One Step At A Time Essay

One Step At A Time Essay

Unaware animals, including those way out in the ocean, get a ring of death wrapped around their throat from human actions. Even simple actions like throwing a can of soda into a bush beside the road or in a neighbor’s yard can eventually affect wildlife in the sea. As a whole, littering is basically depositing an item where it does not belong. Although there isn’t a person who hasn’t littered, it needs to stop before it gets out of hand.
Surprisingly, some people think littering is okay. This is not the case; there are far too many consequences. They argue that since everyone does it, why shouldn’t they? Or what difference could one person make? Another claim is that biodegradable items, such as bananas and paper towels, are okay to litter. Because their materials are found naturally throughout the world, people feel they act as effective fertilizers. Finally, the most common excuse is that it is much more convenient to just toss trash out the window of a car than to track a garbage can down. However, these stances are biased and most people who agree with these points don’t know the penalties of littering.
Many people do not realize littering is a crime that is illegal in all fifty states. However, according to a survey, 85.7% of teenagers feel it is morally wrong, yet 92.8% of them still litter. Only 35.7% of them actually know the consequences of it. A first offence results in about a $750 fine, and often times community service hours or even jail time. Each subsequent offence results in heavier penalties. Also, many people do not realize what constitutes as littering. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, litter is plainly “things that have been thrown away and that are lying on the ground in a public place,” which means anything, including an item as small as a cigarette butt or biodegradable like a banana peel. Despite the fact that cigarette butts are small, they can be quite dangerous if not properly disposed. Studies have shown it takes between one to five years for one to degrade. Plastics take even longer to decompose, usually between ten to 450 years. A simple action like throwing an empty water bottle out the window penalizes the world for hundreds of years.
Littering impacts the economy. According to the University of Southern California, 100,000 marine animals are entangled, suffocated, or cut by rough edges each year. The majority of these cases could have easily been prevented, just by throwing trash away. Litter originates on land, where eventually it migrates to a waterway, and then into the ocean where it ensnares wildlife. Most of this trash goes into one of the five ‘gyres’ (a giant ocean based whirlpool) throughout the world. The largest, commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), is located between Asia and the United States. According to National Geographic, there are approximately 1.9 million pieces of plastic per single square mile in the GPGP. The ocean debris can disrupt the food chain: Plankton...

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One Step at a Time

by Anant Vinjamoori
age: 19

“Th-Th-The man...”

“Stop, Anant. Relax, take a deep breath, and try again.”

I mouthed the sentence I was to read silently and I prepared myself for another try. I was going to rattle off this sentence flawlessly. I was going to knock the socks off my speech therapist, and this would be the very last session I would have to attend. In fact, from this day forth, I was going to speak so effortlessly, so perfectly, that my amazing eloquence would almost surely set me on the path towards becoming the President. Yes, I was going to be the President.

“Um, Anant? You can go ahead now.”

Abruptly awakened from my reverie, I prepared to speak.


It was as if I had suddenly struck a wall. It was not as if I did not know what to say —  I knew so well the texture, the composition of the verbal barrier that confronted me. Yet scaling that barrier was another matter altogether. I knew especially well the potential and possibilities that lay beyond this wall. If only I could cross to the other side. 

* * *

A few months into kindergarten, I was placed in a speech therapy class at my elementary school. I was told that I had a speech impediment, namely a stuttering problem, which interfered with my ability to communicate with clarity. Every week, the speech therapist, Ms. Polly, would pull me out of class for our hour-long sessions.
Past the familiar library, past my beloved computer lab, I was taken to a cozy room, neatly tucked away in one of the forgotten corners of the elementary school. The walls, laden with inspirational posters and depictions of far away places, lulled me into soothing daydreams of a hopeful future.

Ms. Polly was a kindhearted individual who genuinely cared for my progress. Unfortunately, I didn’t take to her lessons with nearly the same enthusiasm as I did to the decorations on the wall. I felt embarrassed to be attending these sessions, singled out as the kid with “the problem.” To cope with the embarrassment, I convinced myself that I was never “really trying” even as I floundered through speech in daily life.

When my teacher used to ask questions of the class, I would mull long and hard over the perfect reply, anticipating any and all potential counter questions. The teacher would be impressed, and my classmates would be in awe. With a confident smirk, I would put my hand up, only to be reduced to the class laughingstock as I stuttered and stumbled before I could even start my elaborately planned response. I was the architect of the most magnificent ladders, but I could not climb past the first rung.

Despite my difficulties, my dreams persisted. There was no stuttering, no hesitation, when I was delivering the State of the Union Address or when I was giving my post-Superbowl interview.

As high school approached, I saw the opportunity to join the speech and debate team as the first step toward making my dreams come to fruition. My first few rounds, however, were very trying experiences. As I perused the judges’ comments on my ballots, the words of one judge — whose name I cannot remember — caught my attention. “It looks as if you have a lot of meaningful things to say. Take things more slowly — one step at a time.” Sure, it may seem simple, obvious even. But for me it made all the difference. For the first time in a long while, someone had seen me not as the hopeless kid with the speech problem, but instead as a capable kid with a special problem, a problem that I realized I could fix.

Now when I spoke, I didn’t think about what I was going to say five minutes later, the applause I was going to receive at the end, or the presidential address I was going to deliver in 40 years. My vast ocean of thoughts was channeled into a steadily flowing stream of consciousness. I would focus only on what I was to say at that moment and nothing more.

Of course, my mental adjustments were not met with immediate results. But as I continued to commit myself to this new perspective, I grew to love the communication arts and developed a special appreciation for the spoken word.

I haven’t discovered the cure for speech impediments, nor have I formulated some magical mindset for success. At heart, I am still a developing teenager, endlessly distracted by my own demons of ambition. What I have discovered, though, is a personal affirmation, my own meaningful reminder of one of life’s simple, yet Zen-filled truisms. Whether I’m making a speech, beginning a clarinet concerto, starting a research presentation, or even writing an essay, I can be sure of one thing:

It’s hard to climb a ladder if you’re only looking up.

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