What It Means to Be a Fighter, By Hansel Romero, Age 17

HanselphotoMuch like everyone else’s, my life has been a constant battle.

I’ve moved from another country, overcome health problems, and had a near-death experience, all while attempting to maintain a sense of normalcy as a boy growing up in New Jersey. I removed my accent as quickly as I could, but no amount of willpower, practice, or medication could quite get rid of my blood pressure issues. I’ve had hypertension for a long time now, a condition which causes the body’s blood pressure to rise and fall in periodic cycles, precariously at times. I’ve gone lengths to ensure that this never held me back, even avoiding putting it on sports forms or other documents just so I could be considered healthy.

I’ve lived as a brown kid surrounded by a sea of white. I’ve been called names, excluded, and even profiled all because of the color of my skin. This has created expectations for me to never amount to as much as my lighter peers, even in places where I’ve shown potential. I was even forbidden to be with a girl I had feelings for just because I wasn’t white. To this day, I still catch under-the-breath comments around me from people who still believe that white skin is the only kind that succeeds.

I’ve grown up as the middle child, with my older brother destined for stardom and my little brother trying to find his way from day one. I’ve had more social fallouts than I can count, between being an outcast in middle school, becoming a nomad in high school, and even dealing with my best friend’s suicide when I was 13.

I’ve been told that I’m destined to fail, that I’m going to lose one day. Yet I believe I am around so I can make something of my life and beat the odds; so I can give the world just one more person’s success.

Above all else, I believe that everyone holds the ability to change the world somewhere inside of them.  Expectations were meant to be broken, odds beaten, and stereotypes defied. The minute someone gives up, they’re doing the world an injustice by giving up their chance to be something spectacular.

Despite all the setbacks, heartbreaks, and obstacles, I’m still here, and I think that’s pretty incredible.

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