By Elizabeth Shannon '21
On October 2, 1950, Charles M. Schultz launched the Peanuts cartoons into the daily papers. That day, he created one of the most widely beloved American cartoons of all time. Almost everyone has seen Peanuts in one form or another. For my family, it would be considered a crime on par with fratricide to neglect to watch any one of the Peanuts holiday specials. For longer than I can remember, we’ve gathered around the television with popcorn and the two fleece blankets, made by my aunt, to watch Charlie Brown and his friends on their many adventures. We’ve laughed watching Charlie Brown serve buttered toast as Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve grown quiet as he was mocked for picking out the wimpiest Christmas tree. Our holiday season would not be complete without the Peanuts cartoons.
Our favorite, however, is the Halloween special. In "It’s the Great Pumpkin", apart from watching Linus make a fool of himself in the pumpkin patch, my whole family loves to tease me for my uncanny resemblance to Charlie Brown. He goes trick-or-treating with his friends and, after each house, all of the children share what they were given. Lucy and Sally and the others all get candy bars or gum, but at every house, Charlie Brown gets a rock. My mom and dad always howl with laughter when he says in his meek, disappointed voice, “I got a rock.” It became a running joke in my family that I would often “get a rock” in situations. At the time, my bad luck seemed to be inescapable. Much like Charlie Brown, I seemed to get the rotten end of every deal. My pattern of bad luck just became a thing that we all laughed at, until I learned to look at the situation in a different way.
"When I made the decision to change my mindset, I finally experienced a turning point in my bad luck. If I decided that I wouldn’t let the small things upset me, I could lighten my burden substantially."
When the middle school principal forgot to mention my name for making Junior National Honor Society, I got a rock. When we took turns giving each other “field hockey buddy” gifts for games and my buddy forgot until the morning of the game and just gave me a scribbled sign, I got a rock. When my wallet was taken out of my gym bag and never returned, I got a rock. When I went skiing and the instructor didn’t attach one of my skis correctly and the ski flew off as I was zipping down the mountain, causing me to fall down off the trail with one ski and be stranded for half an hour, I got a rock. When my luggage was lost at the airport, I got a rock. When my best friend moved out of the country, my dad took a job in another state, I totaled my car, and I experienced the worst anxiety of my life all within one month, I got a rock.
By the fall of my junior year, I was beginning to be fed up with “getting a rock.” I felt that I had collected enough rocks to start my own quarry. Most of my rocks were just pebbles, but as time went on, I began to gather boulders as well. It was hard to handle. My bad luck wasn’t funny anymore. I started pulling away from my friends and family. I felt like I would never stop feeling this heaviness. At first, I didn’t try to feel better. I was too afraid to get in a car for a while and I wished my friend wasn’t eight time zones away. I sat around and pitied myself all of the time. I spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at the scar on my arm from the wreck or checking Life360 to see my dad’s location in another state and feeling sorry for myself. Finally, I realized that my pain had become self-inflicted. My parents didn’t raise me to sit alone and feel sorry for myself. They raised me to fix my own problems. I decided it was time to get out of this funk. I thought back to Charlie Brown and wondered what he would have done. I do, after all, resemble his personality in many ways. I can come off as shy at times. I have a tendency toward panic. I can’t make a decision to save my life. I’m good old, wishy-washy Charlie Brown.
Then it struck me. No matter how many rocks Charlie Brown got, he continued to carry his bag to the next house. He was never discouraged. He had hope every single time and didn’t carry around any bitterness toward his situation. Charlie Brown and I may have bad luck, be the butt of some jokes and the one that always seems to get left out, but Charlie Brown taught me to just smile, have hope, and carry my bag to the next house. At the time, it wasn’t as simple as that to pull myself out of the hole I had gotten in, but Charlie Brown always helped me. When I made the decision to change my mindset, I finally experienced a turning point in my bad luck. If I decided that I wouldn’t let the small things upset me, I could lighten my burden substantially. Eventually, this helped me to overcome the bigger challenges in my life as well. I got comfortable driving again. My dad and I started texting each other throughout the week when he wasn’t home. I learned to spend less time pitying myself and more time laughing about my bad luck and then figuring out how to fix it.
"My experiences at Randolph and in my everyday life have forced me to redefine my idea of a strong person. A strong person is someone who is mentally tough and faces each new challenge with the mindset that they will overcome it."
Above all, Charlie Brown taught me about mental toughness. This is a skill that I have wrestled to perfect throughout high school. Randolph is the perfect environment for learning about mental toughness. This school commands each student to work our hardest to meet its high standards for how we conduct ourselves both academically and behaviorally. It presents us with challenges and the tools to overcome them, but then it is up to us to choose to be like Charlie Brown and face each day with an open mind. My experiences at Randolph and in my everyday life have forced me to redefine my idea of a strong person. A strong person isn’t necessarily someone who is physically overpowering or someone that never shows their emotions. A strong person is someone who is mentally tough and faces each new challenge with the mindset that they will overcome it.
In the past, I did not think of myself as a strong person for the same reasons that I did not think of Charlie Brown as a strong person. We didn’t seem strong. I thought that all these years watching Peanuts I had just learned that I was pathetic. I was wrong. I spent my childhood watching Charlie Brown’s silent perseverance and mimicking it. The people close to me will say that I’m one of the most goal-oriented people that they know. They will say that I don’t give up when things are tough. Having Charlie Brown as my role model is the main reason that last fall, when all seemed hopeless and daunting, I forced myself to stop wallowing in self pity and focus on the next goal. I had to recognize my inner strength to be able to pull myself out of that dark place.
Now, I’m proud to be Charlie Brown. I share the comparison with anyone who will listen. It always gets a good laugh, but the resemblance means a lot to me. I learned quiet determination from him. I still get rocks quite often, but now I know to laugh it off and hope that next time, I’ll get a candy bar.