Welcome! Welcome! Welcome to post number two of a five part Mini Series entited - The Journey to Fortitude. All information about this Mini Series, why I'm writing it, what is to be expected, etc. can all be found in last week's postt - The Aesthetics: The Journey to Fortitude (1).
The Journey to Fortitude Schedule
6/15: The Aestethics
6/22: The Long Awaited Story Itself
6/29: The Premise
7/6: The Revisions
7/13: The Annotated Version
Without further ado, I present to you my pride and joy of the past two months. Fortitude.
Myself: Emmalynne Aldacinnia
What could happen...
January 1, 2015
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
---The Road Not Taken: Robert FrostWhat went wrong? Everywhere I turn, I see traces of death -- the mangled, fragmented bodies of innocents. I glide over the world. The world I have come to begrudgingly love, overrun by a massacre of ill fate and carnage. But this isn’t ill fate. This is what will happen to their world. There are other ones, worlds I mean, thousands, maybe even millions they have yet to discover, but this is their only world and their only truth. This world seemed average, inferior to myself when I first arrived to carry out my destiny. Now that I have lived on it, I know there is so much more. This world, the place they call “Earth” and “Home.” While it may not be perfect, it is their reality. A world where, to make progress, people must stand on the backs of others, contribute to and increase what has been done and learned before. It is a society of constant learning, nothing can be done by one person without some strand of help from another, and this is what should make my decision.
In this world, I have learned what it means to progress, to learn, and to grow. When I said people must stand on the backs of others, that was not meant as an insult or judgement, but as a statement said in admiration. These people think of success as a ladder -or a jungle gym as one leader of this world spoke about. After a foundation is made, after one person has the idea, or decides to speak out....another person is there to take their place. This race of people help each other, pulling the other one up in order for everyone to benefit. An indirect version of mutualism and symbiosis.
Why is it so hard for me to make my decision?I stand here, on the altar of their world, the playing field where this messed-up game began. Leaders in this world must make sacrifices, whether their offering is as important as their life, or them not being somewhere at a certain time and place. I should be prepared to choose the path that has been carved for me, so that I could be a leader that helps. Instead, I am a hypocrite. I am a coward. Others have been in my position, and they made the leap. The leap of blind faith that saved everyone. But there is a reason I don’t accept blind faith without proof. That reason is the beginning of my story.
There is the less traveled road that everyone expects me to take. Do you know why that one is less traveled? Because that road is one of solitude. In my position, you are the offering. You are the example. You are the moral compass for humanity. That other road? That is the road created out of whispers, people goading you to fail, so you can follow in their footsteps. The question of which road to take is the one that has been tearing at what’s left of my soul, the very brink of my personal existence.
Will I make this decision based on my experiences that have apparently molded me into who I am today? Or will I disregard my past, and have the new definition of myself be created out of what I choose?
My thoughts are interrupted by Him violently shaking me back to the present. I gasp, my eyes blinking away the horrifying scene, and the sterile white room coming back into focus. My memory surges back into my skull as I glare at the man who I remember has been in control of my destiny. The man who refuses to be named. He glances at me, then looks back to the syringe he’s carefully sterilizing, as if everything that had just occurred was normal.
“Do you see what will happen?” He asks gruffly, as if my decision would be changed just because I had seen some death and destruction. Maybe, if I was somebody different, maybe if I hadn’t always been the “little sibling” and the “tagalong,” this decision would be easier to make. Instead, the person I choose to be is selfish.
My 12 brothers and sisters each lived out their own lives on Earth, and when the time came, they made the decision to venture forth into the unknown without hesitation. I am the youngest, and therefore the last to make my decision. It is supposedly voluntary, but the amount of pressure put on myself and others would suggest that it is not. The 13 of us are supernatural beings, Admiramini, each destined to make an impact on Earth, in one way or another. We are immortal, and we appear every century in order to help the human race progress. However, to do this we must make the conscious and verbal decision to carry out the duty of helping the planet that has been bestowed upon us.
Despite being supernatural, and immortal, we are not perfect. The 13 of us still have human tendencies, and faults, like those on Earth. It us similar to how the humans’ “Greek Gods” still had tempers, jealousy, and the desire to deceive, as the very popular author of the human’s 21st century, Rick Riordan depicted.
All of this is why I am too selfish to make the leap of faith, too petrified to leave the safety of my current reality. Each of my siblings embodies a different emotion and characteristic, all of them together covering the wide spectrum of human behavior. The emotion that they embody is the basis of how they are supposed to impact the world. They have changed the world fueled by anger, driven by passion, overcome fear, fought for acceptance, turned sadness into art, and much more. Every one of them will be marked down in the history books for what they did, good or bad.
Nobody says, but everyone wonders, “Why is my existence needed?” There are only 12 defined emotions, which means 12 defined places for my siblings in this world, yet I am the 13th sibling. Maybe that’s why I’m so imperfect, the little girl who doesn’t share her toys with others, cries when she is sad, is afraid of the dark, hostile to strangers, and insecure with her appearance. My siblings don’t have those problems.
“Emmalynne,” He growls, “are you paying attention?”
“Of course I am,” I told him, although it was blatantly obvious that I wasn’t.
“I think we will have to take a more....unconventional route with you.” He replies, then takes another syringe, and fills it with an ethereal colored liquid that had the appearance of fairy wings, “Emmalynne, I don’t believe the methods used to introduce your brethren to Earth will work for you as well. Placing you on Earth to discover your own path may not be the best course of action. Instead, I believe that showing you different scenarios of people experiencing emotions will be the best action for your unusual case.” That was probably the most over-the-line phrase he would ever say about my not belonging as an Admiramini or a human. “You will experience these emotions as if you are the person, and will have complete knowledge and awareness of their situations.”
“But---” I started to say, wondering how this would help me with my plight.
“In order for this process to work, the issues that these humans are dealing with range from controversial to pitiful. It will be up to you to assess what you -as the person- is feeling. You will experience life from the point of view of a broken girl trying to fight against an unfair educational system, a girl who is being released from rehabilitation because of the loss of her parents, a girl trying to stand up for the right to love, and a girl under extreme pressure to become something that she is not.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and if I weren’t restrained, I would have physically rebelled against Him. Instead, all I could do was stare as he injected the syringe into my vein, “Maybe next time we meet, you will be more inclined toward your destiny.”
Skylar Simmons~ 14 y/o
Eastbrooke High School
April 22, 2014
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise
That’s all she can ask? That’s all my teacher of almost 10 months can ask when she sees me distressed? Hasn’t she realized what she has done to me? Doesn’t she realize how much I have suffered because of her? Because of everything in this crappy obstruction called life? She really hasn’t noticed the dark circles under my eyes that I attempt to cover up with drugstore concealer? She really hasn’t noticed everything that’s wrong with the education system?
Anger flows through my veins and arteries. It feels as if that and adrenaline are the only chemicals in my blood stream. I ball my fists, as if I were about to punch someone, but I quickly unclench, knowing it wouldn’t help my situation. I can feel the heat ascend to my face, and the back of my throat suddenly feels swollen as I open my mouth to talk.
Miss Violet Cross stares at me, brows creased and face blank. She places a gentle hand on my knee, takes a deep breath, and then withdraws it, like she wanted to offer comfort, but realized it was the wrong thing to do. “Everybody out,” she commands, and when they don’t respond, she adds, “Now!” In a moment, the classroom is clear.
In a much more tender voice, she asks me again, “What’s wrong? This is more than just the assignment.---” Heck yeah, why doesn’t she try and remember what she’s been teaching the last nine months? ”---Is there trouble at home?---”Only since Common Core was instated, even after less than a third of New York state passed in both English and Math ”---Or trouble with a boy? Friends?”
My expression begins to darken, and I feel the tears already beginning to slide down my acne scarred cheeks. When I attempt to speak, the only sound that I manage to emit is a croak.
“Do you need a minute to compose yourself?” Miss. Cross questions, already standing up to leave, probably wanting to get away from me as fast as her four-inch heels will allow her.
Just as she turns around to go, I leap up, clasp my hand around her wrist in something like a death grip, and gasp, “No.” By now, I think she’s figured out that this is much more than what she was originally led to believe -- an act of rebellion from a usually compliant and hard -working student. After brushing her honey blond hair behind her ear, she nods, waiting for her obviously troubled student -- me -- to begin.
“I know this sounds cliche, but it’s the only way I can describe it.” I tell her, my words now coming in a thick, calm, and steady pace, like pancake batter being poured onto a griddle. Her violet eyes, the ones she was named for, twinkle, and ask what she cannot express. “What is it that I am referring to?” I ask myself purely for rhetorical purposes in order to keep her up-to-speed.
“Imagine that you’re sitting on the couch, watching Netflix on a rainy day, and you realize that you are hungry. So you pad to the kitchen in your bunny slippers, and your not-so-cute sweat pants drag on the floor. You open the pantry and see that there’s macaroni and cheese, the Trader Joe’s shell kind. The kind you practically worshipped the bowls it sat in as a kid. You set the pot on the stove, add the water, turn up the flame, and wait for it boil. You wait for a few moments, and nothing happens. You get the big white bowl out, empty the packet of white powder cheese your mother hates because it’s not organic, then you add the milk. By then, you think the water is almost boiling over.”
I pause to take a breath from what she must think is a bizarre description, and continue, “It’s not.”
“Only a few bubbles are on the surface. You turn the burner up to a much higher setting. Then because your action yields no results, you slide down the side of the refrigerator, and begin to cry. You don’t know why at first, but then you remember the mountain of homework, the book that hasn’t been read yet, the speech that still needs to be written, and the smile that needs to be reapplied.
Then you ask yourself, ‘What if I didn’t do this? What if I blew off my work, and went for a run? Read for pleasure? Or started writing the great American novel as Jo March -your childhood idol- would say?’ You think about the old days, when you played with Madeline, and your biggest problem was how to transport the six out of 12 girls you owned from the old house in Paris covered in vines to Spain where Pepito lived.
By then, you feel water on the ground, and see that the stupid pot has long since started boiling and has now overflowed. Then you wonder, how did it get from tiny bubbles to an overflow? Your macaroni water trickles down the side of the stove. You then move to turn the burner off and attempt to clean up the ginormous mess. But as soon as you try, you have to jerk your hand back which had come in contact with the scalding hot water. All of this seemingly simple event makes you come to a realization. This is not just a cooking incident gone wrong. This is a metaphor. This is a physical representation of what your life has become.
On Monday, you had nothing to do. By ninth period on Tuesday, you have two projects to complete. No big deal. By Wednesday, you have three more essays to write. That’s nothing, all you need to do is reschedule some things. By Friday that total of essays and speeches and projects is up to ten. That’s the pot starting to boil. You think you have everything under control, you think you know what to do. But guess what? You’re wrong. It isn’t until everything has bubbled up, over, and out of your control that you realize how much of a mess you’re in. From then on, until all ten of those projects (on top of regular homework, because that still exists too) are due, your life is chaos. Every waking moment is spent thinking about them. You’re an over -achiever, but this is the first time you learn that you can’t do it all. The worst part is, that when you have half of them done, more are assigned to take their places. An unstoppable army, so that even when a single soldier falls, three more rise up and take its place.”
I’m hyper ventilating now, my placid demeanor I was holding onto long gone. Every word I said was sincere -- pure, raw emotion. “This is my life! A constant cycle of momentary relief, and then more anger. Negative, negative, negative, until a shallow ray of positive comes across. This holds me over the next wave of negative until positive arrives again. But this can’t be kept up forever. My spirit is broken down, instead of going outside, or getting something truly important accomplished, the Netflix zombie takes over so that I can conserve my energy for the next wave.”
Miss Cross looks at me, her eyes full of sympathy, but that’s her problem, and mine as well. What’s in her eyes is sympathy for a clearly troubled child, not empathy. It’s “you poor thing” instead of “what can I do to help?”
“Miss Cross, I don’t think you understand.” I take a particularly large breath of air, “In fact, I know you don’t understand. It’s like trying to swim against a current. You fight with everything you have, and you think you’re winning, but you can’t keep up that fight. When you pause against the current, just to catch your breath, it sweeps you away again, and all of that work is lost.”
Her face begins to evolve, and I let myself hope that she is being enlightened. To ensure that my words are for a purpose, I dig deep in my arsenal, and give it everything I’ve got. “This isn’t the only class I have! I’m given a quote unquote “reasonable amount of time,” but communication is a lost art when you enter High School. We are students, not soldiers. We have lives. We have activities besides school. We have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, things we want to do with our lives. No one will remember the 10,000 word essay you assigned us, except the agony they felt, but they might remember you for the one piece they got to write without instruction. The one time they were given freedom. We are not even asking for life to be easy; we’re just asking for it to be meaningful.”
I already know that I have crossed lines, burned bridges, and have a trip to the Principal in my near future, so I figure I should end strong. “Do you know how much I have suffered? Congratulations, you have broken my spirit.
I have truly broken down now. All the initiative has left my body, and I think I glimpse her writing my name on one of those pink slips of paper known as office referrals. Instead, she leans over, and hugs me. I choke a little, as I try to talk more. My breathing comes hitched, the way a broken metronome sounds. She pats my shoulder and in that moment, the one I had imagined a thousand times, a million snide remarks to back myself up with “evidence.” Instead, I tell her, “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she says, “this isn’t what I signed up for either. I hate to see you like this. I know how strong you are, and I know how hard this year has been on you. Just remember, if you hang on -and I have full confidence in your capability to do so- things do get better.”
“Why are you doing this?”
Miss Cross’s expression changes, as if I were the first one who had ever asked her this question. “I’m doing it....” she fishes around with her words, trying to either find them or find an excuse, “I’m doing this because I have to prove that I am covering the material. My job depends on it.”
She can tell I did not think that was the appropriate response, so she continues. “If my job weren’t on the line, and if this situation ever changes, you will be the first to know. I didn’t sign up to be a “Spirit Destroyer.” I wanted, and still do want, to help you and your classmates reach your full potential. Listen Skylar, I know things are tough now, but they will get better. For now, all you can do is hang in there, and keep doing what you’re doing because I know you are going to come out a better person at the end of this dark tunnel.”
Her words sounded like empty promises, and water slipping through outstretched hands, yet they were exactly what I needed to hear at my moment of sadness. Then, without another word, I proudly walked out of her classroom, standing on my own two feet.
Savannah Cooper~ 16 y/o
The Cooper Family Household-
May 17, 2004
In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don't understand why it is so hard, when it's so obvious. ---Everyday: David Leviathan
“You know you can’t have food before supper. It will ruin your appetite.” I told my six-year-old brother, Parker. “How about I play a game with you? Anything you want -- trucks, Power Rangers, Monopoly,”
“I’m hungry!” Parker insisted.
“I know you are, but you’re just going to have to hang on for another hour,”
“But I want food now!” Parker yelled, tears running in rivulets down his dirt-smudged face.
I had no choice but to rock him back and forth in the center of the attic, and fix my little brother’s problems like a good big sister should, even if the punishment could be severe. The heat of late spring had accumulated in the room my brother and I had shared for our entire lives. This room had served as refuge and a sanctuary so the two of us could remain out of sight when Daddy and the rest of his “grown-up friends” could discuss “Business.” What that was code for? It could have meant murder or illegal dealing. All I knew is that I never wanted to find out. My father became involved with ‘projects’, and if my brother or I got in his way, a forgotten lunch would be the least of our worries.
“You know what?” I consoled, tickling Parker’s chin, “I’m going to make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“Can I come with you? I need to make sure you don’t add any vegetables to it that you think I don’t know about.” I sighed, knowing that if I didn’t let him come with me, I would have an angry six year old on my hands which is not what I needed when the two of us had to play a game of Hide-and-Seek -where my father was ‘It‘ and our situation made it crucial that he didn’t find us.
“Okay,” I told him, but then added, “but we’re going to have to be very quiet so that we don’t disturb Daddy if he’s napping.”
I shook my head as we crept downstairs quietly. The sooner my little brother realized the dangers of making Daddy angry, or even being noticed by him, the better off we’d all be. I only hoped that fate put Albert Steven Cooper on the front porch with the rest of his friends so that I could make the darn sandwich and be done with everything.
Luckily, my father was nowhere to be seen when Parker and I arrived downstairs, and I set about making the peanut butter and jelly sandwich as fast as I was able so I could help Parker with his homework, and then watch cartoons. A normal night occurring in any of the other normal family’s houses this Monday night. At least that’s what I told myself.
“Gentlemen, let’s bring this talk inside so that we can---” I didn’t get to hear the rest of his words before I grabbed my brother from where he was sitting on the kitchen counter and the cursed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, dove into the walk-in pantry, and hoped that we wouldn’t be discovered.
“Savy,” Parker announced in the grave way only young children can when they inform you of facts you are already very well aware of but they think they are geniuses for figuring it all out: “Daddy isn’t taking a nap.”
“I know,” I agreed with him, biting my lip, racking my brains for something to tell Parker. “Parky, why don’t we think of this as an unannounced for game of Hide-and-Seek? Daddy doesn’t know about it, so we’re going to have to keep very quiet.” He nodded solemnly and sat down in the cramped space to begin chewing his sandwich. I started thinking about how this was not the right way any little boy should grow up, in fear that his father would do him or his sister harm. My thoughts were interrupted by the angry conversation outside the pantry door.
“Have you seen this?” My father demanded, throwing his newspaper down violently onto the dining room table, then glared at everyone, to provoke them to speak, which he would then punish them for. “ Why is it that no one has told me of this atrocity to mankind?”
I winced, feeling sorry for whomever was about to feel his wrath. I suspected his over -reaction was about some neighborhood scandal. Anything that involved infidelity was the worst thing that could happen to a noble community, according to him, even if he was a perpetrator and hypocrite.
“Look at the date, Al, this paper is new, fresh off the presses,” someone says.
“How could this be possible! How could anyone of our State Senators, or whoever makes these decisions allow this law to pass?”
At this point, I was very interested since it involved an entire state, and not a desperate husband trying to find what his wife couldn’t give. Come on, I urged inside my head, Tell them what this is about.
Luckily, one of my fathers friends -the same one who pointed out the timestamp on the newspaper- asked the question I, and probably the rest of the room, was wondering as well.
“Massachusetts.” he said. “legalized gay marriage.”
As if this were a scene straight from a movie, the occupants of the room gasped, and then fell so silent, I was at risk of them hearing my uneven breathing. Inside, my heart leapt higher than Mario did on my brother’s video games. I had been part of, and the sole founder of, my school’s GSA (Gay-Straight-Alliance) club. The reason for my starting the GSA club was not an act of defiance, but an act done for a cause I had faith in, and I firmly believed that falling in love is not something we choose in this life. Whatever the barrier -- rich and poor, black and white, a male and a male -- people deserve happiness. The number of members we had in our club amounted to less than the fingers and toes on my body, and most of us suffered by becoming members, because of our geographical location -living in Montgomery, Alabama, otherwise known as the most conservative region in the United States. Nevertheless, this was a victory, a strand of hope for all the LGBTQ+ people in this world, and having marriage legalized in one state was just a launching pad for others to do the same.
My elation with this new law was short-lived as my father and his buddies soon started mocking the LGBTQ+ community with words I hadn’t even known before. Phrases like, “Our damn government,” “Those gay lovers,” “No Alabamian in their right minds would ever let this happen,” “Their Supreme Judicial Court members must have been on something,” and much stronger words were used that night over the Cooper family dinner table, including things I would never repeat to another soul in my life.
“What does ‘legalize gay marriage’ mean?” Parker asks innocently, his expression bright as ever, even in the dimly lit pantry.
I thought for a moment, trying to find a way to describe what it meant to a six year old. “It means some very nice people let other people get married, no matter who they want to get married to, but Daddy doesn’t like it.”
“You mean I could marry you?” He tried to make sense of the situation.
“No,” I said, ruffling his hair, “It means if you wanted to, you could get married to your friend Tyler, or Ethan.”
“But why is Daddy angry?” he said, more than a little confused. “Even if I don’t want to marry Tyler, other people should be allowed to marry their own Tylers.”
I smiled -glad that I had taught my little brother to have a good head on his shoulders- but felt sad at the same time. My own father, who knew what it was like to be in love, didn’t want others to share that same joy and happiness. My 45-year-old father couldn’t recognize what my six year old brother did. Suddenly, it wasn’t sadness, or happiness, or any other emotion I had ever felt before bubbling up from my gut. I didn’t know what it was -- a strange mix of devastation, aggravation, resentment, and indignation joined together in my stomach- making it queasy and nauseous, as if I had gone on the loop de loop roller coaster at the county fair after eating a chili cheese dog.
As the crude comments continued, and my father’s argument became more heated, I realized what I was feeling.
Lia Song~ 18 y/o
Sunnyside Rehabilitation Center-
New York, New York
March 13, 2013
We are the lifeless among the living.
We are the soulless among the souls.
We are the whipping boys the world has discarded.
We are the clay toys the world molded so we would be examples.
-----Who We Are: Lia SongI smile, reading the poem I had written when I first entered Sunnyside Rehabilitation Center. Then, I look at the date on the calendar hanging in my room -March 13th, 2013. My 18th birthday. I have been here for 97 days. Most teenagers who are celebrating their birthdays do something wild....or at least, ordinary. They complain about the colleges that didn’t accept them, their outdated iPhones, mountains of homework, or their latest breakup. Me? I’m finally being released from the hospital I have been in for the past three months. Most teenagers say their parents are jailers, preventing them from going out to party at night. When I say jail, I am referring to the stark, white-washed walls of the room that has been home for nearly a hundred days. MY jail was a place where syringes with jewel-toned liquids were injected to calm the unruly and straitjackets were at the ready.
But this isn’t going to be a sad story.True, this isn’t my 1st, my 2nd, nor even my 3rd visit here. It’s my 8th long-term stay since I turned 13. I know what you’re thinking: Lia Song is one messed up girl. But I wasn’t always like this. I had a very happy childhood... until my parents were murdered. My entire life can be defined as before and after. Before they were killed. After their deaths. Before I became lonely, friendless, and depressed after my boyfriend broke up with me and the entire world bore down on me with teeth and weapons bared.
I should really stop feeling sorry for myself.Enough about my past, and the many different girls I once was. This is now, life went on when they died, and life -- no matter how hard I or anyone else tries to stop it- still goes on.
The click clack of my aunt’s heels is the only audible sound as I walk, my arm looped with hers and my uncle’s, my hands clutching the single tote bag has held everything in my life these past few months. We truly don’t know what to say to each other. When my cousin, their child, Alexa, comes home from summer camp, or even a sleepover, they gush about everything that happened down to the very last detail such as the color she chose to tie-die her t-shirt, or a particular stick of firewood she contributed to that night’s bonfire. With me, they have nothing to say. I feel dejected, as if they didn’t care what happened to me while I was in Sunnyside -- despite their cheerful greeting cards and letters full of well wishes. But did I really expect them to ask, “How were the nurses? Did you swallow all of your pills? Were you happy while you were there?”
They dictated my release and its terms. I was on parole, weekly counseling, and probation, being watched carefully at every moment.
The countdown calendar, teary farewells, and strained hellos hadn’t penetrated my consciousness until the three of us walked through the front door and I realized what had happened in the seemingly short span of three months.
Transformation.That is all I saw everywhere. When I had was admitted the last time, all I saw was darkness, all I felt was pain. Now I’m being released, and all I can see is light, all I can feel is elation. There was snow on the ground when I entered, but now that I am exiting, there are little buds fighting their way towards the warm spring air. The construction site across the street is now a finished bakery. The frigidness, frowns, and greyness the world was in late December is gone. Now, the air is brisk, and warm, people look happy, and color has returned where it belongs.
Immediately, I see Alexa waving from across the street, her golden curls strewn wildly as always around her face, long legs in a pair of dark-washed blue jeans, and blue overcoat encasing her. An actual smile dances on my lips, making me shiver, and sends goosebumps down my arms. She’s as lively as ever, a regular old ray of sunshine I would have mocked when I was admitted to Sunnyside. I would have blamed her positivity on ignorance due to not experiencing the world. Now, as we embrace, I see it was I who was the ignorant one. We settle down for cappuccinos, and I can almost believe we are 12 again, drinking hot chocolate with the shot of espresso we always begged for. In the middle of our conversation, I look out the window, to simply remind myself that I’m no longer locked up. While looking, I suddenly see what I know I should be doing. You are probably wondering (myself included) what I mean by that. To answer, I will have to state what I saw outside.
A girl, running.
That one image brings back everything I had lost when I was 13.
I suddenly remember pushing myself and running my first 5k in Central Park.
I remember getting runners high for the first time, and feeling like unicorns started spreading rainbows across the sky.
I remember being reluctant to run, but feeling magnificent afterwards.
I remember realizing that I had run seven miles, farther than I ever had before.
I remember making my mother buy my me first pair of $180 shoes.
But most of all, I remember a time I was happy.“Lia....Lia!” Alexa repeated, trying to get my attention, “Are you here?”
“Yes,” I tell her, tracing the rim of my mug, “I was thinking about going for a run tomorrow.”
She and the rest of my remaining family knew what running had meant to me, so she squeezed my hand and told me, smiling, “That sounds like a great idea.”
Lia Song~ 18 y/o
New York, New York,
March 14, 2013
“Think about how far you have gotten. Not about how far you still have to go.”
Suddenly, the walls around me shake, the ground vibrating and churning in tsunami-like waves. I groggily open my eyes to see the red glow of my alarm, and the constant thud it makes ringing in my ears. This was its way of saying, “Good morning, it’s 5 am, and if you don’t get out of bed now, you never will.” So I roll out of bed (literally) onto the hardwood floor, pull on some clothes, lace up my shoes, grab my iPod, and stumble out the door.
You’ve heard of the phrase muscle memory, right? Well, that’s what this morning was. I used to get out of bed every morning at 5am for an hour and a half run each and every day. It didn’t matter if getting up so early cost me hours of precious sleep or if I had gone to bed at 3am the night before. Running had been my therapy, and released something indescribable. This hadn’t been a routine of mine since months before I was admitted into Rehab, but that didn’t matter. My body remembered. It remembered the feeling of the cold air circulating around it like a car trying to find a parking space. My eyes remembered the heavy weight of tiredness on my lids. My feet remember how to put one in front of the other.
And that’s all that matters.The first mile was hard. Who was I kidding, the first mile hurt like heck. It was all I could do to keep moving, aches seemed to have lodged themselves in my sides, my arms were still weak from months of disuse, and my thighs felt like they were ripping themselves from my legs.
I arrived at the water fountain, my two mile mark at 5:45. It had taken me almost 40 minutes to go two miles. When I ran all the time, I could have managed five miles in the same amount of time. The sweat trickled in rivulets down my neck, my pony tail almost dripping with condensation.
This is what I wanted? I asked myself. I wanted to put my body through this pain? The feeling that my lungs would burst any moment, and my knees would unscrew themselves from my calves?
I realized my answer, Yes.I started again around the perimeter of the park, this time setting a comfortable pace for myself. Suddenly, “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring Will.i.am started playing on my iPod. And then... I grew my wings. My legs gyrated, turning in full revolutions, going faster and faster, until I felt like I had pushed myself over the edge. I became lost in my own euphoria. Even though sweat stung my eyelids, and I was panting hard, I knew it had been worthwhile. Every single meal I had skipped, every single word that had been hurtled, every single person that had caused me pain... It had all been worth it for this moment.
I had woken up.The sun had made its grand appearance. After almost half a year, I hadn’t remembered what it was like. One second, it’s pitch dark, the next, the sky is lightening, the next, there’s light. All in what seems like less than a minute, your entire world changes. The cold leaves your body as easy as shed clothing. You can see the beauty of the world around you. You see yourself differently.
My emotions had gone off the Richter scale. I noticed the little details that had always been there, but I had been too ignorant to notice. At that very moment, I felt happy. I felt carefree. I felt ecstatic. I was at peace. It was if I had finally remembered the lyrics to a song played on repeat. Familiarity would tug at consciousness, bit by bit, until you knew and you were aware.
It was less than two hours later, but I was a new person. That girl who had been hospitalized for severe depression and attempts at suicide was gone. Running had released something inside of me, the chemical imbalance wasn’t there anymore. It felt peaceful and relaxing. I felt as if those demons that had been playing in the sandbox of my mind had finally been taught to play nicely.
You could never understand what I mean, and probably think I’m insane. Everybody always says people can’t change. Those people have never been on a run. It has been scientifically proven that running releases endorphins, happiness in chemical form. You feel high, but not off of drugs, or alcohol, or any other substance that will bring you down eventually.
Running released the person I was. She had been fighting to get out, banging on soundproof glass. She had cried herself hoarse, trying to let me know she was there. Now I knew, and I felt an emotion that had never been present before.
In my life, I had been - happy - sad - angry - determined - passionate - betrayed - shamed - accepted - disappointed - regretful - disgusted - afraid - surprised
----But I had never felt content----All my life, I had wanted more, or less, of something. But now, I felt exactly what contentment meant, satisfied with what I had, not wanting more or anything else.
Brooklynne Zheng~ 20 y/o
The Hilton Hotel---
Los Angeles, California
June 21, 2020
“Why did you start swimming?” Sonia Stevens, the woman who was interviewing me, inquired. I should have had a simple reply, it should have been easy to answer the most repeated question of my career. Yet, as I stared at her, which may have come across as rude, I couldn’t think of my answer, her hair pulled tightly into a bun, flawless foundation, and crisp pantsuit reminded me too much of my mother. The same mother who quizzed me on this very question before every swim meet and public event.
The very first time someone asked was at the first meet I had ever competed in when I was still in Elementary School. Innocently, I had told Allyson, coach from a visiting team. “Because my mommy made me.”
Allyson continued what had then felt like an interrogation, “How did you get to be so good at it?”
“Easy,” I think I told her, rocking on the balls of my feet, “My mommy and daddy make me get up every morning really early so I can swim before school, and they don’t let me have friends over because they are ‘unneeded distractions.”
My coach had then pulled me away from Allyson, and then told me off to both of my parents. The answers I had given Sonia were obviously the wrong ones because my parents did not want other people to know they made their eight year old daughter get up at two thirty in the morning for extra practice laps. They had harshly scolded and punished me for those answers afterwards.
From then on, before every meet, they always asked me the standard questions others did so that I wouldn’t “mess up.” Questions as simple as, “Who do you look up to? What’s the best thing about swimming? When did your parents realize you had such a talent?” Because my parents obviously assumed I would get them wrong again.
“Excuse me?” I stuttered, pretending to choke on the hors d’oeuvre I was eating, “I’m sincerely sorry Miss....” I trailed off trying to remember her name.
“Stevens?” she filled in, as if her name were a question, and looked at me weirdly because people were not supposed to forget a name that had been told less than 10 minutes before.
“I don’t feel too well,” I told her. After noticing her questioning look on her face, as if she knew I was faking it, I added, “You can send over your questions for the article to my manager, I will respond to them as soon as I feel well again.”
I then began the long trek across the ballroom, without making it look like I was trying to make a run for it, and dodge the people trying to tell me how I was their inspiration. I never even wanted to swim competitively, let alone become the youngest and most dedicated Olympian in history, and I certainly didn’t want all of the press that came with my much coveted title.
“Would you sign this for me?” - “What is your favorite brand of suits?” - “Why did your sponsorship with Speedo stop?” - “What do you think of up-and-comer Courtney Bennet?” - “Do you think you will take home gold again at this summer’s Olympics?”
Although my managing team told me the people who asked the questions meant well, they flew like shrapnel. My footsteps became more deliberate, and each one represented one more stride to freedom. The room began to swirl, the bright lights from the chandeliers became blinding, the people became daunting barriers between me and my goal. I grew nauseous, and threw up in the artificial palm tree at the entryway.
After that, it didn’t matter who I offended, whose questions I sidestepped, or whose feet I trod on because dancing would not be my sport in a million years. I kicked off my high heels, and ran through the Hilton at a pace that could have beat the record for the 1600 meter dash if I ran for the Olympics instead of swam.
I wasn’t aware of my surroundings until 50 degree water attacked my senses. I’d barely been aware of donning my swimsuit and diving straight into the Hilton’s pool. I was reminded yet again why I tolerated my family’s wishes about me being a professional swimmer. I tell myself (foolishly probably) that I could stand up to them but swimming provides a way for me to block out everything else in the world. The water made me permeable. With other sports, your mind could wander. Yet, with swimming, you became enveloped in a sensation you couldn’t find anywhere else. Streamlining through the clear blue water released something inside of me, and made me feel relaxed, and loose. I felt fluid, and became one with the water, as if nothing else mattered.
I came up to the edge of the pool, to catch my breath after laps that probably would have earned me another gold medal, but my eyes fell on the necklace I had hastily discarded on my way into the water. It was one of the only beautiful things my parents have ever given me, but it came with a price.
I resumed my laps, but try as I might, that state of calmness had long since washed away from me, and I spiraled into a memory that was as clear as freshly blown glass.
It was the night after I had won Gold in my first Olympic event. I sat with my ankles crossed in my sea foam green evening gown in the most lady-like manner I could attempt, smiled, nodded, and answered the many questions the interviewer asked.
Near the end of it, on live television, she told me something that nearly made me fall off the plush love seat I was sitting in. “Brooklynne, I have a very big surprise for you,” she said, smiling, as if I would be think I was the luckiest girl in the world after I learned what the surprise was. “Your parents are here.”
My eyes started to tear up, and the interviewer mistook them for tears of happiness. I don’t know what excuse they had made up for the interviewer and the media, but when I left Los Angeles my parents and I had had a huge fight. The two of them said I wasn’t worthy of them watching me in the event they had groomed me for since before I had been able to walk.
“Oh Brooklynne,” my mother cooed on international television. “We am so proud of you. Your father and I didn’t want to put pressure on you by us being there, but now you have taken home the Gold, and surpassed all of out expectations.”
That is abso-freaking-lutely what you would say, I yelled in my mind.
“Daughter,” my father said, putting a clearly awkward arm around my shoulder, “we have been waiting to give you my mother’s pearls since you were born, and this seemed like the ideal location and time.”
Yeah right, I told myself, you made me swim an extra 100 laps after I touched that necklace less than eight years ago.
Then my mother did something she probably hadn’t done since I was a baby, if at all. She embraced me. Her thin arms encased my torso, and awkwardly patted my back, it was obvious to any observers that we didn’t usually have these kinds of cheerful reunions. She looped the cool pearls around my neck, and fastened them against my skin that was hot to the touch because of the stage lights.
With that, she whispered five words in my ear that truly reduced me to tears, “You could have done better.” My mother then drew away with a supposedly loving kiss on my cheek, and another blindingly white smile for the cameras.
That was just one bad memory to stack up onto another, and on a normal occasion I wouldn’t let the bad memories invade my space -- the pool. Even though I still had energy to burn, I climbed out of the water, and started towel-drying my hair.
In less than a month, I would be flying to Tokyo, Japan, for the summer Olympics, and I realized something I had never cared to admit to anyone before. It went beyond the frequent punishments my parents doled out the way other kids my age got “I love yous.”
I was afraid.
All my life, I had been trained to keep all my emotions in, to be the perfect piano playing, straight A receiving, swimmer who always obeyed her parents. The result of that constricted life left me in a box where few people were allowed to enter. This made me appear to be sarcastic, unfeeling, and hostile to those around me. The most important lesson my parents had taught me as a little girl was not to fear anything. They actually encouraged my acting fierce to try and scare my competition at swim meets and academic decathlons. There was never supposed to be a shadow of doubt that I wouldn’t take first, and beat records while doing so. All I did was swallow the pills that were given to me, and reacted like I was supposed to.
Sitting there that night, my feet dangling in the Hilton Hotel’s swimming pool, I realized I was terrified of losing because of my parents. All my life, they had been terrors, and put more pressure on me than what it took (in the myth, at least) to turn coal into diamonds. I had never been given a choice when it came to swimming, or being the star student. I was given the hurdle, and ordered to jump. No one had ever asked me what I wanted, or given any leg room in terms of swimming.
Making the grade and getting the Gold had never before been my choice, but that warm June night, I was determined to make it mine. I would use the fear that had always hovered in the back of my mind --like the monster under the bed nobody believed you about- would be used so that I could finally win, or even lose on my own terms.
Myself: Emmalynne Aldacinnia
If you wanna find the honey.....You can’t be scared of the bees.
And if you wanna see the forest.....You’re gonna have to look past trees.
If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining.....It’s gotta be a cloudy day.
If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning.....You’re gonna have to stand in the rain.
---Silver Lining: Kacey Musgraves
I wake up naturally, the morning sun streaming into my bedroom. For the first time in ages, I feel rested, like my body truly had a good night’s sleep, undisrupted by dreams and thoughts of tomorrow.
I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, and take in my surroundings. After being thrust into the experiences of others, it feels strange to be myself. To feel my obsidian-colored hair stream down my back, and to see my stormy grey eyes when I look at myself in the mirror. I walk out onto the balcony outside my bedroom and take a moment to absorb my surroundings. The air is crisp and fresh, as if there had just been a terrible storm, and it is only now that nature has recovered so she can do her job again. I feel as if someone is pouring a glass of warmth and light over me, and everything feels right.
It is there, as I stand in the middle of the forest, that I awake from a slumber I did not know I was in, and I realize why I could never make my decision before now. In order for any of my brothers and sisters to decide whether they want to accept the role destiny tells them to play, they have to embrace it.
I had been both distraught and devastated about my situation.
Just like Skylar Simmons, my spirit had been broken. For her, it was the overwhelming stress of a ridiculous education system. For me, it was the overwhelming stress of watching my siblings step up to the podium to fulfill their duty, and know that that had to be me someday. Little by little, the two of us realized that it would be our turn to leave, and our current actions would affect that.
I had been disgusted with the straight and narrow.
Just like Savannah Cooper, a situation had been placed before me, and I had no choice but to externally comply, while internally, I was trying as hard as I could to not become engulfed in disgust. For her, she had to take her father’s abuse to herself, and innocent people that had simply wanted to marry who they loved. For me, obedience was mandatory, I had been born as an Admiramini with a destiny laid out before me, and I had been seen as selfish for being uncertain of something I had no prior personal connection with.
I had never known true happiness.
Just like Lia Song, a negative light was the only filter over the world. She had been dealing with the loss of her parents, and released the energy that originated from that loss. I had seen the earth as a young, inferior planet thats people only wanted war and compassion was as hard to come by as the sacred ‘four leaf clover.’ True happiness could have only been obtained when compared to devastating sadness, and I gained perspective from Lia’s tragic experience.
I had been afraid.
Just like Brooklynne Zheng, there had been a pressure on me be something. For her, it was to be a champion swimmer. For me, it was to be good. The two of us had been groomed our entire lives to carry out the plans that had been made for us. As a little girl, I had always known that I was to be someone who would change the world. I had never been asked if I wanted to be a moral compass for humanity. Everything had just been assumed.
Before experiencing the world through Skylar, Savannah, Lia, and Brookylnne, I had lived my entire life in observance. I thought I knew it all. I thought I understood the way the world worked. Emotion was science, a series of chemicals and elements made up of various combinations. My brethren had to learn that life isn’t black and white; it is made up of colors and strokes of the paintbrush. I now understood that to carry out what I was destined for, I had to love it. Even if I didn’t know what ‘it’ was. How could I have made up my mind without ever experiencing a few aspects of what life is, such as the anger of not being heard, disgust at what had seemed like an inevitable outcome, happiness that resulted from the release of pain, or the ability to overcome fears?
Instead of being the teacher, as many of my siblings were when they had first gone to Earth, I was the student, and now I realized why I had been so selfish and hesitant to take on the role that all Admiramini had done before me.
Myself: Emmalynne Aldacinnia
What I choose...
January 2, 2015
I won’t let it swallow me, I won’t let it take me down, I won’t let it run my dreams into the ground....Even on my hardest day; Courage is when you’re scared to death, but you saddle up anyway
---Hardest Day: Jess Moskaluke
“So what do you choose?” is what He asks, standing in the same position from since before I had left the sterile white room, as if He never moved from cleaning the syringe. “Will you let the world decay into its ultimate destruction?---” How positive “---Or will you take upon you the burden that your brethren have shared?---” Even more lovely “---Will you, Emmalynnetta Aldacinnia---” He even pulls out the full name card “---make the leap of faith so that humanity will reap the benefits of your existence?---” Nope, not creepy at all.
“Do you know what Ignavus?” I say, using his name, which no one has dared to call him by for centuries. “I’m not afraid anymore. I am not the little girl who has no say in her future. Yes, I will now make the leap of faith so that I can do what I was destined to do, but I am doing it of my own free will. You never really gave me a choice, but luckily, I now want the same things you do. Each of my 12 brothers and sisters represents one, single emotion. The people they are now, are finite.
I am not.
You ask me to declare who I am, this is me. I am not defined by a single line of existence. I embody all emotions, which is why I never previously fit in. I am the good and the bad. I am the light and the dark.”
I am whole.
So guys, what did you think? Do I have the makings of an Authoress in me? What are your honest thoughts... it's alright, you can lay them on me. If you think I should expand upon this novella during Camp NaNoWriMo, please vote in the sidebar. I appreciate it so much if you actually got to the end of this post, and would appreciate it even more if you came back on the 7th of June for the next installment which will talk all about how I came up with the premise and general plot line.