Senior Speeches: Misa Patel

February 19, 2018

“I realized I had learned to face my problems instead of running away. I learned that talking helps. I realized I could trust people.”

Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

Misa Patel

For the most part, everyone at Shattuck-St. Mary’s knows me as the kid who tends to bite off more than she can chew. Always frantically running around to the next activity. This is because I have to take every opportunity I get, you see, I have been running all my life. As a kid coming home from school, I ran from street gang violence. When I was at home, I ran from my parents’ shouts to one another. My parents’ marriage problems left me to mother my younger siblings. Fortunately, I had places to run to: my cousins’ house, my school guidance counselor, the library. I ran to books for sanity, as a way out of my home. The traditional refuge, school, was systematically oppressive because the teachers believed they were operating a school for delinquents. They were. I was only starting this race; It was until 2014, I received aid from a nonprofit called NJ Seeds to run a thousand miles to Minnesota to escape the trouble at home. The most difficult part was leaving my 11-year-old sister and six-year-old brother behind. I had to be the older sibling and pave the way so they could follow in my footsteps. For the time being, I was allowed to be selfish.

When I stepped off that plane in Minnesota, I assumed I would be instantly happy. Unexpectedly, this new school only meant new problems. First, I had to fit in with kids of privilege, who thought crocs were cute and couldn’t stop wearing Lululemon unless it was school dress. Dealing with the generational and cultural clashes of being an Indian American was another aspect. Making connections was impossible. And back home, my friends didn’t accept me. I was a sellout or ‘too white.’ There was so much anger and hurt building inside me. How could someone who punched her hand into mirrors after a fight with her parents and had friends in jail, or selling drugs or they were pregnant, adapt to Minnesota nice? I was hoping that time would allow me the mercy of forgetting. This time, I had nowhere to run.

Over time, I slowly realized that anger did not have to control me. Last summer, my parents had a huge blowout fight. To escape the stress at home, I took my siblings to the park.  We were silent until my sister asked: “Does it ever get better?”

To my surprise, I said, “Yeah, it does. You’re going to go off to a healthier environment and it will be a culture shock. The people at my school might not understand what we are going through, but they care. you’ll find some really loving people out there.

In that conversation, I realized I had learned to face my problems instead of running away. I learned that talking helps. I realized I could trust people. When I first told my best friend my story, she did not pity me or look at me any differently. I also found that my teachers listened to me and encouraged my curiosity and told me I could take advantage of every opportunity Through the people I have met, I have discovered something new - happiness! I could achieve that!   

I started this race running away from things. Now I am running towards my goals of finding caring people and inner peace. I know that my past will always be a part of me, but not every relationship or experience was going to painful.  I want to thank everyone for helping me along the way and especially the Trotter family for inviting me into their American home. Thank you!

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