This I Believe: I am Creating My Own Legacy

Kelli Cieplicki playing basketball. (Photo/Kelli Cieplicki)

Kelli Cieplicki playing basketball. (Photo/Kelli Cieplicki)

Kelli Cieplicki, AP Language and Composition Student

Before I was born, my family had an ongoing legacy in the state of Vermont. The Cieplicki family is known for being basketball stars. This legacy started with my grandfather, he was a star for his college team and then went on to coaching. He made a major impact on a small catholic private school in South Burlington Vermont, Rice Memorial Memorial High School, where his name is now on the basketball court. But my uncles, aunts, cousins, and parents are also well known for their basketball accomplishments; countless hall of fame inductions, retired jerseys, big-time coaches, the list goes on. I was told countless times, I have to be great, I have to carry on the legacy, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Growing up, I was surrounded by basketball and felt obligated to play. My parents would drag me to college games, take me to the parks, and have mini hoops in our house. It was engraved in my mind that I have to achieve more than my family has. I was always picked first for teams, partly because I was taller than all the boys, but also because the adults would always hype up my family name. There was one time I was at my afterschool program, I was coloring with my friends, then one of the counselors came up to me and said, “Kelli, you have to come to the gym and play knockout, you’re a Cieplicki, you don’t have a choice.” Yet again, I have to be like my family. Younger me always felt pressure from other adults. Even though people didn’t mean to add pressure to my plate, unfortunately, I was born into a life where people will know me even if I don’t know them.

Every Cieplicki who lived in Vermont has attended Rice for high school. However, my parents gave me a choice if I wanted to go to Rice or my town’s public school. Fourteen-year-old me felt a lot of weight on my shoulders. My other family members hinted to me that they wanted me at Rice. At the time it felt as if I had no choice on what school to go to because of my family’s history at Rice. However, my parents were very clear with me that it was my choice of where to go. When I made the decision to attend Rice, I was very excited. I thought that I would be able to carry out the legacy, but when I walked into the school doors, I second-guessed myself. All my life I heard–“Be better,” “A lot of people know who you are,” “Everyone is watching you,” “People want you to fail”–these words got to me. There were times I wanted to crumble and transfer out of Rice because of all the pressure to uphold what my family has accomplished.

However, as I matured and grew as a person I’ve come to reality with myself. I don’t need adults who aren’t family telling me how to act, live, or perform. I don’t need to compare my achievements to my family’s, or try to out due them to “carry out the legacy.” I have accomplished more outside of basketball in high school than most of them have, and I don’t need other people’s validation to tell me I’m great. I believe my family’s accomplishments don’t define who I am, and I am creating my own legacy.