a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
She was born from the ocean on which she lived and was raised by the winds that breathed life into her. Adelaide, the girl with hair of fire, spent her days dancing along the cliffs above the waves with her face buried in the story of another world. Her feet were molded to the outline of the rocks, perfectly gripping the earth as she followed the path to the cave by the beach, which was, in a weird way, her home. Over time, she had accumulated pillows and blankets to make a bed on the sand and had gathered every book she could get her hands on and stacked them, in alphabetical order, along the damp rock wall.
Her mother and father were fairly insignificant figures in her life. They disapproved of the dried mud that always seemed to lie underneath her toenails and they often begged her to play with flowers instead of sticks. Their minds centered around calculations, while Adelaide’s lived in between the lines of a book. They loved her, without a doubt, but they did not know her and love was not enough to make up for the unknowing. The lack of knowing ate away at their home until it was dissolved into nothing more than four walls. Nothing more than a house.
For years, her life consisted of reading stories and strolling her path to the waves. However, this life of bliss that she had created was intermittently interrupted by elementary school. The big, red building that stood at the base of the hill. Here she found, for the first time in her life, a place that felt like home in the same way the cave did. Books lined the walls of her classroom and she met other kids who enjoyed running in the mud and letting the dirt seep underneath their toenails. She found another place where she belonged. One that was conventional. One that included others. But it was a slippery slope, this idea of fitting in. Finding a conventional place she loved quickly transformed into an expectation for the conventional. Because soon everyone else grew up. The kids who loved playing in the woods soon found themselves on sports fields. Those who saw themselves in fairy tales, soon had their heads buried in textbooks and despite her best intentions, Adelaide was caught in the wave of normalcy.
She was good at reading, which meant that all of the sudden she had to be good at math and soccer and piano. She had to be interested in biology and excited to be on the sports field because that is what the smart kids did.
So all of the sudden, she was kicking a soccer ball instead of dancing on the sand and burying her head in a textbook instead of reading her favorite fairy tale. She was no longer seven years old, but seventeen, and time refused to slow down. She grew closer with her parents. She went shopping with her mother to buy clothes for her first internship and her father was overjoyed to take pictures of her and her date at Prom. She aced the SAT, graduated from high school, and got into college, all while drifting farther from the girl she was in the cave. And that is the story of how Adelaide, the girl born from the ocean and raised by the winds, ended up in New York City, a place filled with neither.
The wave of convention brought her all the way to the top. A high power job as a corporate defense lawyer in the biggest city in the United States. She went to fancy restaurants to impress important clients. She had countless floor length gowns hung in her closet and red suede heels that were stacked on the floor. Her jewelry box was filled with necklaces, bracelets, and rings, which waited to be shown off on her perfectly manicured hands. The days of dirt lining her fingernails were long gone.
She danced under the lights of the Brooklyn bridge and had champagne at rooftop bars. She met friends who worked in publishing and journalism. She read books into the late hours of the night, ignoring the clock to finish those last few pages, which turned out to be a lot more. Her mind wandered used book stores and midnight libraries. She was reborn.
But Adelaide was still the girl with hair of fire who felt most at home when she could hear waves hitting the sand. There were even moments when she felt like she was back home. When she curled up in the dark corner of her apartment ready to read a new book. In the moments where she was lost in a story she would run her hands along the walls, almost expecting to feel stone. But every time she didn’t and every time her heart sank just a little further.
She missed her home. She missed the waves and her cave. She missed the luscious forest and the dirt path. But, out of all the things she missed from home, she missed herself the most. She missed the girl that danced freely on the cliffs, without caring about the mud that was staining her clothes. She missed the girl who could get lost in the lines of a fantasy and most of all, she missed who she was before she left. The girl that never felt she had to prove her worth. The one who felt at home in the ocean breeze.
But she also loved the life she had created. One with plants that hung from the roof of her apartment and a vintage record player that stood in the corner. She loved her friends and the way that they were free in all of the ways she will never be. She liked learning new things and being the one listened to in every room.
Adelaide, the girl with hair of fire, loved both the home she found in the cave and the one she built in the city. She was the girl who loved floor length gowns and getting dirt underneath her fingernails. She was both born from the waves and nurtured by the city lights. The girl from the cave and the girl at the head of the table. She was both. She was all of those things at once. Together. Always caught in between the girl she once was and the woman she was becoming.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.