Anna Ahrens
Jackson High School
Grade 9

You never know what you’ll see in the mornings. That’s why I like taking early-morning walks through town, even though my brother thinks it’s crazy.

On this particular morning, I traverse our boulevard, lit by glowing street lights and the sliver of a sunrise in the east. I pass the bakery where we buy cupcakes on our birthdays and the pool where we swim in the summer. I pass the music store that always has the songs I love and the house of our nosy neighbor who often peeks out the window. Finally, I reach the gym, where I stop to rest. I notice a solitary figure in the window, a girl lifting weights that look impossibly heavy to me.

I am about to keep walking, to leave behind the girl in the window and move forward with my day — after all, this girl’s life doesn’t matter to me — but instead, I pause, beginning to wonder. Why is this lone girl here, so dedicated to lifting her weights that she shows up before the birds begin to sing?

Maybe the girl lifts weights because of her brother. Her brother bet she wasn't committed enough to exercise every day, and she is going to prove to him she is not weak. She is dedicated, and she will be stronger than even him one day. Or perhaps her brother joined the army. She wants to be just like him, strong and courageous, providing help and protection for all. She is going to follow in his footsteps one day.

Maybe her reason has nothing to do with her family. Maybe the girl wants to play football. She knows it's not exactly normal and that some people won’t approve, but she wants to do it, anyway. She'll have to show she is worthy to be accepted by the team, that she’s not just some helpless girl who can't withstand a tackle. She's loved the sport from afar for years, so she keeps training and training for the tryouts next week. If there was ever a time for a girl to play football, she figures now is it. She can do this.

Or perhaps it is a family thing. Maybe the girl wants to help out her family business; she lives on a family farm. Right now, there are cattle to feed and crops to harvest. She'd always just let everyone else do the work, but now, she wants to be part of the tradition spanning generations. To be close to her relatives in a new way. To really contribute. Even though she hates to exercise, she lifts weights to become stronger so she can help her family more and more.

Or maybe she does it on her own sleepless mornings to forget her horrible ex-boyfriend, that jerk who left her for the new, beautiful, perfect French exchange student. She lifts weights to let herself forget her ex, the new girl's stylish appearance, her infuriating fancy accent, the way they hold hands in the hallways, the fact that French is even a language. She does it to forget that, deep down, she's maybe still in love with him.

It could be she lifts weights because of a different sort of personal battle. Maybe for years she has hated how she looks and is changing that. She has been exercising a little each day, getting more confident about being who she is. She is strong.

Or maybe she just lifts weights to lift weights. You never know.