Today is not her birthday. There is nothing special going on. Sometimes, Hanan doesn’t feel like she gets the love. She isn’t the oldest. She isn’t the first to do anything. She’s also not the last. There are days that she feels like she stands in everyone else’s shadow. That is impossible. Because this girl…

She shines way too bright to be in anyone’s shadow.

Hanan has had one of those years. It started during her freshman year and she is pulling herself out of it now. I remember those years. It’s the year when you can’t really find your footing. You are trying to decide who you are and that is so very hard when you are a teenager. Let me tell you something, I’ve heard people talking about the D.C./NoVA area before. I thought they were over dramatic when they said things were different here than they are anywhere else in the country. They were not. The kids here are held to different standards. They are pushed harder. Some of them go further. When you leave the land of aloha spirit and land here. It’s not easy. Anyway, Hanan is a typical fifteen-year old trying to figure out not just who she is and who she wants to be in a crazy, hyper-paced world that is saturated with social media pressures in addition to the normal teen angst. I’m suddenly happy to be over 40.

This year Hanan improved her running so much. It was hard for her to see when some of her friends were still out pacing her. She shaved off so much time. It’s nothing to shirk at but I also understand the need to be the fastest.

Hanan was just in the Winter One Acts.

She was amazing and so funny. She finished out the performances even though she was horribly sick. The audience had no idea. She was worn out and came home for us to find she was running a fever. Oops. It’s a testament to her work ethic, especially when it comes to the theatre. In spite of her amazing talent, (I know I’m her mom but she has it.) She wasn’t picked for a part in the spring musical. It happens to be a production that she’s done before. It was devastating. We reminded her that she is a sophomore but it was still a very hard pill to swallow.

In addition to all this, Hanan is a peacemaker at heart. She also has that extra sensitive chip AKA the ESC that my kiddos seem to be genetically predisposed to. The hardest thing for her this year has been navigating to world with her peers. I think for the most part (not always) Hanan tries to treat her peers the way she would prefer to be treated. She also holds this expectation for them. This year, she (I truly believe) unintentionally hurt a peer. To say it was an ordeal in our house would be mild. Hanan was broken. Not only did she not want to hurt anyone she felt that in spite of her apologies multiple people, adults and peers were disappointed in her. She struggled with how to act. What do you do when someone doesn’t show you forgiveness? How do you relate to a person who treats you one way in one scenario and then is completely different in private? How do you show forgiveness without trust? How do you (in your own perspective) always step up to the plate and wait worrying that ball will hit you and most of the time the pitch, good or bad never even comes? It gets better. She worried over possibly hurting a boy while suffering through having her heart broken by another one. Those are just a few of the hits that made just getting up and going to school an act of courage, especially when you have that ESC to deal with.

Let’s also not forget the fire. I will never forget the fire. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read about it here.

Can I tell you what Hanan has done with all of this? Brace yourself. Among other things she threw herself into a National History Day project. She didn’t have to. Hanan is in an honors class instead of an AP class. It was her choice. There is no participation requirement for honors students. It couldn’t have been easy. We are at a place where the expectation seems to be as many AP classes as you can possibly take and A’s are a must. Hanan is a year behind her sister. That shadow always lurks near her. Arleigh went to the regional finals with her project. Hanan’s teacher explained to her repeatedly that she could participate but be prepared to not move forward. She wasn’t held to the same standards as some of the AP students. She also didn’t get as much class time devoted to it or help. Her project was solid in spite of all that.

She participated, got great feedback and came home with her head held high for stepping out of her comfort zone. Plus, who could argue with a topic like “Women In The Navy” when the theme is “Conflict and Compromise Through History.” Did I mention how proud I am?

The thing that I am most proud of is her response to not getting a role in the musical. Hanan stopped running through winter track. She knew it would hurt her time. She worked hard on her role in the Winter One Acts and put her faith in participating in the spring musical. Not being chosen for any role was nothing short of devastating. I won’t lie. We all had a pity party for about two seconds. We encouraged her to put her heart into something else. With no suggestion from her family, Hanan started a Bible study group that currently meets at our home. She calls it Girlfriends In God.

She started it worrying that no one would come. This weekend I think there were five girls in my living room. I overheard some of their study and conversations. It was so good. They are developing relationships with each and other and bonding over Jesus. My heart is swelling just thinking about it. It gets better. On one of the Saturday nights that Hanan was hosting this Bible study, she had been invited to a party. That party was busted. An athlete was hurt, possibly killing her high school sports career. I saw some of the social media videos that were posted. I can’t even tell you what trouble we are in if this is what happens at sophomore parties. It’s a little different from the parties I was at in high school and even college.

All of this bragging mom post to say, I thought Hanan needed to know in a very public way that we are so proud of her and the choices that she is making in spite of how very hard high school can be. I just love the young lady she’s turning into and I can’t wait to see what she does next. She may perceive herself to be in a shadow but she’s not. Her light shines so very bright. I know I don’t tell her enough.