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Personal Narrative Essay

At the tender age of seven, while in middle school and as part of satisfying the curriculum reading requirements, I afforded my first interaction with the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This interaction was guided by my teacher and was aimed towards creating an understanding of the holocaust. In as much as I passed the class, it was my father’s insistence, three years later, to read the book a second time that I really interacted with the diary. This arose since my father made it a point to discuss the book and what I had taken from it on a weekly basis. This allowed for me to pick a number of lessons, most of which were pointed out by my father, that I apply in my day-to–day activities as well as thoughts.

Reflecting back on that second reading, I do remember that my initial response to my father’s insistence was to pretend that I had read the book again, but I was relying on what I had read earlier. It was only after my father sat and quizzed me on what I pretended to have read that day, that I actually read the diary again. Picking from the basic structure of Anne’s story, it was at this point that I started keeping a diary to reflect on what I had read and what lessons each reading reflected, then I would be ready for my father’s quizzes. When my father realized that I had started keeping a diary, he patted me on the back and said something to the effect that most of what we learn is forgotten due to our choice of not recording and referring back to these lessons. I hold on to this truth to date, both in academic lessons and experiences that I go through, and as a means of remembering what is recorded, I go through my recordings on a fortnight basis.

Though the above is the first physical evidence of how the diary impacted my life, the diary had an emotional appeal in light of what Anne records in her timeline. Discovering that the discrimination the Jews were accustomed to in Germany extended to Netherlands where Anne’s family had moved to and the effects of the holocaust arose in me sympathy in light of what others are going through. When I considered this with the living situation that the author finds herself, her family, and Mr Dussel in, under the generosity of Otto Frank, I decided that I would not take anything at face value. This was because; in as much as Anne had become accustomed to being discriminated against, it was due to the perceived truth that individuals embraced as true. I remember that when I discussed this with my father, he pointed out that life situations are different when considered in light of different people and that it was up to each individual to research and find the truth in any circumstance that they find themselves in. To this, my father pointed out, that in as much as one feels pulled towards being and believing as the crowd does, it does not make the situation or the perceptions right. This is what has made me into a person that where I meet the less fortunate, I do not judge them as unworthy and it is my duty to help them by acts of kindness.

I can honestly say that when I hit my adolescence, most of what Anne wrote became true. I associated my isolation and loneliness to what she had gone through. Granted, my situation was different, but still there were situations that I felt like my own world was collapsing and those around me could do nothing to help. I had become irritable and disobedient whenever my parents were concerned for reasons unknown to me and could not be bothered to discuss my life with them. However, over time I was able to reflect on the diary at the insistence of my father, again, and discovered that life is short. No one is assured of tomorrow and if my heart was broken from the arrest of Anne’s family, I had to create and cherish moments with those I love. Yes at times I was still irritable, but it was from the aforementioned that I was able to rebuild and create new memories with my family and those I love.

The fact that the diary portrays the development of character in a teenager’s life is something that I still employ to this day. The author’s reflection on the importance of courage, acceptance of reality, self-awareness, honesty, kindness, gentleness, importance of work, and optimism are characters that I aim to achieve. This relies on the fact that character defines human strength and it is upon each individual to continually improve on their own as Anne points out. The diary offered an avenue where I learnt the importance of having virtuous characteristics as building blocks to who I want to be in my adult life and in old age. I often question myself not only as to how, if I had been in Anne’s situation, I would be described but also if I was a German if I would have  carried out the atrocities as the times dictated. It is from this that my decision is to better myself by developing characteristics that do not reflect laziness as well as become self aware of my strengths and weakness as regards my character. As a promise to myself, where I fail to meet any circumstance and reflect my humane side, I will always better who I am as an individual, on my own terms, and with time, I am sure I will incorporate what is good and reject what is considered as vice.

In as much as the Diary of a Young Girl offers insight into what happened years ago, a toned-down version of the same discrimination and call for help exists in the world today. From discrimination based on skin color, religion and even sexually preferences to what has become the acknowledged truth, the diary has gone a long way in preparing me as an individual to face the world. For instance, the issue of gay marriages and gun ownership rights has in a way split the population into two factions. In as much as each faction loudly defends their stand, I opt to stand on actual research and develop my own opinion and ensure that I neither discriminate nor stop hoping for a better world. As Anne Frank shows, the sharpest weapon that we can all employ in such situations is kindness and a gentle spirit. It is only by developing our human strength that we can better our tomorrow.

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