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This I Believe: I Believe in Orange Juice

Summer Smith midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
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Summer Smith - Hillsboro High School

I believe in orange juice over lemonade. Tangibly, lemonade is the ultimate thirst-quencher. Metaphorically though, orange juice will always be superior. Growing up I solved all of my dilemmas with the motivational quote, “when life gives you lemons turn them into lemonade.” That motto helped me get through most of my qualms, but not all. I’ve never been the girl with the cinched waist, the petite wrist that fit effortlessly between my forefinger and thumb, nor who adorned a pair of size two Kancan jeans. This societal standard never bothered me…until August 21st, 2019, that is.

Freshman year introduced me to a plethora of girls who fit society’s definition of “beauty.” Anxiety filled me each day after school as I stood in front of the mirror clutching the flesh that I no longer wanted on me. An eating disorder wasn’t my goal in the beginning, but my fiery, competitive spirit coupled with imploding societal beauty standards had no beneficial outcome whatsoever. It started innocently enough, with ditching my religious after school sweet tea routine. I didn’t realize I had a problem until I started getting angry with my parents for pressing me about why I never ordered anything other than salad and ice water. I started to notice subtle changes; my jeans fit me better than they did before, my muscles were beginning to look more defined, and people began to compliment me more than ever. COVID took most of my freshman year along with part of my sophomore year, so it wasn’t until junior year began that the flames raging inside me evolved into a full-blown wildfire. My jeans hung from my bones like a coat dangling from a rack. My eyes no longer glowed; they were merely bleak windows to my lifeless soul. I felt so alone, like no one would ever care for what I had to offer on the inside, only that I matched the fully-edited models of Instagram. While I was hopelessly scrolling through my Pinterest, I stumbled upon a quote that stopped me on a dime. The quote screamed at me in vibrant shades of orange, reading “when life gives you lemons turn them into orange juice and leave the world wondering how you did it.” My soul came to life in that moment, inspiring me to make a change.

Today, I use my story to inspire others to always be proud of the person they were made to be. I want others to be passionate about everything that makes them unique, rather than hide what makes them boldly beautiful. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I’ve come to understand that society’s expectations are only set for those who allow themselves to fall prey to a losing game. Rather than be the product of lemonade from life’s lemons, I will ALWAYS be the glass of orange juice. This I Believe.

This I Believe Illinois is NPR Illinois' annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. This I Believe was started by radio journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1951 to allow anyone able to distil the guiding principles by which they lived. Special thank you to our sponsors: The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, State Journal-Register, BLH Computers, KEB, and Marine Bank.

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