18 Years

Like every young kid, there’s a point when you discover that the future exists. At 9 yrs old I began to think about the future. My future. And it wasn’t a nice one. It was an approaching nightmare of realism. I promised myself that on my 18th birthday I would run away. It’s what my sister did, and I have no doubt that escaping our deary reality of home was a private wish of my parents–not that neither of them loved me, I know this now. Things were just…complicated. From a young age, I learned that almost everything is always complicated. Without this notion, I don’t know how I could have navigated through my childhood. Of course, there is only so much a child can grasp.

The purest of emotions and actions and thoughts are the closest we experience simplicity. After a short amount of time, even those can become blurry, tangled, and morph into something completely different.

I didn’t picture myself going to college or an university–those were for the smart kids. According to my father, intelligence wasn’t in my genetics. My mother went from working, to working, to sleeping, to working, to working, to studying English, to sleeping. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to ask what she thought.

What I imagined to happen is that I would have taken the first train out of town and into the city, preferably all the way to New York. If I was meant to be alone at least let me be surrounded by strangers and lonely in an overcrowded city that’s glowing street lights shone through a fog of passion, desperation, confusion, thrill, and car exhaust. A city where steel skyscrapers and brick buildings and even muted colors spoke.

A place where I would be lonely, but not alone.

I’m finally 18. I guess I’m still being drawn to the city. But I won’t be taking a train, I won’t be leaving at midnight or 4 in the morning, I won’t be stepping on the urban narrow sidewalks alone.

Three years from the day my mother and I left my hometown and threw all our belongings in a rented truck, so much has changed. From that day when I took a little to long to gather my things, so my father came home from work just as we were walking out the driveway. It was one of the scariest yet brightest day of my life. Thousands of doors opened, I was entering a new life, a new world. The hope I clung to for so long blossomed into reality. It was beautiful.

I’ve made friends–broke up or lost in touch with a few– reunited with those who I knew were keepers. I’ve stood up for myself, my mother, my sister, my father, my friends, my cousins, and I’m no longer tired. I was completely emotionally exhausted at 15. But I never thought to harm myself or take my life, I still had hope. My mother and my grandmother–although neither were perfect– taught me to have hope. Showed me that the world did have beautiful things to offer, happiness was not a myth. Now, I feel…energetic, thrilled–truly optimistic once more. I have bathed in happiness, I shift through it now, in all it’s warm glory.

I’ve lost a few loved ones, I’ve obtained guilt, I live with several unanswered questions, and I know what it is to be lonely. I know what it’s like to have my throat closed up, like there’s a fire in my chest and smoke threatens to escape, words want to be heard–loudly–but I just don’t say anything. I don’t plan to feel that way ever again. I haven’t for a while. Due to all my experiences, I’ve picked up a few valuable skills and some wisdom along the way.

I communicate well, negotiate, confront, compromise. Most of all I listen. And then I speak.

I still have a lot to learn. I have gone no where near the worst evils that exist in our world– our society. But I hope to grow strong enough to face them one day. Things were hard and difficult, but they are for everyone. We all have our own stories and struggles and there is–nor should be–some strict measurement device we can use to argue whose been through more. My optimism will be shattered and rebuilt, I might lose faith in myself or what is good once or twice, I hopefully will not get any cheesier than I currently am, but I am awake and aware. I am prepared to go through hell and back to re-learn everything I’ve already been taught. It’s been 18 years, I’m going to the college of my dreams, and I’m chasing my dream. The future I secretly hoped for, that I was too embarrassed and self doubting to allow myself to dream: adventures, traveling, helping others, all with a pen in my hand.

It’s been 18 years…so far so good, right?

— Bel





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