I am Not a Punchline

Yesterday, I was told a rape joke by an acquaintance who knows my story.

He then got mad when I didn’t find it funny.

“I thought you were over it,” he said.

Firstly, I never said I got over it.

Forgiven, yes.

Trying to move on, yes.

Over it, no.

I don’t know how you get over something like that:

He slammed my locker shut every day. He teased me relentlessly. He asked me out. I said “no.” That’s not the way I wanted to be treated.

To him, a simple ‘no’ was the end of the world. He decided I needed to be punished. He got his friends and they raped me in the school bathroom.

As soon as they finished, they left as quickly as they came. And I was left to pick up the pieces. The shattered pieces of my dignity fit in the palm of my hand. I washed off the traces of their crime. I covered up the developing bruises, and I went on my way.

I told no one.

They told me no one would ever love me, and I was eager to prove them wrong. So when my best friend asked me out too soon after, I eagerly said yes. I needed to prove them wrong, but I tried too soon.

We were too young. I was a mess, and I didn’t know how to help myself. But I kept my secret for over a year.

I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be blamed.

I started cutting and starving to erase their memory from my mind. My parents wondered why their showers were always cold.

(I was trying to burn away their touch from my skin)

We’re out of razors already?

(I was trying to carve a new person from my hollowed out soul)

I was a broken-down frame of a burned out house, and I needed to rebuild myself again.

And I needed to do it from the ground up. I needed to figure out who I was as a person; who did I want to be?

We needed to break up; it was a long time coming.

And almost seven years later, I’m standing on the other side of this inferno. Like a phoenix, I’ve risen from the ashes. I’m standing on a mountaintop, surveying the demolished parts of me, which serve as a reminder for who I was.

I’ve forgiven. I’ve rebuilt. I’ve stopped cutting, started eating. And I have pretty much healed.

But I don’t know how I will ever “get over this.”

I’ve stopped being a victim. I’ve started living. I focus on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, where I want to go.

Firstly, I don’t know if I will ever get over this.

Secondly, I am not a punchline.

There’s nothing funny about any of this.

It’s a cliché that shouldn’t have to be repeated, and yet, here we are.

We have to teach this old dog new tricks because I’m tired of wearing this old hat.

I can’t let you laugh this off.

There’s no punchline in being a statistic.

I refuse to be the victim, and I will fight you tooth and nail if you try to pin this on me:

Capital S for “Slut.”

My name is not “Bitch.”

I refuse to be somebody’s unwanted leftovers.

Out of the broken-down frames of a burned-out house, I have built myself again.

Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

I am Everest.

I am stronger now than I was before.

But I refuse to be a punchline.

I am not a punchline.

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Me of 2014, Here’s to You: A Year in Review

At the conclusion of every year, I like to make a mental list of things I’ve learned throughout the year. This year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve also written a lot. So instead of making a mental list, I decided to write what I’ve learned down. What I’ve learned turned into a list summarizing what I’ve written about, what I’ve talked about with friends, and what I’ve thought about late at night. It turned into a list echoing a letter, partially inspired by a wonderful friend I went to Guatemala with. Do with this list what you will, but I’ve discovered the importance of reflecting on how much a year can change you, on how much you grow over the course of twelve months. Without further adieu, what I’ve learned in 2014.

Dear Me of January 1, 2014,

In 2014, you will:

  • be challenged, step out of your comfort zone, learn so much, cry, laugh, heal, celebrate, and mourn.
  • experience the healing power of forgiveness without expecting an apology.
  • be pushed to the breaking point (again) with one of the most physically and mentally exhausting semesters. You will learn from this and follow it up with one of your easier semesters. Thank yourself for this.
  • receive an unexpected apology.
  • experience God in new ways: through the first sunny day after a long, dark winter; through the cuddles of a toddler on Friday mornings; through the strength you find to get out of bed in the morning.
  • deepen old relationships, discover new ones, and cut ties with toxic people.
  • celebrate milestones marking things you’ve overcome.
  • rediscover yourself, redefine yourself, learn to love yourself.
  • make it through another year. Sometimes you’ll fight an uphill battle; sometimes you’ll walk on solid ground.
  • be knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, but you’ll get back up over and over and over again.
  • stop writing your book after a long period of self-doubt, and then you’ll start writing again after revamping and reorganizing because you have so many stories churning inside that sometimes you can’t sleep at night because the words inside your head won’t stop screaming until you give them live. And you learned a long time ago about the power of words–how they should not be silenced.

In 2014, you will:

  • realize it’s ok to ask for help, to be vulnerable, to let people in. You should not be ashamed of your past.
  • learn more about the world, and in doing so, your views and beliefs will be challenged, but in the process you will become more open-minded. What you believe may not line up with what those around you believe. Embrace this. The world in not black and white; it’s a complex amalgamation of issues that cannot clearly be defined. Life is not a math equation, no matter how many people try to define it as such.
  • learn that you don’t agree with the way everyone lives their lives. That is ok. Some people don’t have the same beliefs as you. Don’t push yours on them. Love is more important.
  • learn to appreciate the little things.
  • have a hard time getting out of bed somedays, but you will anyway. Although it may not be until after you have an argument with yourself in which you way the pros and cons: it’s safer here, but you won’t get to see your friends. It’s warm and I’m tired, but you won’t get to learn. You will learn to have faith that the floor will hold your weight, and when you feel like the burdens of this world are too heavy for your legs, God will carry you through it.

In 2014, you will:

  • come face-to-face with the ignorance of people. You will be forced to validate your existence to people who make jokes about your past. Look them in the eyes as you ask them to explain how the joke is funny. Watch them squirm as their face turns red. Do not apologize for embarrassing them. Do not accept their apology for cracking that joke. How else will they learn? Somethings are not meant to be joked about.
  • learn that some professors wil make insensitive comments. Next time you hand in a journal about a depressing poem, compare the poem to your own life.
  • learn that some professors are the most caring people on the planet and give so much time to their students. They will stop you on the sidewalk because they know you are having a hard time. You will pour your heart out to them. Tell these professors how much they are appreciated. Don’t take them for granted.
  • encounter people who make you feel insignificant. Don’t speak softly. Assert yourself. Make your presence known. Do not apologize for existing.
  • call people out on their behavior.
  • realize opinions and beliefs you previously held were wrong. That’s ok, because now you know better. You have matured and learned.
  • learn that people are the worst and the best. You will be horrified at the way people treat others, but in the midst of it all, you will realize the good of humanity: out of darkness comes light. Embrace the good. Learn from the bad.

In 2014, you will want to change the world. You will find strength you didn’t know you had. You will start fighting. You will continue fighting.

For 2015, promise yourself you won’t stop. Life is too beautiful to give up.

In 2015, you will:

  • graduate from college.
  • find a job.
  • learn to love yourself more.
  • ?

It’s a blank book, a blank slate. Embrace it. You’ve come so far in 2014, and 2015 holds so much more promise despite the unknown.

“How do you prepare yourself for another 365 days of uncertainty?”

  • pray
  • hope
  • trust.

Sincerely,

The You of December 31, 2014.

Recovery- A Sonnet Sequence

  1. When in the mirror I myself do see,

The face is not one I recognize look-

ing back. It looks almost maybe like me,

at times. If not, my confidence is shook.

Pinpointing events like candles in wind.

On, off, flickering, blowing, out they go,

Innocence lost when they against me sinned:

My white to black to red is what I know.

My red to black to white turns back again.

A plague upon my soul has fallen now.

My skin has scars pinpointing where I’ve been.

My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

The sky is dark; the sun begins to frown.

As flowing water,redemption comes down.

  1.  As flowing water, redemption comes down,

and washing fears and tears away and make-

ing me as new. I desire that you take

away this weight. I don’t want to drown.

I want to live on earth and see it’s brown

and green. This universe has claimed some stake

in existence. I have to be awake.

So life can live, and I can claim my crown.

My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

A fire burned and turned me into dust.

The rain it came and brought me back to life.

A garden grew as I, despite the strife.

I choose to live and living well I must,

My past defineith not my fate I vow.

  1. My past defineith not my fate, I vow.

I shalt not give up even when the go-

ing toughens up. The wind may blow this bough,

I, however, will falleth not. I grow

and grow and grow for now. I cannot fail.

I shall not fail. I have to be awake.

My strength is growing. Faith will now prevail.

Believing gravity is, for my sake,

the only way my legs won’t fail me when

I wake. Because now’s not the time for drop-

ping, testing, fighting. Three stars out of ten.

My life has dealt this card. I have to stop

pinpointing events like candles in wind,

innocence lost when they against me sinned.

  1. Innocence lost when they against me sinned.

I tried to test gravity once. Instead,

I sproured wings and flew. Sometimes I bled

and bled. The scars my skin bears, like the wind,

remind my present where I’ve been. I sinned

against my body when I tried to shred

this skin given me. Sometimes words unsaid

can devour me alive. How unkind.

Somehow, despite everything tried by me,

I still will rise every morning, noon,

and night. It matters not I swear. How can

this be? I seem to have up there a fan:

alive despite all. I will smile soon

when in the mirror I mysef do see.

Close Your Eyes- A Fiction Piece

Author’s note: Originally written for my Creative Writing class, it also won best Fiction piece for the literary edition of my school’s newspaper.

Of the two of us, my little sister was always the smart one. I was the dreamer; she was rational. She’s a law student now, working as an intern in the big city. My life, however, turned out a little different. Looking back on how I lived my life, all I can wonder is: did I do enough?

. . .

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I were out celebrating, not drinking. I had seen how alcohol can destroy lives. My parents died during a heavy snowfall, in a five car pileup on the Thruway after some guy who had too much to drink lost traction and slammed his pickup into a tractor trailer, which jackknifed. My parents weren’t the only ones who died in that crash, but they were the only ones I knew, the only ones I cared about. My sister was two years old and understood mostly none of what happened. I was nine and understood too much. She wondered why mom and dad weren’t coming back, where they went; I wondered how someone could get behind a wheel drunk, putting other people’s lives in danger, and not think twice. He lost his life, and I felt like I lost mine. Eventually, my sister became my life.

. . .

We were alone, my sister and I, so my grandparents took us in. Bless their souls; they certainly had their hands full: my sister was just beginning to be potty trained, and I was still learning how to break out of my shell of shyness and talk to others. But we were tough, the two of us, and we learned how to survive. Every day, we taught each other the ways of the world, and in the process, learned more about ourselves. I was the one who taught her how to tie her shoes, who helped her learn to ride a bike. I taught her how to stand up for herself and when to walk away. I told her not to believe everything she sees on TV, but I also told her to believe in magic. In the process of being an older sister, my little sister taught me how to find joy. She taught me to take time to laugh, and that the curiosity of a child is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, all you need to get up in the morning, when the day ahead seems like too much to bear, is a simple reminder that you’re not alone. She reminded me every day.

I was the one who reminded her over and over and over again what happened to Mom and Dad, why they weren’t coming back. My sister was too young to remember them, so I had to do enough remembering for the two of us. I told her Dad’s favorite jokes, which were plenty. He knew how to find something humorous in every situation. In our small town, he was known for his ability to make up jokes off the top of his head, pull them out of thin air—like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. I thought he was Superman: invincible except for kryptonite. If kryptonite is snowfall, alcohol, and a pickup, I guess I was right. I was the one who sang my sister to sleep every night, watching as she closed her eyes and drifted off to the same words that once graced my mother’s lips: the wind knows a place where the stillness is, where the world seems to stop, and time stands still. Close your eyes, and in that moment, we’ll be together again. I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I hoped to God I would be like her someday.

My sister is the spitting image of my mother, with her big blue eyes and long blonde hair and ringlets cascading down her back. Dad had the dark hair, tan skin, dark eyes. “My Italian Prince,” my mom used to say. Somehow, I inherited his dark hair, tanner skin, but I have my mother’s eyes. Of the two of us, my sister definitely inherited my dad’s funny bone. She made me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry. And she could impersonate anybody and anything. A weird old man used to live in our town. He had a southern twang, and used words I’ve never heard of, and when he talked, he used every part of his body. Every time he spoke, it looked like he was dancing, or at least having a seizure.  Anytime we needed a laugh, she did her “Southern Man impression,” and she played him better than he did. My sister always told me that I have the prettiest voice in the world, and I would be famous someday. I always wanted to believe her. I wanted to make her proud of me, but what I failed to realize was that she was: she wanted everybody in our school to know that she was my sister. I guess she got her wish, I’m famous now, and everybody knows she’s my sister.

Yes, we were close, my sister and I, despite the seven years between us. I was never sure which was better: being so close that your younger sister copied everything you did, or being so distant that you hardly ever talk.

My sister and I talked for hours every day as we were growing up. We talked about boys, the future, and the funny happenings of life, but we also talked about serious things: I gave her the sex talk, which was awkward, and we also talked about death, what we thought heaven was like. We talked about almost everything. When I was eighteen, I recorded a demo of my Mother’s lullaby. It got me a recording contract, so I moved to the big city. Even then, we talked every day.

My sister wanted to be just like me. One time when I was fourteen, I found my sister in her room, pinching her stomach, disgusted at how she looked. My heart broke. I had done the same thing just a few minutes before; she had seen me do it every day for four years. What a hypocrite I was: I had always told her not to compare herself to others, and yet, there I was, comparing myself to all the girls I deemed prettier than me. I was never confident in my own skin. My sister and I were close, but I had never told her about my insecurities before that day. Open communication about everything started right there and then. I told her about all the anger I had toward that driver who killed our parents those six years before. I told her about how the mirror was never my friend. Then I told her how I was beginning the painful process of letting go of the anger I had, and in that process, I was learning how to love myself.

. . .

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I were out celebrating, not drinking. Instead, my friends and I went midnight bowling in fancy dresses—something I had missed out on doing after my Junior Prom. My sister had called me earlier in the day, and I told her to keep her eye out for a letter that would be arriving in the next few days, and after the “I love you”s and the goodbyes, we hung up and promised each other we would talk again tomorrow.

It was the best night of my life.

On the evening of my twenty-first birthday, my friends and I left the bowling alley. I heard tires screeching, a horn honk, and my friends screaming. I saw a bright light, and then everything went black. My last moments alive, I was surrounded by friends who loved me, but my sister wasn’t there. I regret that.

. . .

Four months after my funeral, my friends and family sat in a big city courtroom facing the man who hit me. Before the verdict came down, my little sister said she wanted to read the letter I had written her for the first time. The letter was dated my twenty-first birthday, and upon seeing this, she began to whimper softly. But after a few seconds, she somehow found the strength inside of her to begin reading:

Dear Little Sis,

            If I timed this letter correctly, it should be your first day of high school. Congratulations! People are going to tell you a lot of things about high school. Don’t listen to them. It’s not the best for years of your life, and you don’t have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

            Don’t let anyone define you or put you in a box. It’s not for them to decide who you are and who you are going to be. Dream big. Reach for the stars. Defy gravity. Learn to embrace irony; life is riddled with it. If you want to travel the world, travel the world. Don’t live life with regrets. Learn how to love yourself, because there was once a time when I did not, and I spent so much time worried about what others thought of me, I didn’t define myself. I tried to please everyone, and it made me unhappy. Learn from my mistakes. Life is too short to let others dictate your life choices. If you ever see an injustice being done, fight. Fight hard. Fight for those who have no voice. Fight for those who are weak. Fight for yourself, but also learn when to walk away.

            I’ve learned that anger is a powerful motivator, but it’s also toxic, corrosive, destructive. It almost destroyed my life. But I learned that forgiveness is more powerful than all the wrongs done to you. Love is more powerful than all the evil in the world. If you ever find yourself angry at the world, take a step back, take a deep breath, and find the strength to forgive. Find the power to love. If there’s ever a day when you find it hard to get out of bed, when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember that an ant can carry things 6x its own weight. You are not an ant; you’re not alone in life. You have family and friends who love you, and a big sister who is more proud of you than anything in the world. And no matter how many miles separate us in the future, remember that I will always be with you. There are some chains distance can’t break: the love of a sister is one, because boys will come, and boys will go, but a love of a sister is forever.

            Talk to you soon,

            Your Big Sis!

The courtroom was quiet as the verdict came down: guilty on both counts—vehicular manslaughter and driving while Intoxicated.

. . .

Somewhere on a stretch of road, the pavement is stained red, serving as a reminder of how fragile life can be. Somewhere, in the cemetery of a small town, a twenty-one year old law student sits at my grave, her older sister, a singer known for one song, a lullaby; a singer who became famous only after her death. This woman sits in silence and listens as the whispering wind sings the words to her mother’s lullaby.

The wind knows a place where the stillness is, where the world seems to stop, and time stands still. Close your eyes, and in that moment, we’ll be together again.

Watching the Sky at 2 am

In 18 years, I’ve experienced more death than births; I’ve been to more funerals than weddings.

The first time I broke down, I was caught by a boy with green eyes who made my world go round; the thirtieth time I fell, he was no longer there to soften my fall.

Love is a painful thing: it takes a smooth, beating heart and leaves it broken, bleeding, and jagged for the next person to cut themselves on.

I have written more stories than letters, but all of my stories are letters in their own right—addressed to the wrong person, so the right one will never read them.

I’ve realized that it is better to leave over time than to do so suddenly—to burn out slowly than to be extinguished by a gust of wind; however, I’ve set myself on fire, trying to ignite the sky on my skin, trying to burn myself all at once, trying to erase the memories that are on replay in my mind. But the sparks don’t catch, and I don’t turn to ash; I just become more fire resistant over time.

Every time I begin to fall in love, I’m left out in the cold; love is a difficult thing: sometimes the hearts don’t connect because of missed glances, missed chances. These are the moments when I wonder what it would feel like to be inside someone else’s chest, to be the beating organ that is keeping them alive; I learned that broken hearts don’t mean broken spirits: crumbling walls and leaking ceilings can be fixed, scars will heal over time.

The wind knows all my secrets, and you can too if you just listen.

I’ve learned that promises are only as strong as the person who tells them, which is why I’m trying to be stronger— I’ve been weak for far too long.

I fall too far too fast, because my head is always in the clouds; my knees are permanently skinned from plummeting down to earth when reality hits me in the chest and tells me you’re not coming back.

I love to read, because everybody has a story; and I’ve thrown caution to the wind, hurling mine into the ocean as I watch you swim out to rescue it.

No matter how far I get from the shore, there will always be sand beneath my feet.

I dance in the rain because I don’t feel as lonely as I’m being kissed from heaven.

Autumn is beautiful, because the trees lose themselves and find themselves again in the spring. Pain has a way of doing the same thing, which is why the scars on my skin trickle through my writing, because that’s what I know.

I turn in my bed like the last page of a book, but there’s nothing to stop me from falling except myself.

I watch the moon and stars at 2 am wondering if you can see them from where you are; and when I see a shooting star, I wish that you were here with me.

Love is more than falling in love; it’s about falling out of love. It’s about losing someone you once held dear—a friend, a significant other, a family member.

I love you.

I adore you.

I miss you.

My Being

My body is a battlefield. Home to the never-ending war between hope and survival; it’s a cemetery containing dashed dreams, lost hopes and broken hearts. My veins are meandering rivers; a crisscrossing map outlining every place I’ve been, illustrating every face that has sunk into the deep recesses of my memory. They carry blood that was formerly red for anger back to the heart. Though the skin around my veins is scarred, they are blue for the ocean, for sorrow, for pain. When it rains, pieces of the sky collect on my skin. No dream is too high. The shedding of my skin is akin to the falling autumn leaves and to the sunset—a fresh start, a new beginning.

My heart is a seashell; my heart beat is the waves that kiss the shore. The delicate red flesh is wrapped in the blood of loving too much, knowing too little, being and becoming. The walls are scattered with names; the atriums are filled to the brim with the little pieces of others collected along the way. Each beat is an old memory floating to the surface of my conscious—music, movies, dead pets, dead relatives, laughter, friends, and family. The memories floating through my veins collect in my chest and in my wrists, which is why I give hugs. New memories can be made, and old memories can transfer, proving that I’m alive.

Sewn into the walls of my lungs are the remnants of everything I’ve experienced, everything I’ve breathed, and everything I’ve lived. Scrawled in the leftover spaces are the notes of every breath I took, no matter how high or low its song. My lungs have been witnesses in moments that took my breath away—a flower growing in a garden of weeds, a sunset after a storm, a smile despite the cruel behavior, and by words that were read, spoken, and written.  The soles of my feet have crushed dreams; but they’ve also matched the stride of broken souls, reminding them that they are not alone as they walk this journey.

My shoulders contain the leftover pieces of what once were wings; although sometimes, my arms collect feathers, and for a moment, I believe that I am almost strong enough to fly once again. My fingers contain the touch of creating. Like windshield wipers, my eyelids have protected my eyes. But, they too have broken. My eyes become oceans as they witness the darkness of life. My knees kiss the floor during bed time prayers, they give way when I need them to stay, but they also stay strong when I want to collapse. The mending and unbending of my spine has more courage stringing through its bones than I have strength. Sometimes, that makes all the difference. My tongue has tasted the most beautiful days and the most rotten nights. It has choked on cruel words while it has spat at my own soul. Sometimes, my lips crack as my self-esteem is drawn out of them with the straw of a hurt soul. There are days when the rumbling in my tummy never goes away; there’s fat on my body to prove it.

My soul contains an angel and a devil fighting for my self-respect and worth. Sometimes my self-esteem can be measured out in teaspoons, mixed in the words I write, and still not fill up the need to believe in myself. But that’s life, and that’s me. And I wouldn’t change for anybody.

Believe in Heartbeats

Sometimes, when I lay down at night trying to sleep, I hear my heartbeat in my ear. It’s refreshing to hear my own heartbeat, because sometimes feeling it by putting my fingers to my wrist or my chest isn’t enough. Sometimes, hearing the steady percussion of my heartbeat is the best way to convince myself I am alive. I am alive because I’ve scraped my knees on sidewalks, driveways and bedtime prayers. I’ve fallen in like and I thought I fell in love. I’ve made friends; I’ve lost friends. I remember that I comes before e in friend because things come to an end. I’ve listened to every song on my iPod and Pandora on repeat because my soul is made of music. I’ve scraped my chin after launching over handlebars. I’ve had concussions after car accidents and sledding accidents. I’ve been in the ER twice: MRIs, CAT Scans, and Ultrasounds all prove that I’m alive.

I’m alive because I’ve stepped on sidewalk cracks. I’ve dried a rose from my Grandfather’s funeral as a reminder that death and heartache is real. I’ve planted messages to others in my favorite novels with the hope that someone will fall in love with the words as I did. I’ve cried over my favorite words that are now stained with teardrops and broken hearts. I’ve found beauty in lines of poetry because beauty shouldn’t be found in the eyes of others. I’ve caught fireflies in the dark as their light reminds me that there is always hope. I’ve gazed at the stars as I’ve contemplated my place in this world. I’ve danced in the rain and have fallen asleep to its music.

I’m alive because I’ve been afraid as I’ve realized my fears and phobias. There are days when I’m high as a cloud, and there are days when I’m as low as Death Valley. I’ve been at sea level, too, as I tread water. I’ve written and doodled until all my pens were out of ink and all my notebooks were full. I’ve used Chapstick until it was empty. I’ve made music until my fingers cramped up and my wrists were numb. I’ve clapped for myself when no one else would because I am capable of doing great things. I’ve compared the color of my bruises to the color of the sky at sunset. I’ve seen the sun rise as the birds collect their feathers to revive their dignity as they begin to sing their melodies. I’ve inspected baby birds closely as they take flight for the first time because, one day, when I collect enough feathers, I will fly with them.

I’m alive because I dream in vibrant colors that don’t have a place in this world, and I’ve dreamed about things that will never exist. I’ve run until my lungs struggle to breathe, until my legs have forgotten how to work. I’m alive because I believe in the power of words, and because my mind is never at rest. I’m alive because sometimes my heart beats too fast to fall asleep. I’ve worried about tomorrow, and I’ve wanted to change the past. I’ve fallen asleep on road trips, and I’ve been awake long enough to hear complete silence. I’ve cut open my skin with hate until blood trickles out of my veins made of my being, and I’ve stitched it all together with the needles of hope and faith. I’ve whispered to the wind as it carries my secrets and dreams to the next wishful ear.

I’m alive because I’ve been destroyed by fire from secondhand words, and I’ve been rebuilt by left-over, secondhand hope. I’ve written words on my bones because my voice will be around long after I’m gone. I’ve spoken foreign languages until the words became second nature to my brain. I’ve realized that the love of a family is strong enough to withstand the corroding winds of time. There are scars throughout my soul that spin tales of my struggles. These are the same scars that show that I’ve survived.

I’m alive because the steady beat of the bass in my headphones reminds me of my own heartbeat. Somebody once told me you could hear the ocean in shells even if you are hundreds of miles away. The same can be said of the string that connects hearts despite the miles and years that separate them.