Growing up is a challenge for everyone. Transitioning from a child to a teen to a young adult comes with many surprising and unsettling revelations – that parents aren’t perfect, sometimes you will lose your way, and the Disney channel might have overgeneralized those life lessons a little. The process of becoming mature can sometimes feel like an adventure, a great series of personal triumphs. It can also feel like an endless spiral of crippling disorientation. It is undoubtably one of the most common and isolating experiences known to man – everyone goes through it, but it happens at one’s own pace and in an intensely personal way that seems impossible to fully express to anyone else. It is important to keep up with yourself during this process, so you remember who you are, who you are not, and who you hope to become. This brief work is a collection of poems, spoken word, essays and reflections that chart one young woman’s journey from sheltered conservatism into a strange new world.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This short read took me many years to write. I needed a way to make sense of how disorienting loss and growth and change can be. This was written one piece at a time, in response to one event and a maelstrom of emotions at a time. I wonder if I wanted to remember myself, have a documented record of who I was and was not, in case life confused me so much that I forgot.
The Forward from Miracles and Foolishness
I believe in magic. I believe in miracles and magic and strange happenings, but mostly in magic (Christians call it grace). Perhaps I am most amazed that I believe at all…and this is the secret of magic, or of grace, that you believe when there seems very little reason to.
Sometimes it discourages me, being human. With all the greatness we are capable of, it is our capacity to destroy, to annihilate and worse, to disregard, that pains me most. We dismiss things that are important; we break things that are priceless; we forget things that are precious. When I was growing up, my greatest influence was my mother. O, how I loved that woman. If she had asked me to turn into a boy or become a monkey, nothing would have stopped me from fulfilling her request. And while she certainly wasn’t a perfect mother, she seemed to try to do right by her children (at least her version of it). But then, she met this man. Terrible guy – controlling ass, abusive, destructive. He wanted the world to center around him, lashed out at it when it didn’t and set out to destroy anything he could not understand: like how 8 children who had nothing could be so delighted with one another; like how the absence of essentials like food and shelter did not diminish their capacity to sing, to be happy, to be free. And just like that – her universe had a new center, with a new focus and a new god. And how happy she was to sacrifice everything she once cared about to this new deity. I would have said that the greatest lessons my mother taught me involved excellence, pride, loving people, and perhaps they are. The most lasting thing she taught me, however, is how easy it is to suddenly stop being part of someone’s family. It is the spirit of that searing destruction that is responsible for half of this work.
It happens with a terrible and efficient ease. If I looked back into the past I could see it. It was as easy as my father suddenly deciding that whatever he was going through he couldn’t take anymore, so he packed a bag and left. Just like that, we were a family of 9, not 10. And with the stoic acceptance of little children, I can recall my younger sister saying, “Well, we’re going to miss him. But – we’ve gotta move on!” (should one be this discerning at 7?)
It was as easy as my mother giving her new husband permission to beat her small son with a wooden rod “as many times as [he] wants.” It was so easy for her to sit stoically while he beat one daughters back bloody (she was 8), punched others in the face, kicked them repeatedly (and they were so small the little bodies were just flipping over and over), hit them with shovels and weed whackers. And when he started taking them to the attic or basement to hide the worst of his offenses, so easy for her to forget when we tried to tell her, so effortless for her to lie to judges and social workers.
And had I been able to see the future, I would have found myself in a courtroom, looking at a judge asking if I wanted to be divorced today. A terribly easy process it is to get divorced. There are books on it: you draft the paper work yourself, file with helpful court clerks, and on your court date it takes 7 minutes before a judge (if that long). And just like that, you don’t have in-laws, or wedding photos or a house anymore. You live in an apartment, your Facebook status changes to Single, your taxes change to Single, and people ask you if you want to go out and celebrate with a drink. It is so easy, it happens so fast. And sometimes it’s a relief, the ease and speed. But you know that deep in your heart, this makes you angry. Someone should raise a ruckus. Someone should fight the ease, and scream at the suddenness. Somebody should fight for precious things.
And yet I believe in magic. Perhaps I owe it to my 7 siblings because despite all, we still delight each other. I believe that the magic happens if you remember things that should not be forgotten, if you listen for things that are trying to be heard, if you accept things that are offered as gifts. I see magic in my classroom because I remember what it’s like to be a young person in a world run by incompetent, unobservant, apathetic and selfish adults; and in my classroom, my young students need an adult to remember. I feel magic in a hug when a parent can’t find another way to say "thank you for being so determined to help my child." I touch magic when a colleague makes me pumpkin bread just because I like it (yes, magic is in kindness, too). And magic accepts my tears when a friend insists that I listen when they say "good job, because you do a lot of good."
Mayhem, mysteries and miracles. That is what you end up believing in when the people that you love most find something else they’d prefer to love, when the people that promise to love you discover they actually love themselves more, and when the majority of people who tout themselves as pious and kindly and decent are revealed to be cowardly, petty, and undisciplined. But these are only the dragons of the world. And if there are so many dragons, it’s only because they’ve found something in this world they covet. And everyone with even a grain of childish faith knows that dragons are meant to be defeated with light, with steel, with courage, with magic.
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