a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
Math and her by Anh (15, Vietnam)
Trigger Warning : depression, panic disorder, childhood trauma (verbal abuse), therapy
This is going to sound like a sob story. It’s tragic, it’s dramatic. Perhaps she is overreacting because it sounds like something that came out of a movie. And she was the main character.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, violence, objectification of women.
I hope for the flowers of my language to intrigue the Reader enough for this piece to warrant publication, for I offer no unfamiliar thoughts: only reminders. I surmise that, upon consuming my chronicle, the Reader will remember that She had identified Herself in it once; amendments will abound. I see no medium for this other than through publication; a voice unheard is rendered voiceless. So begins the Tale of the Ideal Woman.
When you’re seven, you have trouble writing your name in the box. Your hands are too cramped around the pencil and it scratches on the paper, flying out of your control. Worries are out of your comprehension, and you only live day to day.
The Male Gaze by Ella Bachrach (18)
a man stands in the corner of my room. he’s been there for as long as i can remember, although i know he had to have arrived at some point. when i was younger, i would hide from him. i changed clothes under the covers, hiding my small body from his unblinking eyes. instead of speaking, i whispered, so as not to disturb him. at the age of seven, my mother found an old cd player at the dump, complete with a one direction cd that jolted through stand up and skipped over one thing. i plugged in that cd player and i danced. i faced the man. i sang “everyone else in the room can see it” and i moved my hips like the girls on tv and i bit my lip and i danced.
the smell of cinnamon sifted throughout the corners of the house,
filling the air with sweet desire and the guilty pleasure of gluttony.
i was young; foolish and naive, though i make no claim or promise that i am no longer both.
a child until i was old enough to cross the street
to tell the neighbors to leave my brother alone.
i used to coat my toast in cinnamon like the salty taste of a lost childhood coated on my mind.
i don't like cinnamon anymore.
Inauthentic by Preston Lim (16, Texas)
July 7, 2015
Thank you for your interest in joining San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. We hope you enjoyed your summer vacation and visit again soon.
Unfortunately, we can’t offer you a position at this time. Although you possess many great qualities, you’re not what we look for in an applicant. You would not mesh well with our work environment, but we hope you find success elsewhere.
Banana Bread by Chloe Budakian (17, Canada)
Mixed by Gladys Smith (16, Virginia)
The 2018 World Happiness Report named Costa Rica the happiest country in Latin America - not all that surprising when Costa Rica has for years topped global happiness rankings, alongside the usual Scandinavian suspects of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The same year, though, the UN Development Program named Costa Rica one of only three Latin American countries that has seen a rise in economic inequality since 2000. In 2018, the income of the richest 20 percent of Costa Rica's population was 19 times higher than that of the poorest 20 percent. Currently, around 38 percent of Costa Rica's total income goes to the top 10 percent of the population, leaving around 20 percent of the population in utter poverty.
“The rise of voluntourism, where people vacation to underdeveloped places for community service, is harmful to the very societies it is meant to help.”
It sounds heartless and cold to argue that millions in desolate poverty should be cut off from international aid. What is the point of a free market system that generates floods of wealth and innovation, if it does not wash over every corner of the earth?
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a parent. Imagine that you’re pushing your child in a stroller down the sidewalk. Now, imagine a man you’ve never seen before approaches you and your child. You have never met this man before. In fact, you have never even seen this man before, nor have you ever heard his voice, but he approaches you. He points to your child and says, “Your child is disgusting and sinful and broken, and I am the only one who can fix it. All you have to do is worship me and do everything I say. And if you don’t, I will burn you and your child alive.” How would you react in that situation? Would you agree to worship him and do everything he says? Would you turn and run in the opposite direction? Would you call the police?
petrichor by Firyal Paladini (15, Texas)
dust is what we all become.
rain falls and mist rises, ice stands firm, but the atoms cling together resiliently as they're made to shift and stretch and mold into being. they drown in each other. dust is what they all become-- bits and remnants, flakes of substance. particles can swirl in wind and breath and they are free, afloat, individual. they bend the rays of sun that crawl into bedrooms, hanging heavily in the still air. they skate over silently beating hearts and sticky fingerprints on glass. they escape through the most minuscule passageways.
skin by Anonymous
[Content warning: rape and abuse]
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The water plops against the side of the bathtub again and again and again until the noise is nothing but an absent, muffled droning in my ear. The silence in my sauna seemed to strip my clothes away before I did, luring me into this tub where my tears can disintegrate into nothingness. Mere additions to a larger homologous model in which I can sink and burn and dissolve.
Friendships by Anonymous (17, China)
Sel sent me a postcard from Paris, made a phone call from Montevideo, and mailed a package from Nepal.
I wrote back to her - my fingers wrapped tightly around the wooden colored pencils she sent me last summer, the ones engraved with poorly translated Romanian phrases in gold.
Time and again I find myself fascinated by the falsehood of memory. It seems that each detail of the past is blurred and indistinct in my mind, without a solid form to cling to, regardless of my continued determination to take a particular moment and press it precisely into the various folds of my brain.
Twice Shy by Mikey Harper (16, Texas)
thirteen. your street is one of the longest in the heights, but my parents take a different route this time and pretend it’s any shorter. we turn the corner your house sits on, smooth-blue and gated, and i see a flash of your loose grey dress caught in the dimness of early evening. the sky is a little lighter than your house, giving me just enough to watch your bare feet play lightly over the street and your tan fingers raise a camera to your eye. in this moment, i don’t want to go on your lake trip or even go into your house. i could sit here and watch the way you move when you think i’m not looking, the way you carry yourself like your camera solidifies your spine, all weekend long. we are a secret, but right now i let myself stare. you really are beautiful.
Lost rabbits wander aimlessly, towards an end with no resolution.
This I am sure of.
Moon child. That is what I am; that is what you are. Someone who reflects the light of a higher order and glows so brilliantly it must be false; someone who takes and takes and takes and shines, who forces others to gaze up at them and attain a desire they had never once seen possible.
And there is a field before you, a field filled with fog, and it is day. You cannot see any further than a step before eternity melts into an indecipherable, tangled web of droplets too small to inspect, each one a possibility you may miss. And with you are many other moon children, side by side, facing straight ahead with chins up and doubt in their eyes, and it is day and it is foggy and you have nothing to reflect.
The sun is gone.
What do you do?
Let’s start with the black dress.
The lady at the checkout turned it upside down as she tried to remove the security tag pinned through the bowed collar while checking for the final time, “You like the style? Is this the right size for you?” I nodded. I did like the dress. It was one of those rare ones that fitted my small waist perfectly. It was one of those that fitted my very own, strict criteria - not too bright, not too ostentatious with pearls or glitters, and not above the knee.
A human being is like a plant, my grandmother has always told me. The root of a plant is thick and runs deep into the ground. Peony, for example, has a root of almost six inches. Unpleasantly looking its roots may be, they are something that peony flowers can never detach themselves from. Thankfully nature has evolved itself to present only the flower’s prosperous outlook to the world that, unless excavated by a botanist or a gardener, the tedious roots will never be revealed to the eye. My grandma insisted that plants never lose connection with their roots, no matter how tall they grow, and no matter how far their seed flies. From the frailest flowers to the grandest trees, nothing can survive without being nourished and stabilized by the root, unwavering in any weather.
[Content warning: psychotic episode]
That freckly Californian grass wheezed up bees. Outside my Jewish day school, hundreds of those striped scoundrels swarmed the sky lupines and kindergarteners alike, stirring the chaos of blooming youth. “They’re harmless alone,” Ms. Julia repeated every morning, as if our chattering ears were present. It was spring: the season of basketball, avocados, anxious tantrums, Passover, and gaga pits. Life was pollinating.
Perfection: the state of being absolutely flawless, completely without blemish, 100-percent perfect. Coming from the Latin verb perficere, which means “to do completely.” A pretty common word in the contemporary world, one that is no longer used solely in the extreme, literal sense, as nothing is ever really perfect. I say it when I finish setting the table. Or when I pull a batch of fresh-baked cupcakes out of the oven. Or when I am putting together a particularly dashing outfit for school. I use this word even though I am fully aware that none of these things—the table, the cupcakes, the outfit—is truly perfect.
“Does she even speak?” the kids nearby whisper to each other thinking that I can’t hear them. Or maybe they want me to hear. To respond and yell right up in their faces. To get offended and run out the door, slamming it on the way out. However, I won’t. I will continue to sit down and stay quiet, pretending I never heard a word.
This morning is typical. My alarm goes off at six-thirty, doenjang-jjigae for breakfast at six-fifty, and I’m out the door and in my mom’s minivan by seven-fifteen. My mom, who drives me to school every morning, is busy texting her friends on kakaotalk with a big smile. While her fingertips fly across the screen, creating tick noises that fill the car, I wonder how nice it would feel to be appreciated.
Dear God by Rhyme Zhou (17, China)*
Last night I woke suddenly, startled awake by some small sound. I lay there, half asleep and frightened, thinking that perhaps it had nothing at all, but a tiny crackling noise said otherwise. It was something else that made me pause—a human sound, a quick intake of breath. God, my doctors said I was just being anxious and was stuck in Maladaptive Daydreaming again. It was another word of delusion—they said I was sick. But why, in the silences and muffled wind sounds, could I imagine each gesture and caress that I knew was taking place?
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.