This is an essay by Faith Joseph, grade 12 student. Faith Joseph (class of 2020) reflects on the need for change, the fight against racism, and the importance of finding the bathroom in a new school.
It was probably the second week of grade 6. I was starting at a new school, in a whole new city.
We recently moved so I didn’t know many people at my school aside from my siblings. It was
pretty daunting going to a whole different school not knowing the area or the layout of the
building. Unlike what they do at Crestwood, I didn’t get a tour of the school. And being a new
introverted kid, you could say I didn’t exactly have the confidence to talk to anyone, let alone
ask for directions. So, I was left to explore and discover this monstrous elementary school on
my own. This was an elementary school where kindergarteners could find their way around so I
thought surely I, an 11-yo child, could figure it out. And for the most part, this was an easy task.
The gymnasium was the big room with a stage. The library was the one with all the books. But,
the bathroom was a different story. No one showed me where it was and it’s not like people go
to the bathroom in groups, I was 11. This ultimately ended up in me finding and using the staff
washroom for like a week. When I did find the right bathroom, I was so embarrassed and also
confused as to how this went on for so long without anyone realizing.
And because of situations like these I have developed a sort of resentment towards change. As
a kid, I had to deal with a lot of change in short periods of time. Whether it was moving across
cities, moving between multiple schools, and serious family matters, there was a lot to deal
with. Often, it was hard. I hated having to start over all the time and being uncomfortable. I
didn’t like being taken out of my space of comfort and familiarity and forced into unfamiliar
situations. I was tired of change. But, throughout my high school career and things I’ve gone
through in my life, I have learned that change is one of the most important things in life.
Change is always going to be uncomfortable but is a part of growth.
Looking back on my life now, I can say that I am glad that I went through all that change. I feel
like all of the adjustments I’ve gone through were ultimately preparing me for presumably one
of the most important changes in my life. Crestwood has to be the most drastic transition I’ve
ever had to experience, but also the very best. Walking through these doors 4 years ago, I
didn’t know what to expect. I had never stepped foot in a private school before, I never had to
wear a uniform, and I never wore a tie in my life. To say the least, it was uncomfortable. But, I
am so grateful for everything that I experienced at this school. I remember going to Spirit Point
where everyone got stung by bees. I remember being in probably the craziest grade 9 french
class in Crestwood history. I remember writing my application to be part of the Prefect Council.
I remember getting back my first report card. I remember travelling to Ottawa and seeing the
most beautiful library ever (and our class annoying the tour guide to death). I remember our
first OSBA championship win. I remember going on the Bio trip and running from deer. I think
back to all of these great memories and everything I’ve gone through and I wouldn’t want to
change any of it. And this was all from being uncomfortable and changing.
The way I look at it, life is just a series of changes and uncomfortable situations. We move on
through grades and schools, get different jobs, meet different people and build different
relationships. But your growth depends on how you respond to being uncomfortable. Being
exposed to a totally new environment at Crestwood, I was uncomfortable and doubting my
success. At any moment, I could have given up and gone back to what I was used to. I did have
a whole plan already. I was enrolled in my local high school. I was going to move on to a new
school with my friends. I was even enrolled in an enrichment program at this school. I would
have been comfortable. But I would have missed out on so many great memories, relationships,
and experiences that helped shape me into who I am today. In Middlesex, the novel we read in
English class, the protagonist Cal says, “I was becoming a new person, too…and I didn’t know
what would happen to me in this new world to which I’d come.” Cal embraced his change and
being uncomfortable which ultimately led to growth and self-acceptance.
Now, as I look out into the world and the state of society, I realize that this lesson is so very
applicable. Our society has a problem. Racial injustice is a societal norm. Right now, over 100
years after the abolishment of slavery, black people are dying in the streets for the colour of
their skin. We are way too often withheld from the success and achievement we deserve as a
result of the systemic racism existing in our corporations. Many of us want to make a change by
becoming doctors, lawyers, politicians and engineers; but we are told our whole lives, from
every direction, that this dream is not possible. A completely innocent black man lost his life, a
little 6-year old girl lost her father, and the black community lost another fighter because
people are still taking the colour of my skin as a threat. So we protest. People riot. We do all we
can to bring attention to this long-overdue issue rooted in our society. We need immediate
change. But how will this come? The change will come when people start to get uncomfortable.
When you were comfortable, black people were being shot for speed tickets. When you were
comfortable, another black kid was fatally misidentified as a gang leader. Being comfortable
enables you, in a way, to be okay with not addressing the bigger issue. “Oh, that stuff doesn’t
happen here”, “It was probably just an accident”, “The criminal probably did something for a
reaction”. But seeing an innocent man lose his life while a cop kneels on his neck for 9 minutes
on video, you just cannot be comfortable. You see police buildings being burnt down and riots
breaking out, you cannot be comfortable. You see millions of people advocating for justice
around the world, you cannot be comfortable. So we must continue to fight and use our voices
to make people uncomfortable to bring about change. The beautiful writer and one of my
personal heroes, the great James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be
changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Facing the real issues existing in our
communities that “didn’t really affect you” is going to be uncomfortable. You are going to be
forced to make certain changes in your lifestyle. Changes in the way you speak to certain
people, the conversations you are having with family, and changes to your initial assumptions
and preconceptions to situations, but all for the better. Because when you face yourself and
change for the better, you are taking one small step for the betterment of society.
So now, as I sit in my living room watching The Office series for the 15th time and think, “what's
next?”, I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter. I have been through so much and have seen so
much that I am ready for anything that comes. This upcoming school year will be my most
difficult year yet. I will be transitioning to a new environment in such an unconventional way. It
will be way more uncomfortable than once imagined. But, I know that I will make it. Because I
have done this before and know that surviving the uncomfortable models you into a better
human being. “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step
back into safety” – Abraham Maslow. I have made the choice to step forward. I know it will be
hard, because it always is, but this is an opportunity for growth. I can learn to be more eager to
start conversations and build connections with people. I can learn to be more outgoing and
excited to make friends even if it’s through a screen. I can learn to use my words and actions to
better the people around me. I am going to continue to use my voice, whether being heard or
ignored, to bring about change. I will continue to make people uncomfortable for the
betterment of society. Maybe this time around I will actually find the right bathroom.