Friday, August 29th was my birthday, and I was positive it was going to be a great day. I would sail through my classes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Then, my mom would pick me up as soon as school ended and we would head to the DMV to get my driver’s permit before having dinner with my grandparents at the melting pot and opening presents. It was the perfect plan, but then I got an email I couldn’t ignore.
Sitting in class, I discovered that Sophie, after fighting cancer for a year, was going home for comfort care only. That meant there would be no more chemo, no more hospitals, no more surgery.
The rest of my day did go as planned. However, I wasn’t nearly as excited about turning 15 when I knew that for me, there would be many more birthdays, but for Sophie, there wouldn’t be any more. Sophie died the next day, August 30th, 2013.
The next few months were a whirlwind. I attended Sophie’s funeral and afterwards had to jump right back into school and everyday life. In April 2014, I heard from Sophie’s Dad about the Be Loud! Foundation, which is named after one of Sophie’s poems Be Loud. One line always stuck out to me, and it has been the desktop background on my tablet since I first saw it: “Be loud, And move with grace, Explode with light, Have no fear.”
I had no idea what that meant, but I did know that I wanted to be loud like Sophie. One thing you’ll notice about me is that I’m not a loud person. On almost every progress report I’ve received, I have multiple comments along the lines of “Alissa is usually quiet in class” or “I would like to see Alissa contribute more to in class discussions.” So I decided that in order to be loud, I would have to beat introversion. Introverts tend to be quieter and more reserved than other people, because they focus on internal thoughts and feelings instead of external stimulants. So I figured introversion was the reason I was seemingly unable to “be loud”. I told myself that junior year, I would speak up in class, I would force myself to go to school dances to socialize instead of staying in my room, and I would stop being quiet and introverted.
This plan failed horribly.
My idea of speaking up in class lasted for, at most, two weeks. After that, I reverted back to only speaking when I needed to. Going to school dances didn’t work out either. However, I didn’t begin to accept the fact that my plan wasn’t working until I was telling my teacher about how I was writing my junior speech about “beating introversion” during community dinner, and he told me that introversion wasn’t something you need to beat. That was when I decided I needed to get to the bottom of my problem, and figure out what it really meant to be loud.
I found myself in Sophie’s bedroom talking to her father about my junior speech. We got around to talking about Sophie’s poem and being loud. Sophie’s dad cleared up all of my confusion in just a few words. He said that being loud didn’t actually mean being loud and extroverted. Being loud is about being authentic. If you can be yourself, and be proud of yourself, you are being loud just by showing others it’s ok to just be you.
I’m still learning to be loud, but I now know that being “quiet” isn’t a flaw, it’s just the way my brain works. I was reading Sophie’s poem again, and I noticed a different line than the one I first latched onto. I think that this line sums up everything I’ve learned about myself, and is also the best advice I can give to all of you.
“Be yourself, Don’t hide away, Be joyous, Because you are you, Be loud”