Taekwondo helped Meghan Tran ’25 gain confidence.
Taekwondo helped Meghan Tran ’25 gain confidence.

Power in a Small Package

by Meghan Katherine Tran ’25

I was known as the short Chinese girl throughout my time in elementary schools. Kids would mainly make fun of me because of my height, while my ethnicity was just the cherry on top. I was your average shy 4-year-old. I had pigtails, a My Little Pony T-shirt, jean shorts and pink Velcro Converse. But I was 3 feet, 3 inches tall going into kindergarten. For years, I would be pushed around so easily that some of my friends thought I would break like a porcelain doll. I would be laughed at when I couldn’t reach a book on the middle shelf or when I couldn’t put a star-shaped sticker next to my name on the “good behavior” chart. I was overlooked, literally and metaphorically. By the time sixth grade came around, I was lean and about 4 feet, 2 inches tall. I was still known as the short Chinese girl, but kids would soon learn I wasn’t someone to mess with.

When I was in second grade, my parents signed me up to take taekwondo. As I attended class two to three times a week, I started to break out of my little shell. I learned the principles of taekwondo: respect, trust and confidence. I slowly started to gain the confidence I needed to stand up for myself. It was one step closer to ending my torment. When kids at school started to catch wind that I was taking self-defense classes, not as many people picked on me. As the number of people who bullied me dwindled, my circle of trust slowly began to open. I saw those who stood by my side during that time, and I knew that I could count on them for a while. In March of my seventh- grade year, I tested for and earned my first-degree black belt in taekwondo. Now I was known as the short and scary Asian girl.

Everything seemed fine, but a part of me was missing something. I realized I had not grasped the final principle: respect. Of course, I respected my friends and adults, but I did not have respect for myself. I just didn’t have a sense of pride in myself. For years, I was beaten down, and I always got back up, but there were some feelings that I couldn’t overcome. In the spring of my freshman year of high school, I tested for and earned my second-degree black belt in taekwondo. At the end of the test, my master gave me a life lesson to think about: “Always strive higher than what you are capable of. Don’t cut yourself short. Aim higher, and you’ll succeed.” Hearing that, I became whole again.

Today, I am still known as the short and scary Asian girl, but people respect me, not for the fact that I’m “scary,” but for the fact that I’ve grown from my past experiences. I am proud to say that I am 4 feet, 11 inches tall as a high school senior. Not only did I grow physically but mentally and emotionally. I have the confidence to achieve things I put my mind to and to support and stand up for those around me. I learned to trust more than just the people I’ve known for years. I’ve learned to have self-respect and pride in myself, because without that, I don’t think I could be the person I am today.

Meghan Katherine Tran ’25 is a finance major from Nutley, N.J.