Winter 2015: “Letting Go of Worry” Middle School Winner Leah Berkowitz

Read Leah's essay, "Fearless Future," about replacing worry with bravery that tells her that she can do it, whatever “it” may be.

Leah Berkowitz, a student of Kelli Osborne at West Valley City School in Spokane, Washington, read and responded to the YES! Magazine online article “Life After Worry” by Akaya Windwood. In her article, Windwood shares that worrying never changed the outcome of whatever she worried about. She discovers that when she replaces worry with trust she can be more present for her sister who has MS. And her friends, co-workers, and family find her more clear-headed, creative, and strong.

Writing Prompt: Think of the things you worry about. What is one worry you’d like to throw away? What would you replace your worry with, and what would you—and possibly those around you— gain by not having that worry in your life?


Fearless Future

Worrying is natural. Everyone has experienced worry at some point in their lives. If you’re a high school senior like my brother, you are probably worried about college applications and what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Suppose you are a part of a Jewish family like I am. Maybe you’re worried about the anti–Semitism that has been happening in Europe.  If you’re a student in my language arts class, you might be worried about writing this essay – I know I am. My biggest worry at the moment? As an eighth grader, I’m really nervous about high school. I don’t know what to expect, and I know that most of my friends won’t be going to the same high school as me. That thought makes me nervous and fills me with anxiety.

Reading the YES! Magazine article “Life After Worry” brought something to my attention that I had never really thought about before. Worrying doesn’t actually do anything positive for us.  As Akaya Windwood said in her story, “…I realized worry had never changed the outcome of whatever I was worried about. Not once.” Worry is something we all feel. It’s a part of being human, but we need to learn to put our energy into something other than worry because constantly stressing over our problems won’t fix them. Everyone will just get major headaches.  Is there a way to stop worrying completely, or will we always be at least a little nervous when faced with a challenge?

Honestly, I don’t know if we can ever truly stop worrying. Most people experience some level of stress on a daily basis, whether it’s the math test you have to take or the huge five course Thanksgiving dinner you have to cook for your visiting relatives. If we try to replace the worry with something else, like Akaya suggested, perhaps we could keep the uncertainty and uneasiness at bay.  Akaya described replacing her worry with trust—trust in people and our world. While I believe trust is critical, that’s not what I would choose to replace my worry with. When I think about high school, I can’t just trust that I will make friends or be perfectly okay in all of my classes. That just isn’t enough for me. If I was in my brother’s position, I couldn’t just trust that all my applications would be done on time and I would get into the school of my choice. And I don’t know if my family can just trust that everything going on in Europe will be okay. Even with trust, I would still feel scared, just a little, about what could happen next. I don’t want to have that kind of fear of the future.

That’s why I think I would replace my worry and doubt with bravery. Having the courage to face the future is important to me. Being brave does not mean that my worry is gone completely—but it gives me the strength and courage to face whatever comes my way. I will be daring and undaunted and unafraid of whatever happens down the road. That math test I have to take later today? Not a problem! I’m fearless. That dinner for 15 people you have to cook? Come on, you’ve seen like ten episodes of Top Chef. You’ve got this! High school? Bring it on.

By replacing my worry with bravery and courage, I’m telling myself that I can do it, whatever “it” may be. I’ll be able to do so much more, take more risks, and allow myself to reach beyond my limits. Worry wouldn’t be holding me back anymore. Instead of simply trusting that things will be okay, I can take action and face the problem. I will make certain that everything will be alright in the end. As Benjamin Mee said, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come out of it.” It’s time that I  face my problems in a different way. Am I still worried about high school? Maybe a little. But now I know I can handle it. I can handle anything.

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