SaraJane Carty - North Carolina Nomination & Photography by Jamie Loomis Photography Issue 54 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: SaraJane Carty faces many challenges to success, including multiple health issues causing chronic pain, severe anxiety and ADHD, which provided bullies an easy target. To improve her health, SaraJane works out regularly. This allows her to help her disabled father and elderly neighbor with physical tasks. Years of volunteer work includes school-based organizations (French Club and B.A.A.R.K Club) and faith-based, where she leads a Bible study for girls. SaraJane is a freshman at SCC, participating in C-Step and on the President’s List with a 4.0. She’s studying psychology to learn more about mental health disorders.
Photography by Jamie Loomis Photography
Question 1: SaraJane, I understand that you have a remarkable story to share. Let’s start off by talking about what challenges you.
In my life, I’ve had to push through chronic pain, anxiety, issues at home, and bullying. Yet none of these have limited my ability to set goals and reach for my future. I have demonstrated time and again what is most important: to take care of family and help others out along the way, to be clever enough to adapt to changing situations and to make healthy lifestyle choices. These qualities will benefit me throughout my life.
Question 2: What kinds of issues did you have at home?
At 15, I was responsible for cooking and cleaning. My mom had to work in another state and could only come home one weekend each month. I would go to school, then come home to care for my disabled father. Despite his own challenges, he still likes to work around the house, which actually causes more pain. Then I would cross the street and care for my neighbor, Papa, who has lung cancer. At Papa’s, I would feed and walk his dogs, and help with yard work. I not only helped them with everyday tasks, I also provided emotional support.
Question 3: You mentioned bullying. Please share more about that.
I spent evenings caring for others, so homework started right before bedtime, meaning I didn’t have help when I had questions. This caused my grades to slip. In addition, my anxiety made it difficult to ask questions in class. Honors classes require a lot of attention, and because of my situation, I wasn’t able to do my best. That’s when classmates began to ridicule me. I didn’t share what my home life was like because it only seemed natural to step up. I remember feeling guilty when the teacher would ask for my work and I had nothing to present.
Question 4: How did most teachers respond when you began to fall behind?
I tried to explain that I needed help but always got the same answer, “try a bit harder” or “ask classmates for help.” I wrote details for each assignment but it wasn’t enough. I was in a bottomless pit. Despite everything, I usually pulled through on final exams. I’ll never forget one time while walking to Weightlifting class, my English teacher stopped me in the hallway to congratulate me on getting one of the highest scores in his class! It was so uplifting to hear that praise from my teacher after feeling like a failure all semester.
Question 5: That’s tough. How did you turn it around?
I’ve developed a system to organize my work, splitting large assignments into smaller daily tasks. I became an honor roll student and confident in my ability to complete assignments in a timely manner.
Through therapy, I’ve developed skills to soothe my anxiety. I found true friends who know my story and encourage me. Their support gives me the confidence to ask questions in class until I understand the material. By organizing my work into smaller tasks, I can meet the deadlines. I’ve shared my process with others who are now also doing better at completing work on time.
Question 6: With all of this stress, how do you find balance?
I’m passionate about living my healthiest life. I keep myself in emotional balance by regularly doing yoga and making healthy food choices. In the morning and at night, yoga calms my mind and frees my body from some of my pain.
I also feel better when I do things for others. I look for opportunities to lift others up. While in school, I did volunteer work, including being a school ambassador and participating in BAARK, a club that supported the local Humane Society. Currently, I’m leading a Bible study and working at the food bank.
Question 7: SaraJane, what inspires you to participate in community service events, despite your health issues?
I’m inspired by the lead character from the movie, Evan Almighty. Who, when asked how to change the world, said, “One act of random kindness at a time.” This movie spoke to me. Evan faces ridicule when God asks him to build an ark. Despite his protests, he uses the ark to save his family, friends and neighbors from a flash flood. He learns that being kind isn’t always glamorous but it can mean everything to someone else. Kindness is given through actions, whether that be a warm smile to a sad stranger or a small gift.
Question 8: That is a great movie but teenage years can be challenging. Do you have an example of a time that you were able to perform an act of random kindness?
In History class, I noticed a girl crying. Some classmates tried to console her and others ignored her. I had a chocolate bar with me that day and even though I didn’t know her well, I asked if she would like it. “I know you don’t know me but I just wanted to tell you that everything will be okay.” Immediately, her scowl vanished and was replaced with a look of astonishment. Someone who didn’t really know her reached out. She thanked me and seemed a little more relaxed. It’s a moment that reminds me to stay kind to everyone.
Question 9: You openly discuss your diagnosis of severe anxiety. How does that factor in with your acts of random kindness?
My own battles with anxiety cause me to offer my help to others who are feeling overwhelmed. I offer a judgment free zone where my friends can safely express their emotions, problems, whatever they need to get off their chest. I never pry. I just offer a safe space and a listening ear. They know they can trust me; I never repeat what they share.
Question 10: Does your anxiety ever interfere with your ability to help others while in large groups of people?
Sometimes. I usually try to help behind the scenes. However, my desire to be a team player sometimes overcomes my anxiety.
That’s what happened when I portrayed Marie Antoinette for the Homecoming Parade. Although it’s a dream come true for an extrovert, being the center of attention is more of a nightmare to me. Yet, that’s exactly what I did. There I was, in a long green formal period costume with a tiara on top of my curls. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and mustered the courage to smile, wave, and toss candy to the crowds.
Question 11: Have there been other times you’ve been able to step outside of your comfort zone?
The parade wasn’t the only time I left my comfort zone. With encouragement, I joined the Girls’ Weightlifting class. No one, including myself, thought I’d be able to lift much weight with my tiny frame. It was challenging. Yet, I’d consistently strive to exceed my stats from the day before. In the end, I was shocked at how much I could lift! Joining that class was one of the best choices I ever made. I proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to and I am so proud of myself for it.
Question 12: How did weightlifting affect other aspects of your life?
Armed with the confidence gained from weightlifting, I opened my mind to trying new experiences. This willingness to interact more with my teachers and classmates led to an opportunity to participate in LatinX, a festival celebrating Hispanic culture at the community college. I greeted visitors from the community as they came to learn more about what the community college has to offer. After my shift, I was able to talk more with my wonderful Sociology professor, listen to music, enjoy the sunshine and eat some delicious foods. It was an experience that I’ll always treasure.
Question 13: Do you have a hidden talent?
I do have a hidden talent! Papa taught me how to throw knives at trees. Sometimes after helping him in the yard, we’d stay outside and practice throwing knives. Eventually, my parents bought me my own set of throwing knives and a target. It’s up hanging on the fence in my backyard.
Question 14: What do you hope to gain by sharing your incredible story?
I know that the skills I’ve learned throughout my journey can positively impact the lives of others. That’s why I hope my story will encourage others to keep pushing through their own troubles. The world has a way of humbling us. The important thing is to keep getting back up. There is hope for everyone to accomplish their goals. However, one thing I've learned is that life can change in an instant. Who knows what opportunities will present themselves? We all have gifts to share with the world, we just need a chance. Look for SaraJane in issue 54 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!