Life’s Defining Moments

By Claire Elness

People like to believe that life is made up of one “once-in-a-lifetime” moment, your “fifteen minutes of fame” if you will, and that everything else is either leading you up to said moment, or the result of it. I can’t say I agree, mainly because in only my 14 years of life so far, I’ve already experienced multiple “life-defining” moments. What exactly would I classify as “life-defining?” I’d say something that leaves a resounding impression on me, even after it has happened. I have collected a few of my most defining moments to share with you. These represent three important lessons that I have learned: that life is what you make of it, that it is important to see the world through different eyes, and that being kind to others always pays off.

I think I’d like to start with the scariest, and possibly the worst moment of my life. It was September 19, 2018. I had just started sixth grade. It was a Thursday, which meant I had dance that day. My step-dad had brought me home and we were just about to have supper. I hadn’t even changed out of my leotard yet. It had been raining when we got home, but I didn’t think much of it. Rain isn’t much of an anomaly, after all.

All of a sudden, storm sirens went off and my parents got tornado warnings on their phones. My sister was taking a bath, so she scrambled into her clothes and ran downstairs with the rest of us. At first, we didn’t think that it would be that bad since we heard storm sirens fairly often. We went outside to look at the funky-looking clouds. That was kind of cool. However, when the wind and rain started to pick up, we went inside.

We turned on the TV in an attempt to watch the weather, but it was to no avail, since we’d hardly turned it on when the power went out. At this point my sister and I were fairly nervous, since the power didn’t go out all that often. My mom and step-dad were upstairs, looking at the sky and clouds still, but my sister and I were getting more and more scared, so we told them to come downstairs with us. My sister started to cry at one point, so I tried to calm her down by telling her a joke I had heard recently. I could tell that she tried to laugh, but I was also getting more and more freaked out, so we both just kind of hugged each other and tried to think about other things.

A couple minutes later, both of the adults yelled and ran down the stairs. This completely terrified us, so we started sobbing even more. At this point, the wind was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other talk. There was hail, and we could hear trees falling and at that point I thought, “I might die tonight.” Scary, I know. I’m not the type of person to think that too often, but I’d never been through a storm that bad in my whole life, and I knew that tornadoes were nothing to take lightly.

Afterwards, I found out that Mom had heard what sounded like a train, and that was why she and my step-dad came downstairs so suddenly. She had heard once that a tornado sounds like a train when it’s close to you. For a few moments we stayed there, in the family room. I knew from school drills and such that you were supposed to stay away from windows. Well, we live in a split-level house, and we don’t really have a basement, so I was even more scared that the windows were going to break any moment.

But then, just as suddenly as it had started, it was over. I could hear again, just as soon as my ears stopped ringing, of course. I started crying again, and laughing, even though we were okay. I was less happy, however, when I stepped outside and saw the mess of power lines and downed trees tangled up on the road and yards. It was terrible.

All of our neighbors were outside, but Mom told us we weren’t allowed to step outside the driveway because the power lines might still have some power left, and she didn’t want us to get electrocuted (thanks, Mom).

I ended up staying at my grandparents’ house out in the country for the next few days until the mess had been mostly cleaned up and the power restored. To this day, the memory still scares me, and I think about how lucky I am that we don’t live somewhere where tornadoes or hurricanes or other severe storms happen very often. I think what defined this moment as such an impacting one was not necessarily that it scared me so much, although that definitely plays a part, but the fact that it made me think so much about people who have to go through that often, and it made me more grateful. It gave me a different outlook on life, which was that things could always get worse, yes, but life is what you make of it. If you want to see the glass as half-empty, you do that. If you see it as half-full, that’s also valid.

I try my best to see the glass exactly as it is, half-full and half-empty. It is just as important to see the problems or things that are making you unhappy as it is to see the positive. If you understand what is making you sad or angry, then you can fix it, and you’re one step closer to filling up your glass.

The second life-defining moment is sort of a few all bunched into the same thing. When I was 10, in June of 2017, my first little brother was born. Now, I had a younger sister, but she was only two years younger than me, and I didn’t really remember when she was a baby. She was also my only full sister, since the new baby was a half-brother, as we had different moms. However, when this new little boy was put in my arms for the first time, it was love at first sight. I loved him, and I held him any time I could. I’d talk to him, I’d read to him, and I’d feed him. As soon as he was old enough to point his finger, he’d make my sister pick up the food he dropped on the floor. We all found that funny.

I got to watch as he learned to crawl and eventually to walk, as his obsession with trains got bigger and bigger, and as his personality developed with each time I saw him. You can imagine that I was overjoyed when, a little while later, I found out that I was going to have another sibling. I was excited for this baby, too.

In July of 2019 my second little brother was born. He was more mellow than his older brother, but I hear that’s common in second-born kids. He seemed to like me more than my sister, which pleased me very much. I loved carrying the new baby around and rocking him to sleep whenever I could. And, of course, changing diapers all the time! The older of the two has started calling my sister and me his girls, so in that fashion, I call them my boys. I love my boys very much. Just being able to see them makes me happy.

It’s amazing how much they’ve grown and developed in just a few years. I think that is the reason that I consider these life-defining moments. The fact that I witnessed these two little babies grow into two little people and develop personalities along the way is something that I am very grateful for.

Being around little kids is something that I love. You get to hear their different perspectives on life and listen to them talk about their life and the things they find interesting. It makes you see the world a little differently. That’s an important life lesson, I believe. Always keep your mind open to different perspectives and try to see the world through other people’s eyes, especially those of a young child’s. It will make you appreciate what you’ve been given even more.

The third moment that I have thought of is really more a standard that I live by that has paid off every day of my life. You all know the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I try my best to live by this every day, and it is really something that works. At the end of class every day I say thank you, bye or have a good day/weekend. I try to let my teachers know that I appreciate them. I also thank people when they do something nice, such as holding the door open, or picking up something that I dropped. Being an agreeable person in general is something that makes people like you more. I honestly believe that the nicer you are to other people, the nicer they’ll be to you. I sure would be more inclined to be kind to someone who has previously been nice to me or someone else than to someone who hasn’t. This is not me telling you that you have to like every person in the world, or agree with them, but being polite and kind is something that will always pay off. I’d say that every time someone is nice to me is a life-defining moment, because it makes me happy and therefore more inclined to be kind to other people, which shapes both my life and theirs.

In the end, life is full of defining moments and opportunities. Each moment shapes and defines your life, and you as a person. Three of the most important life lessons, in my opinion, would be that life is what you make of it, it’s important to see through different perspectives, and to treat others the way you want to be treated. Living by these three standards will not only help you be a happier person, but you’ll be able to help others and make their lives better. After all, if life is a glass of water, you are the faucet. You have the ability to make life better.


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