Fitting In

by Jennifer Parry

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Give in just to be accepted? I couldn’t swallow that.

As I sat in the motel room anticipating the next day’s state cross-country race, I kept wondering if I was talented at all as an athlete. I was struggling with all the difficult emotions a 16-year-old could have. I felt I was running worse than when I was a freshman. I felt ugly. The fact I’d never had a date or a boyfriend like all of my other friends compounded my feelings of insecurity. And I wanted so badly to feel accepted.

I had gone to bed early, and my teammates thought I was asleep. I heard them giggling, and then they nudged my shoulder and said, “Here, Jenny. Have some water.” I could distinctly smell that it was not water.

I was angry at my supposed “friends” for trying to play a trick on me. Did they think I was stupid? I was scared they might force the liquor down my throat. I wanted to run away to the security of my mother’s arms, yet that seemed so childish for a teenager who yearned for independence.

A thousand questions raced through my mind. By drinking the liquor, would I be part of the “in” crowd? Would the alcohol make me beautiful? Would it give me a boyfriend? Would I be able to run faster, or even win the race?

I knew all the answers to these questions, so I boldly said, “No, that’s not water and I’m not going to drink it.” I believe both of those girls beat me in the race the next day. However, I knew I had won a race in the Lord’s eyes because I had kept the Word of Wisdom.

The bus trip home seemed particularly long. I was anxious to return home to my family and tell my mother what happened. The next night at the dinner table Mom presented me with a gift. I didn’t recall ever receiving a present unless it was Christmas or my birthday. My five brothers and sisters watched me open it. They were all thankful for and proud of my decision.

Around that dinner table is where I felt talented, beautiful, and accepted—an acceptance that I may never find at school or on a cross-country team.

Illustrated by Roger Motzkus