It took Mansa Aziz an unnecessary fight in seventh grade to realize that not every fight is worth fighting, and taking a stance to not fight can lead to a path of success. In his story he shares an instance of a fight he knows he shouldn’t have gotten into and how it changed his behavior at a young age. This story is part of MALA’s scholarship essay contest. To see more scholarship essays, click here.

In the beginning of seventh grade, I was a tween on the cusp of puberty, trying to navigate the unapologetic and harsh public school system. Forced to abide by a hierarchy based on societal standards, my one wish was to be considered “cool.” Riding on the school bus gave me access to achieving the pinnacle of high school recognition, by sitting alongside the most popular and athletic kids in my school. If they accepted me into their “squad,” I felt everyone would accept me.

One morning, the bus squad mentioned something that a fellow student, Don, had said to me the day before. Don had stated that, because of my height, I was not worth any of his time or respect. The bus squad knew of this and instigated an argument. Don started insulting me, and I made retorts that included a bevy of insults. The whole bus went wild. It’s all people talked about that day.

After school, while everyone waited for the bus outside, I waited by myself, and two eighth graders from the bus squad approached me. They tried to convince me to fight Don by bribing me with money and a kiss from a girl. I told them I didn’t need any money and that I had everything I wanted. They remained persistent, so I eventually gave them a firm no and got on the bus. But the eighth graders and the bus squad were relentless. The only one who told me not to fight was my friend Janette. She knew I wasn’t a fighter and that the people pressuring me to fight were not my friends. Unfortunately, I still got off the bus and fought Don while people taped the fight with their phones.

My reason for fighting was to gain the approval of the bus squad. Thankfully, a school alumnus broke up the fight and sent us home. Afterwards, there was a consensus that I won the fight, but the feeling was fleeting and less than gratifying.

The next day we all learned that Don told his father about the incident. As a result, his father called the school, and the school notified my mother. As a lawyer who has taught me the legal repercussions of fighting, my mother knew immediately that I wasn’t thinking clearly when I made the decision to fight. Thus, she got the video of the fight removed from social media and helped facilitate a conversation with my principal about the matter. Still, she reprimanded me for several months and demanded I never fight again except to defend myself. She challenged me to think about other ways to earn respect, such as by being a good leader and good role model.

From this incident, I learned that being accepted is not imperative, and that real friends want you to succeed instead of serving as their entertainment. The eighth graders did not respect me any more than they did themselves, and even if they did, I would not have wanted their reverence. A suspension would have become part of my academic record and might have ruined my future.

The fight could have gone viral on social media and job, scholarship or academic opportunities, would have been limited for me. Just like my ancestors before me, I am choosing a path where I only fight when necessary so I can achieve success. As a result, I haven’t gotten into a fight since this incident, and I strive for peace amongst all and try to stand up for the voiceless because I don’t want anyone to feel pressured or be humiliated by their peers or society.

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