a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
TW: death and grief, obsessive-compulsive disorder
Sometime during my sophomore year of high school, in the middle of one of our increasingly frequent fights, my mom said, “I lost my mother to fear; I won’t lose you too.” My father took it a step further.
“Think about Grandma Mary,” he said. Then, “And look what happened to Grandma Barb.”
“Scarlet Pimpernel,or flowery thoughts on growing up and the passage of time” by A. R. Tivadar (Romania)
By the apartment complex next to mine, on the corner of the garden that meets the concrete stairs, there used to grow little orange flowers. They were small and delicate, with bright orange petals, with purple dots and golden pistils, and bundles of green leaves. I’d pick them every time I went outside and bring them back to my house. I’d place them in water cups and they’d wilt within the day.
It is August 24th, 2008. I am clad in a backwards tan cotton twill cap, a linen tank top, and a pair of striped green seersucker shorts. My quintessential summer time attire at home. My aunt is behind the camera. My mom and grandma are by the kitchen making dinner. My dad and uncles are watching the news on the TV in the living room. I can hear my younger uncle speaking in his usual deep and resonating voice that fills the room with its weight.
I am confronting an SAT mock test at eleven o’clock at night when my parents tell me to pack up necessities and leave the house immediately. In the last few days, I had read posts on neighborhood lockdowns every minute: restrictions on Covid in Beijing are tightening day by day, and the rumor of a citywide lockdown was spreading like wildfire.
While the bright lights shine against your skin, painting you the gold of a goddess’s shag carpet, you are at once electrified by the pulse of the music and crippled by the eyes that haunt you from across that auditorium. Eyes are meant to be a gift, your mother told you, blessing you with the opportunity to be seen. But not these eyes. No, these eyes are cold and dark—they reach out to you tenderly, almost intimately, as if trying to brush your hair out of your face, only to yank the strings forward and whisper in your ear: you will never, ever be enough.
It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That.
We entered art school at fourteen, and though we were young, many of us saw the end of our lives right then and there, staring us down on the path ahead of us.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
[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.
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.
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.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.