Childhood’s End: A New Beginning

By Valerie Reeves. Valerie is an Educational Intern at the Grass River Natural Area. She lives in Mancelona, USA. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Sam, Lord of the Rings

It was the summer between Eighth grade and Freshman year when I first heard these words. The first time I saw The Lord of the Rings, I remember feeling a strong sense of nostalgia. I reflected on the days of my early childhood, seeing the adorable little hobbits for the first time in their peaceful little land known as the Shire. Back in middle and elementary school, I had a lot of problems. I used to have to call home from school a lot because of this feeling I would get. During these moods, I would be stuck with the fact that I was no longer a little kid and would lament growing older. All I could concentrate on was my childhood was slipping away from me faster than I could imagine.  To make matters worse, I had myself convinced for some reason that once I grow older, I would be unwanted and despised.  This feeling made school difficult and overnights impossible.  I would often go home in a sobbing mess, a complete emotional wreck. As I watched Lord of the Rings for the first time, however, all of this began to change.

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins is a young Hobbit who dreams of adventure.  In the beginning of the Trilogy, he is timid, a poor fighter and leans on the support of Gandalf.  By the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is wise, strong, and can stand on his own. Frodo’s journey inspired me to desire an adventure. There was only one problem and it was a big one; I could hardly survive school, let alone spend many nights away from home. I decided then that my desire to be like Frodo was far greater than the one to just stay at home and “be safe”. So I began to work on this issue, turning it over in my head and working out new ways of thinking. By beginning high school that fall with a new perspective, I had a far more positive outlook on life. For the first time, I greatly enjoyed school and the old “feeling” gradually disappeared. I made great friends, and still continue to do so to this day. Instead of drudging sadly though the hallowed halls of Mancelona, I smiled through my classes and bounced merrily in my seat.

But Freshman year wasn’t the only highlight of my high school life. No, school got progressively better for me as time went on.  In Sophomore year, I tried tackling a new problem that was actually created in middle school: the shame of my German heritage. Anyone who knows me now would be shocked to hear that at one time I disliked, even despised Germany.  Back then, from what I was taught in middle school, all Germans were Nazi Jew-Killers. In those days, I was very much ashamed of my German heritage and tried to hide it as best as I could. Finally, in Tenth grade, I came out about my problem to my parents and we talked about it. I then began researching the German culture and realised how amazing it actually was. Many of the things I enjoyed, including castles and pretzels, are German . Germany is also one of the leading countries in environmental protection, something that is very important to me. Now, after working so hard in Tenth and Eleventh grade, Germany is one of my favourite countries.

Junior year was another high point for me. On the night before Labour Day, I was able to spend the night at my uncle’s house to walk the Mackinac Bridge, something I’d always wanted to do.  In the past, I would have spent Labor Day dreading school and trying to spend as much time at home as possible. That summer, however, I was able to enjoy a sleepover away from home on Labour Day.  Later that year, I was able to get into Honors Band, something else I never dreamed possible and got in again this year, having a blast both times.  Best of all, I spent not one, not two, but a whole week away from home at the Interlochen Arts Camp for creative writing. The story I sent in to that was selected was based on none other than Lord of the Rings. While at Interlochen, I made many friends and had the time of my life — proving to myself I no longer have to worry about staying the night.

Finally, and probably the biggest change of all, in middle school, I really didn’t want much to do with people. My plan for the future was to work with animals and live somewhere far away from civilization, where I could not be found. All I could think about were animals; in fact, I would often pretend I was an animal in my head.  After watching Lord of the Rings, I saw how relatable the human-like characters were.  I felt happy when they were saved from the orcs and felt devastated when they were murdered or when their villages burned.  In Freshman year and during a quarter of Sophomore year, I took Spanish classes and loved it. During my time there, I realized I wanted to be a translator or an interpreter, not only because I was good with languages, but I also wanted to help people understand each other. Besides this, I started to gain a great interest in current affairs, hoping someday to help those suffering from around the world. Seeing other people in pain has always made me sorrowful, so I have made it my goal to help those in need from all across the globe and make the world a better place than when I discovered it. After all, as quoted by Galadriel:

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Someday, I want to make an impact so large that I will be in the history books as one of the greatest activists of all time.  I have made it one of my goals in life to try to stop the “orcs” of the real world — hate groups or big businesses that don’t care — from destroying the beauty of our world in which we live.  Just like Sam quoted at the top of the page, I strongly believe there is still much good and beauty to behold in life, and it’s all worth fighting for.

In a way, I have become much like Frodo. During my time in high school, I became far wiser, happier, more open-minded, confident, trusting in myself and found a new purpose in life. Like Frodo, I feel as though I have taken a grand adventure myself and learned many things on the way. Although instead of traveling through the Mines of Moria and up Mount Doom, my adventure stretched from Honors Band in Petoskey to Interlochen in Traverse City and then to Brazil. On my journey, even though I never met any elves, dwarves or wizards, I have met people from different towns, states and even different countries.  To me, magic is everywhere, you just have to keep an open mind and an adventurous heart to see it all.

I hope at the end of all my adventures, my fate shall be as this quote goes:

“I thought up an ending for my book. ‘And he lives happily ever after, till the end of his days.” — Bilbo

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