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To Live is to Suffer: An Essay by Nicolas Simms

In honor of Black History Month, we asked students at The College of Southern Nevada, How does protest show up in your life? In this essay contest, students tackled societal & personal struggles while showcasing their writing skills. The winning essay below, was written by Nicolas Simms.




Every day we must wake up. While some of us may be able to wake naturally whenever our circadian rhythms say that we have slept enough, most of us are not afforded that luxury. We wake to the sounds of an alarm clock, indicating that the next 16 hours will be spent protesting—if we’re lucky.


In today’s society, the mere attempt to exist is an act of protest. Protest against a society that seems absolutely determined to grind us down until we are nothing but ash and dust. Through the mere act of pushing through, we protest and say that we will not be stopped.

For the single parent who wants to feed their child, they must protest the system and the people who have left them behind. They must fight every day to work, to save, and to provide in a world in which every week it becomes more expensive to get the basics done. They protest a society that is determined to move the goal posts on what it means to be a good parent, and then mock them when they fail.


For the teacher who spends every spare cent, and then some, on their students, determined to see them rise above their circumstances, each paper and pencil is an act of protest. To aid the next generation in their hopes and dreams, they must protest school districts and administrators too concerned with test scores to provide the adequate materials needed for success.


For the student who wants to learn, but cannot display their knowledge on a standardized test, every assignment is a protest. To prove to a system that wants to reduce them to a set of data points for funding, that they are worthy, regardless of the red on their scantron. To have the impact that they want to have on the world, while being told at every turn they must think differently.


For the person who just wants to be seen for who they are, and not what they are expected to be, the act of expression is protest. Being true to themselves is a protest against the norms that are shoved upon them. A protest against those who tell them that they are wrong for just being who they are, without committing any actual wrongs. They fight for something that we should all be given as a basic human right: the feeling of being seen and heard.


When asked “How Does Protest Show up in your life,” the answer is every day, not only with myself, but with every one that I cross paths with. Whether that be at work, school, the shops, or within my own social circle, everyone is protesting every day for what they want to achieve out of life. It was Gordon Allport who said, “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering,” and I believe to find that meaning, one must protest.


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