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Be the Change: Just Another Rat

Joined: 12/31/2015
Posts: 2
I spend a lot of time waiting -- in bathroom lines, for Wi-fi to connect, for sales to come, for injuries to heal.

But most of all, I spend time in class and out of class waiting for my ideas to be “ok". Especially as a student in Journalism, I am all too familiar with offering ideas and waiting patiently for a drastically modified (but approved) prototype.

For the most recent edition of the school paper, I suggested a focus on students who struggle with emotional and mental illness. I was tired of giving up on ideas that I believed in, so I fought hard for this stigmatized and feared topic.

I won -- but only after a series of lectures on proper journalistic protocol.

When I set out to conduct interviews, I was surprised by how easily my peers opened up to a stranger. They spoke of sexual assault, self-harm, bullying, and their methods to relieve stress. What struck me most was that these methods never involved reaching out to people; as they told me one by one, “who would listen?”

They told me that in the end, everyone else was too busy with their own lives in this “rat race” to truly listen, and thus they gave up hope on receiving help. It was the classic case of learned helplessness: if any animal, like a rat, faces consequences beyond control, it will give up, even when circumstances change and its actions do have an effect. When I had read about this concept before, it had sounded foreign, but now I realize that it manifests itself everyday in the people around me simply because no one had offered to truly listen.

Even when I returned to the journalism room, my Editor-in-Chief immediately informed me that any information gathered would need the principal’s approval, and the girl next to me glanced over at my article before commenting, “Man, those stories are so cheesy” and turning back to her own work.

After years of having my ideas repeatedly rejected and overlooked, I thought I was pretty close to keeping my mouth shut from now on. But now I know how easy and devastating it can be to learn helplessness for society’s convenience, and conversely, how easy it can be to support others just by sitting down and listening to their ideas.

Sure, I’ll wait for mundane things: for the test proctor to call time, for my microwave pasta to warm, for the automatic toilet to flush. But as I enter 2016, I will no longer wait for other people’s approval and opinion of ideas if it means sacrificing character and perspective.

I have no grand resolutions; I just want to listen -- to the stressed student, the concerned parent, the suspicious admin, the quirky stranger, because their words are valid, because there is no need for learned helplessness.

If I am to be a rat in the rat race, let me be the one who hears what her fellow rats have to say.
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Be the Change essay being chosen as one of our finalists in the running for 1st place for our Dec. 2015 and Jan. 2016 teen writing competition. Be proud of your accomplishment!

We are in the process of selecting our top three winners, and naming the 1st place winner from the narrowed field.

We will post all winning essay results by February 29th. You can check this page for the results after February 29th:

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 7:28:39 PM
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Dec 2015 / Jan 2016 Be the Change essay being selected as our first place essay!

We will be contacting you via your registration email for prize details.

You can check this page after March 20th for all the writing contest results::

We apologize for the delay in processing for this contest.

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 8:57:04 PM
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Comment by PavlinaFerguson

Joined: 7/3/2019
Posts: 1
I have read your post. It solved some aspects of the problem. I think you need to make the problem clearer
Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 9:41:43 AM
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