“The Enemy Within Me”


     Every morning, before I even go downstairs to pour a large cup of roasting hot coffee, I go and look in the mirror. As I step in the mirror, not even two seconds later, I spot the devil in disguise behind me, creeping over my shoulder. Criticism whispers in my ear as I stand in the mirror, closing my eyes hoping that confidence will be able to come save me from the harsh commentary that Criticism will drill into my brain. She stands there in her all black outfit, with her hood up, covering the top of her eyelids. “Your under eyes are black, did you get enough sleep last night? Maybe you should cover up those dark circles with concealer, and maybe do that pimple while you're at it too, we would never want someone to see those imperfections of yours,” says Criticism. 

     Just as I thought she left, I walked into my closet to find her sitting there with her legs crossed at the vanity at which I just covered all my blemishes with concealer. “Did you miss me?” she says with a grin on her face, trying to hold back a subtle laugh. I ignore her and pretend as if I didn't hear her, but deep down, she knows she is getting under my skin. I reach for a blue pair of straight leg jeans and a tight long sleeve pink shirt that shows the smallest bit of midriff. As I begin to pull my jeans up my legs, she starts laughing with no hesitation, “Hey Lil, remember when those jeans were too big for you? Maybe we should try to cut back a little and regain that shape again, but that's just my opinion.” I try to shake it off because personally I love these jeans and think they flatter me, but her comment is making me second guess myself. Maybe she is right. As I rip the tags off  my new shirt, she puts her face to her palm and starts shaking her head. “Are you sure you want to wear something that tight? I am just looking out for you.” I sigh, holding back the tears she constantly makes me want to burst into. I rehang the clothes I had originally intended to wear, start searching for a new outfit, and end up picking out the baggiest pair of sweatpants I own and the band sweatshirt that is three sizes too big. As I begin to put it on, I hear a high pitched voice from the corner of the room, “Wow, that looks so much better, we would not want to showcase those big thighs and the stomach that you are growing!” 

     She follows me around the rest of the day to the point where I can feel the weight of the leash she has tied around my neck, criticizing every move I make. “Why are you talking to them, you know they don’t like you, so stop trying, it's embarrassing,” she says as I walk through the hallways. Even when I go to work, she is over my shoulder trying to find the smallest things to pick at, constantly calling me lazy, saying I can do better. I get home, shower, wash my makeup off, put on my pajamas, and head to my room to go lie down. I soon realize I do not see her anymore. Where could she have gone? I go and tuck myself under the covers and start to realize I am actually not alone. For a second, for the first time today, I feel an ounce of relief in my brain. Standing in the corner, I see Confidence, glowing in her yellow, monochromatic outfit with white, smiley face, platform converse on. She reaches over to me, grabs my hand and smiles. “It will all be okay, you are doing great and are exactly where you need to be, it's just a matter of time until you love yourself enough that you will no longer have her around.” I smile as she walks away, and I start to feel a bit of remorse for Criticism after I realize that she must be unhappy with herself. Her only way to cope with it is to take it out on other people. I find comfort in realizing that I am not alone through any of this, and there are other people out there suffering from the same thing. 

Christopher Gesk 

Grade 12

     It was a sunny, spring day for the semi-final game in the WPIAL Class 4A Baseball Playoffs. We were playing Montour, who was the number one seed. We were the underdogs in the game, but up 2-0 after two innings due to some mistakes by Montour. It was the third inning when a high fly ball was hit to me. I tracked it down, but when I tried to squeeze the ball in my glove, the ball somehow popped out. When this happened, my heart dropped, and I felt like it could not be real. I remember all of the parents on the other team heckling me, and I felt like crawling up in a ball and crying. This led to a run being scored in that inning. We lost the game 4-2, but I felt I had lost the game for us since I gave the opposing team momentum to score. I felt I let everyone down and could not look anyone in the eyes or speak to them.

     I locked myself in my bedroom the next day and did not talk to anyone, including my parents. That all changed when my assistant coach, Tommy Sankovich, called me. Tommy has been my coach since I was ten years old, and he was the only person who I felt saw my full potential. On the phone, I bawled my eyes out telling him how I was a disgrace to everybody. He told me, “So what? You dropped that ball. What happens in the past stays in the past. You cannot control it any longer. The only thing you can control, though, is what happens in the future.” He was completely right. He made me realize that I had to use this moment as a stepping stone to make myself a better player and a stronger person both physically and mentally. I challenged myself that I could not let this feeling happen again. That afternoon, I asked him to shoot me as many fly balls as he could, and he agreed. He set up our pitching machine into the air at max speed to replicate the highest fly balls imaginable. My head coach came as well, which showed that I still had people who cared for me. I caught around 200 balls that day, which had me so exhausted that I could not walk. This season for summer ball, I did not drop a single ball as well as being one of our best hitters. I felt relieved that I turned my game around. This one small situation was not only a game changer, but a life changer as well.

     When I think of this moment in my life, I realize mistakes are gifts in disguise. They let you go one step back in order to go two or more steps forward. You have to learn how to adapt and learn from them. Once you identify how to improve yourself from that certain mistake, it creates one less weak spot in your abilities. Also, this moment  showed me that you need to fail. You need to experience that feeling of failure since it will give you fuel to succeed. To add on to that, failure shows what weaknesses you have. It allows you to see what skills you need to work on.

“Imagination and Legacy”

Abigail Dunkard, Grade 12

     Walt Disney's life has come and gone, but his legacy has not faded. In a world filled with competition, greed, and selfishness, Disney dared to dream and bring something no one else could to life. He was an innovator, a storyteller, an artist, and he is one of my heroes.             

     Many do not consider Walt Disney a real-life hero. He never cured a fatal disease, saved an animal from extinction, prevented the fall of a country, or saved the world, but he successfully changed it. He revolutionized the field of animation and storytelling, bringing joy to millions. He created one of the biggest animation companies in the world despite having his characters stolen and claiming bankruptcy on several occasions. Disney and I share a few beliefs that do not align with the ideologies of modern corporations: adults can still be kids at heart; you should work to make the world a better place, not to make yourself rich; and things are only impossible until someone dares to prove otherwise. 

     Disney believed in the imaginative and innovative minds of children, and that success comes from being a child at heart. My imagination is what makes me, me. I have been creating stories since I could form complete sentences and drawing since I could hold a crayon. Losing that childhood wonder and belief in the magic of the world around me would be surrendering to the dismal side of reality. I want to bring the stories that I dreamed of as a child to life and allow the world to see the magic that Disney and I believe is inside everyone.   

     With the innocence that lies inside every child's mind comes the hope of making the world a better place. Disney's main goal was to bring happiness to people, not to ensure his own wealth. I am not concerned with the money I will earn or how big of a company I can grow because money cannot buy a fulfilling life. My name will not live on in the hearts of others if I earn nothing but money. If I want to be remembered, I have to make a real difference or bring the world something worth remembering. Disney helped me to realize that lasting memories are worth far more than any sum of money.        

     Disney believed in overcoming selfish desires to uncover the magic that exists under the dreariness of everyday life. He stressed the importance of taking risks and undertaking tasks that no one else dared to attempt. Making the seemingly impossible possible is a goal I have had since childhood. I strive to push the boundaries of entertainment and create stories unlike any that have come before me. Disney overcame every hardship thrown at him to create a world that would live far beyond him. I, too, have overcome challenges that aim to push me away from my goals. From roadblocks in my writing and art, to adults steering me toward a more "practical" career, I have defended my dreams because I believe in them. Even if the odds are against me, I am daring to be an innovator, and no one will change that. 

     Disney had a vision of a beautiful tomorrow that was only a dream away, and he dared to bring that dream to life. Like Disney, I want to say that I died without regrets and lived a life worth living. I want to tell stories of traveling the world and building a train system in my backyard. I want to say that I brought smiles to people's faces and created positive memories that will last a lifetime. Life is an adventure, and we will only ever reach infinity and beyond if we dare to be different and make our dreams a reality.


     As I sat down in my bedroom late one night, I desperately tried to finish my homework. I was so exhausted. Despite the drowsiness, I knew I had to finish because criticism was hovering over my shoulder at my desk. Criticism glared at me all the time with her crystal blue eyes and blonde hair, always waiting for me to make an error. She laughed, “Elena, you’re pathetic, seriously, four hours of studying for a test?” What Criticism didn’t know is that her words made my brain slow down all the more. I’d get distracted and upset. How could I stop? I had to be ready for my AP Chem exam. “Ugh , AP Chem, a class I didn’t even want to take, but you made me OF COURSE,” but my outburst didn’t stop her. Criticism continued with her never ending train of judgment for every fault she could find. 

     Later that night, just like most, I sat alone in my room thinking about the next day and getting ready for bed. Everytime without fail, I hear that perfect voice of hers, in her tone of disgust, “What are you gonna wear tomorrow? God! I hope it's better than the disaster you put on this morning. Oh, and remember sweetie, stick to the salads.” I respond to her in my defeated tone “Got it,” as I feared what would happen if I didn't listen to her. “You need me,” Criticism always reminded me. Finally, Criticism went to sleep in her matching pajamas and beautifully curled hair, but I was still there, awake in my old tee shirt and mismatched shorts. I thought about everything she said throughout the day.  It’s ironic how I claimed that I was so exhausted all day, only to finally feel wide-awake at midnight.  She was draining the life out of me, but I barely had the energy to care. The idea of trying to fix everything about myself started to feel nauseating. “Is there a point to hating yourself?” I said in my head.

     I woke up the next morning in my same sullen mood, ready to do it all over again with the constant head-ache named Criticism. Then, reluctantly, I got out of bed and hopped in the shower while she was still asleep in my room. Standing in my mirror, I thought “What would happen if I didn’t listen to her?” Of course I knew the answer, but it terrified me. Always relying on Criticism to tell me the truth, I wondered if she was the glue keeping me together or the opposite. But, what if her truth wasn’t the whole truth? I know that I am not perfect but that doesn’t make me any less of a person. My mindset controls my outcome, not Criticism’s comparison to others, or  how I “should” be. I walked into my room ready for my daily dose of her, but she was gone. Criticism disappeared into an afterthought.