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My moles make me unique

1st place $50

By Tina Nguyen, Village Academy HS (Pomona)

Photo by Angela Wu, 17, Walnut HS

Mom, why do I have two moles on my face?” “Because honey, when you were a little girl, a fly landed on your face and pooped in those two places. The poops ended up drying on your face and THAT is why you have two moles on your face.”

You know, I actually believed her when she told me that. I always assumed that I was born with these moles, that they were lucky because they were birthmarks. But looking back on my kindergarten and first grade pictures, I saw no signs of them anywhere. Meaning that over the course of my life, they have developed and grown into the 3D-looking black dots they are today.

I am now 17 years old and have a pea size, three-dimensional mole on the left side of my face just below my mouth. In addition to that one, I have another tear shaped mole to the left of my left eye. Growing up, I always felt embarrassed about having moles on my face. I would constantly ask myself, “Why on the face, where everyone can see them?” I always felt that people saw my moles before they saw me. I was always too shy to talk about my moles. When friends would ask me about my moles, I would just give them a brief, “Oh, they’re birthmarks,” and leave it at that. To me, it was an unspoken topic.

Can you imagine how I must have felt when the movie Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me came out? In that movie there was a character with a mole right above his mouth and Austin called him “Moley, Moley, Moley.” I was so afraid to come to school, just because I knew someone would say that to me. That movie increased my embarrassment so much that I began to hate my moles and wanted them removed as soon as possible.

Now, looking back on those days, I find myself laughing at the fact that I let something that ridiculous upset me. By having time to grow and mature, I realize now that my moles are what make me unique, what make me stand out. What are the chances that I will find someone else with two moles in the exact spot as mine? Not that likely. My moles have helped me break out of my shell. When I meet new people, if my moles happen to come up as a topic, I tell them what my mom told me, and that usually breaks the ice. Because of my moles, I learned that to love yourself, you must first accept yourself, and once you are able to do that, others will love and accept you as well. And also, that life is a learning process—what doesn’t kill you, can only make you stronger.

Doodling helps me in so many ways

2nd place $30

By Eddie Harty, Arcadia HS

I have the inconvenient yet blissful burden of doodling in class while the teacher is talking. Ever since I was very little, every time I would pick up a pen, I couldn’t resist doodling.

Through many years of school and even today, I have completely missed lessons, because I was wrapped up in my doodles. I have doodled over notes, doodled whole pages, and even doodled the entire surface of my desk. My teachers used to yell at me and my parents used to punish me, but I never stopped. After a while, everyone gave up.

Although these doodles were distracting and for the most part are completely useless, I love them. I have kept every one I liked since I was 6. They serve as a way of remembering what was going on in my life when I look at them. They have become like photographs and help me remember better than pictures do.

They come in particularly helpful when I want to write something down, but don’t want anyone else to read it. Most people don’t understand my doodles, but I can write a full message to myself through pictures and be the only one able to understand the message.

They have also been an extremely good stress outlet. At school, before a test, or at home when I have a mountain of housework to do, a quick doodle always calms me down and keeps me focused. This would be even more helpful if I didn’t doodle through all my classes, but with every blessing comes a burden.

Doodling also helps me think. When I need to brainstorm for an essay, or figure out an extremely difficult math problem, I simply doodle a quick design and I am back on track.

Overall my doodling problem is at times a complete annoyance, but I wouldn’t dream of giving it away.

I won’t stop biting my nails

3rd place $20

By Maria McCarty, Marshall HS

Why can’t I stop? It’s like an addiction. It controls me, it surrounds me, and all I can do is give into it. The true definition of a flaw is something that is wrong with one’s self, yet my definition is a little different. Flaws, to me, are things that everyone else believes to be wrong with you, but make yourself just that, “yourself.” Flaws tell a story about people’s lives. They tell you where they have been, what they have done and who they are.

My “flaw” isn’t really a flaw. Only the fact that everyone else thinks it’s a flaw makes it a flaw. I am an obsessive nail-biter. For me, it’s like a gravitational pull and the next thing you know, my finger is in my mouth and I’m gnawing away at it as if there is no tomorrow. But it’s more than just nail-biting. It’s comforting. It’s soothing. It’s one of those things that have a special meaning, as many flaws do. Whether it is a good or bad meaning is debatable, but it has a special meaning either way.

I don’t know why I bite my nails. It’s so natural now. It’s a subconscious calling that has been nagging me since I was little. My flaw doesn’t help my appearance too much. Most of the time, I am biting my nails or thinking about biting them. I also tend to have a lot of hang nails, which are extremely annoying. Biting my nails helps me stay calm. It becomes a distraction to whatever may be stressing me out.

Biting my nails doesn’t have limitations. Many people think that it’s vulgar and unsanitary, but I rarely get sick. I don’t like biting my nails, but I do think that it gives my hand and my entire body a little more character. These are my hands and by biting my nails they become a part of me even more. Biting my nails, I believe, is one of the least harmful ways to deal with stress. It helps me and in some ways, keeps me sane.

Flaws are what you make of them. If you think about it, people are the ones who make flaws; the flaws don’t make the people. If no one had flaws, everyone would be the same. We should learn to embrace our flaws because once you embrace them they are yours. Once they are yours, they are no longer flaws; they become the things that make you beautiful.

My pessimism helps me move on after failure

Honorable mention

By Erica Win, Arcadia HS

People say just five minutes after meeting me that I am too pessimistic. It is true, but I think it helps me protect myself from being too disappointed in life.

My pessimism is a bubble of protection that helps me through difficult times. Some may say it is a bad thing, but I think I need to be pessimistic to be ready to accept the failures that I will endure in the future. I can move on rather than linger on failure.

Being pessimistic makes me think that the worst is going to happen and that I need to be ready for it and whatever harm it brings. It prepares me for the challenges I’ll face sooner or later in life.

There was a time when I was optimistic, but after disappointing myself and being disappointed by others, I now view life somewhat negatively. I am prepared to accept the negatives in life and have learned not to be too attached because nothing in life is permanent. I may sound emo right now but if you really think about it, it is true. My pessimism is not extreme to the point where I think life has no reason. I still know that life is full of surprises, sometimes good, sometimes bad. However, pessimism is my flaw because being pessimistic makes a person lose hope and sometimes hope is the last thing we have.


My third place

A sociologist came up with the idea of thinking of home as your “first place,” school as your “second place,” and then there’s your “third place.” It’s the place where you can go and be with friends, be yourself, be creative or just be. You probably have one and don’t even realize it. It could be anywhere, maybe your best friend’s living room, the beach, the tree in front of your school where you and your friends hang out, the practice field, church or your favorite cafe. Tell us about your “third place.” Tell us where it is, what makes it different from being at home or school, and what it means to you. Describe what you do when you’re at your third place. How does it help you?

Write an essay to L.A. Youth and tell us about it.

Essays should be a page or more. Include your name, school, age and telephone number with your essay. The staff of L.A. Youth will read the entries and pick three winners. Your name will be withheld if you request it. The first-place winner will receive $50. The second-place winner will get $30 and the third-place winner will receive $20. Winning essays will be printed in our November issue and put on our Web site at


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