Finalist Rebecca Sousa

When I started high school and began hanging around with a much older crowd of “friends” my mother warned me of the “bad vibes” she got from these older kids. She looked for any reason to keep me from going and hanging out with them. Eventually, she forbade me from riding in cars or having any of them over my house. I thought she was just being over-protective, and with the common teenage mindset that I knew what was best, I continued secretly hanging out with my older friends and even allowed them into my house when nobody was home.


As Jonathan Haidt explained in his book, “The Righteous Mind”, “The mind is divided like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.” Our intuitive thoughts and judgements come immediately and instinctively, and we use our reason to defend those intuitions, just as a rider’s job is to serve the elephant. My mother’s intuition told her that my friends were bad news and she then did every reasonable thing to prevent me from being around them. I will always regret disregarding her warning, and disobeying her orders. A few days before Christmas, I got a phone call from my frantic father saying that some of my parents’ fine jewelry had been stolen.


Local pawn shop security footage revealed the girl who I considered my best friend, trading my parents’ jewelry for minuscule amounts of cash, multiple times. I will never know all the details of what happened, whether she broke into my house when nobody was home, or if I was there in the house as she stole from my family over and over. I may have been too young and naive to realize it back then, but I now understand why my mom followed her gut instincts, and was unknowingly trying to prevent the worst from happening. From that devastating event I learned to pay closer attention to my intuition and the intuitions of others. Especially now as I begin college, I must keep in mind that the senses of an elephant are much keener than those of its rider.

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