By Michael Armijo
I remember closing my eyes, trying my hardest to embrace the way I felt. I wanted to burn into my memory the feeling of enchantment that overwhelmed me. I wanted the way I felt that evening to last a lifetime.
It wasn’t just dinner and cocktails with some co-workers. It wasn’t just a significant evening for someone special, a celebration of achievement. The evening meant more to me than it did to the person being honored. It was an evening in which I was proud to be included.
With my wife in my arms, I memorized the melody of the song as we slowly moved over the shiny, wooden dance floor. A glance out of the window provided a beautiful view of the city. A look around the room at people I respected and admired filled me with tremendous pride. I will never forget how it felt to be present and included that night.
When I tried to recall the last time I felt this way, it took me back to the 7th Grade. I remember failing all my classes and my teacher, Miss Contreras, helped to change my perspective. She told me that I deserved to be number one; that I deserved to be the best and to feel proud of myself. What she said worked, because I found the path that led me to becoming Student of the Year, along with top grades and a place on the honor roll.
Unfortunately, that feeling was taken from me. Abuse and neglect took those happy moments from my life and traded them for sadness and pain.
Over the years I’ve worked hard to overcome those hard times and make a positive difference in the lives around me. Just as Miss Contreras did for me, I’ve tried to help people find their own path to personal worth, encouraging people to live the life of an achiever; showing people that it can be done.
Because of who I was and where I’ve been, helping others and making a positive contribution has aways meant so much to me. I’ve always dreamed of feeling the satisfaction of making a difference – without conditions or ulterior motives. I’ve waited for the day that I knew my accomplishments were worthy of my intentions.
And that evening – an evening I will forever hold dear in my heart – I stood there with peers of mine whom I respected, with the woman I’ve loved for nearly 30 years, and I felt proud of my life. With a tear in my eye, I realized I have made a difference in the lives around me.
And just as I felt when I won that 7th Grade Student of the Year award, I had earned a feeling that no one could ever take from me. I found the path to fulfillment for what I’ve done with my life, and realized it was okay to feel proud of myself.