Youth Voice Writing Contest 2021 — Finalist, Essay
To me, inspiration can be an opportunity. When we get inspired by something, that becomes an open window in our lives. In that very moment, a shift happens, for better or worse. There was an opportunity that occurred when I was living in my group home. I was in 4th grade, and the opportunity was to run a mile for my class. Three kids were to represent their class, so I took that chance because I had nothing to lose. I was first in the whole school. That opportunity inspired me to begin to run for my school, and led me all the way to my high school’s cross country team. Inspiration can be an opportunity that pops up in your life, leading you toward a wonderful path like it did for me. There can be an opportunity that inspires you to do something, or there can be an inspiration that creates an opportunity for you.
Inspiration can be selfless. Whatever it is was that inspired you, someone or something must have contributed to it. For example, I recently watched a documentary that inspired me to want to create an after-school program for kids. There were many people involved in the making of the documentary, and one filmmaker with the initial idea for the documentary. One way or the other, we have someone or something to give our thanks to — if it weren’t for them, our inspiration would not have happened. The Orangewood foster care system never failed to create opportunities like this for us. They held many events where foster kids gathered together happily, like camping trips or Christmas parties. Those were vital moments where we were inspired by each other. Inspiration is everywhere and within us.
Inspiration can be free. First, it can be free in the sense that there are no limits to what can inspire you. Looking up to the sky can inspire; looking down at a plant breaking through a crack in the sidewalk can inspire; looking to your left or right and seeing something unexpected can inspire. It is truly limitless! Second, inspiration can be freeing for your spirit. Maybe you have been stuck and stagnant in life, and you get inspired to create something that can potentially bring success to your life in various ways. Writing this for me is actually freeing. As a 21-year-old living in 2021, there are many unhealthy distractions that threaten to keep me pinned down. For my New Year’s resolution, I wanted to focus on things that will bring light to my life. I know that writing this will inspire someone, and that gives me a feeling of contentment. It makes me feel like I have played a part in society, and that to me is a step forward. Doing things like this in life are freeing for me, because I am doing what I love while helping others.
Inspiration is intimate, because it is a flow of energy that runs through your body — a flow that only you experience. Inspiration happens to people differently or similarly, but whichever way it happens, it is a unique experience within yourself. When I was homeless, I had a lot of free time on my hands because I didn’t have anything to distract me with. All I had was myself, my mom, God, nature and strangers. Anywhere I was, I experienced inspiration by observing my surroundings. I was able to learn a lot about human behavior and about how we all cooperate as a society. My thoughts, such as ideas, curiosity or made up stories, were all flowing through me. That was a very intimate moment in life, because I was highly aware and conscious within myself.
Inspiration is bravery. Sometimes we get inspired by people’s stories and some of those stories are truly awe-inspiring. The story itself is always more inspiring than the person telling it. When I was in foster care, I had the honor of hearing stories of children’s upbringings. Knowing that it is not always easy being vulnerable and open about personal struggles, seeing a person talk about it is truly inspiring. I recently gave my testimony to my Bible study group.
As a foster youth, your upbringing is difficult one way or the other, regardless of how much work Orangewood does to make sure every kid is taken care of; it is still a scary experience for a child. Telling my story, I was fortunate to get a positive reaction — everyone was inspired. It is a powerful moment, when you feel that everyone in the room is touched by your story. It encourages you to continue to share, in the hope that you can inspire people to be brave and share in turn.
Finally, inspiration is experience. Every example I mentioned here has been an experience for me. It is an experience of inspiration that never leaves your side, and it reminds you to keep going and exploring the world. I know it sounds crazy for me to say this, but I am grateful that I was homeless and in foster care. I met so many amazing people, even if it was only for a moment. Sometimes I think life puts people around you for a short time, but usually those are the most impactful. They were for me. I don’t talk to anyone I met in my group home or in Orangewood, but I still think about them. Their story, kindness and presence inspired me.
My time in the foster care system allowed me to have inspiring opportunities. I learned life lessons that I still carry with me, and I plan on teaching them to my children or anyone who crosses my path that is in need of help and support. The most powerful inspiration that I took with me after leaving the foster care system was that I was not alone. Foster care is like a community within itself. Anytime I meet someone who was in foster care, we immediately have a connection. That is the beautiful thing about it: we are not alone. Inspiration can be a personal sentiment but we are linked by the universal experience of inspiration, and by each other.
Inspiration is All.