her. She was still happy for Sophia when she got in, though. In the fall, she found that French suited her better, and computers wasn’t as bad as she’d thought it would be, but sewing brought many mishaps and weeks of wearing bandages on her fingers.
During the same year, Mia also became more aware of happenings in the world through a current events unit in her social studies class. She couldn’t understand how she didn’t know what was going on before and made it a habit and hobby to read and watch the news every day. She perked up more in social studies, and it became one of her favorite subjects. Her friends thought she was a little odd for caring so much about happenings in other countries that didn’t even matter in the United States. Mia didn’t even quite know why she herself was interested. Perhaps it was something about wanting to learn about other cultures- and besides, she thought, if nations worked together, they could all learn something from one another.
In eighth grade Mia’s English teacher recommended for her to take yearbook, so she filled out an application and was accepted into the class along with Emily and Sophia. Yearbook was enjoyable as she could use her newfound computer skills, and she liked ordering all the pictures on the page like pieces of a puzzle. She wasn’t entirely confident in her photography skills, however, and opted to stay on the editing team while Emily used her good eye and aim to get the pictures. At the end of the year, Mia purchased a copy of the yearbook for herself as a keepsake of her handiwork.
Middle school had been a good opportunity to try new things. As she reflected at the end of her three years, Mia realized that because of her open mind she had found a liking for many different activities. But she still didn’t feel satisfied. Sure, those were good hobbies, but how would they help her find a job in the real world? Emily, Sophia, and Grace had all found hidden talents that could get them somewhere, while Mia was still stuck feeling mediocre at everything she did. Maybe there’ll be a new class to take in high school that I’ll really love, she assured herself determinedly.
When talking to her friends about enrollment for ninth grade, they suggested that she take a public speaking class to help overcome her shyness. Valuing their opinion, she agreed to sign up for it, though she wasn’t excited at the prospect of having to speak in front of people for a grade. Of the variety of classes she enrolled in, public speaking was the class she was looking forward to the least. She was sure that she would hate it and it would only increase her fear of giving presentations while making her look foolish in front of her peers.
On the first day of the class, Mia shamefully chose a random seat at the back of the room and hid her face as much as she could. As the other students filed in, though, she realized she didn’t really recognize anyone and relaxed, comforted by the fact that at least no one she knew would see her fail. Once the bell had rung the teacher started going over what would happen in the class. At the end of each week, the students would give short presentations, which could be about anything they wanted as long as it provided enough information to talk for the allotted time.
Mia sat up in her seat, exhilaration creeping into her smile. Anything she wanted?
Very quickly (and surprisingly!), public speaking became her favorite class by far. Though at first she was still scared to present in front of people, she realized that if she was talking about a topic she was passionate about, like current events, she could go on for an hour without stopping to think about all the people watching her. Plus, because all the people in the class shared a common cause of anxiety, they became a close-knit group. Because of the class, Mia learned to be confident in herself and came to enjoy speaking in front of crowds.
The public speaking teacher strongly suggested she take leadership and debate the following years, both classes which he also taught. Since this teacher was now her all-time favorite, Mia didn’t hesitate to obey and wasn’t disappointed. In leadership sophomore year, she learned how to be a positive role model and a good leader to her peers. Debate in junior year was entertaining but also useful to know how to disagree politely with someone. Through those classes, Mia finally discovered where her talents lay- and by the time she graduated high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to be what she grew up.
As she stood in line to receive her high school diploma, Mia looked around the gym at all the students who had finally made it with her. She picked out her three best friends: Sophia, who had been offered a tennis scholarship for her skill- Grace, who applied for an arts school to become a musician or actress- and Emily, who planned to become a world-famous photographer. Mia had finally achieved the goal she’d set for herself in fifth grade all those years ago. She didn’t regret the time it took, because now she could say confidently that she knew her purpose in the world.
. . . . .
Thirty years later, Mia stood before hundreds of thousands of people, all staring up at her expectantly. She stepped to the podium, surveyed the crowd calmly, and began her speech: “People of America, I stand here before you, gazing out into an ocean of faces, a melting pot of all races and colors and personalities. Every single one of you is different, and yet many of you have something in common: you have placed your trust in me, as your next leader, to protect, defend, and serve you, all the while keeping your interests at heart.
“It is an immense responsibility for any one person to have, and yet I feel that through my experience as a former mayor and governor, I am adequate for the position. From the bottom of my heart, from the depths of my soul, I thank you, America, for blessing me with this opportunity to carry my country to prosperity and glory. I promise to you this day that you have not made the wrong decision.” Mia took a breath and continued to speak about the history of America and the role the past presidents played in the growth and formation of the United States. She tied the past in with the present, assuring the people that she too would continue the legacy of the country and live up to her predecessors’ accomplishments. Finally, she spoke about the future, painting a mental picture of an America that cared for its children and its environment, and served as a role model to the rest of the world.
“And so we will march,” Mia concluded, “with our heads held high and our voices raised as one, into the auspicious and innovative possibilities that are hidden just beyond the mountain of tomorrow. With the highs will come lows, with the sunshine a little rain, but- as it has always done before- the clouds will clear, revealing once more the shining hope that the American dream brings to all its people.
“Every single one of you has something to contribute to this country. All of you were put on this Earth for a reason; whether to be a farmer, teacher, parent- all of you are important and crucial to the survival of America. As for me, my purpose is apparently being the president of the United States.” A murmur of laughter rippled through the throng, and Mia paused to let it subside. “I am honored to have the opportunity and privilege to serve you all. I cannot wait to see what happens next in the amazing journey of this country! Thank you, and may God bless the people of the United States of America.”
Mia finished with a smile and stepped back into the phalanx of people gathered with her on the Capitol building balcony. She shook hands cordially with the former president and First Lady, then followed the flow into the Capitol to the deafening roar of the crowd. She was starting a new chapter of the next four years of her life, and she was ready. Mia had found her voice after all.