Don’t Let Hatred Hinder

When hatred makes us stronger instead of hindering us, we will quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

I realized today that I am not only sure of who I am, but happy with who I am.
In high school I had a distorted and confused idea of the person I was, because it was altered every time someone made a statement about me. If someone said I was fat, then being fat was part of who I was. If someone said I was a whore that nobody liked, then I stopped talking to my friends because, well, nobody likes me anyway. If someone told me I was hot, better yet if two people told me I was hot, then that day I’d be confident and think I was beautiful.

Looking at yourself through anyone’s eyes besides God’s will place you in a man made Labyrinth, under the control of the person with the map, anxiously turning this way and that to find your way. Except you never get out.
Today I was called some things that were put-downs. And I stood in disbelief when my first reaction was to smile. Hearing those insults caused my view of myself to change; knowing how untrue the words were only made me know myself even better. Now I dictate who I am, and the only thing others can do is make that realization stronger, not change it.
I smiled because I was confident that I was the opposite of what they were calling me. Their insults were almost comedic.
I think that that is not only knowing yourself, but being confident with who you are.

Do I pin myself with negative traits? Uhm….yes. Definitely enough to max out the 160 character limit. But those things are a part of me; they are not the definer of me. Someone with Bipolar Disorder HAS Bipolar Disorder. It is one of the hundred other “things” we have. That person is not bipolar disorder, because one trait cannot define who, on a deeper level, we are. I could take every single one of my traits and find the aspect of it that has led to something beautiful in either my life or another’s.

We are only human. We have more issues than any of us could even begin to fathom; we only see the few that come out and are obvious. Trust me, the story of our lives is drowning in red pen.
So if you can’t find the good in the bad, then you are in for a life of loneliness and self loathing. And trust me, that is not the life we were meant to live.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you”. (John 15:18-19)

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And Everyone Lived Happily Ever After

September 30, 2015

“Lottery” is defined as “a drawing of lots used to decide something”; “an event or affair whose outcome is or seems to be determined by chance”. For seven year old Robert Rotaru and his family, that “something” was citizenship, and the chance was taken when Mrs. Rotaru decided to apply for the Romanian “Green Card Lottery”.
“When I was in the first grade, my mother took a photo of herself, filled out some forms, and submitted them!” Robert spoke matter-of-factly as he recalled the transformative event: “the next thing I knew she had won the Green Card Lottery”. It was as simple as winning paperwork that says you have a green card.
With three suitcases and a couple thousand dollars on hand, the venture to the United States began. Everything had to be left behind; the only reminder of home was some clothing and the family that traveled with you. Passing through customs became a challenge when presented with the task of photographing a fidgety, hyper, and excited seven year old. Language barrier standing strong, the man pleaded with Robert to hold still. Robert paused in confusion, “Hold still, rubber? Do you need to hold a rubber band still to take my picture? Wow this country is really behind with technology.” The picture was taken, and the small hands relaxed as Robert suddenly had a keepsake to carry with him: a tiny new box of Legos. To this day, memories of that airport do not focus on leaving a home with so little, but traveling to a home with a new toy.
The Rotaru family stepped foot on American soil in December of 1999, exposing themselves to the bitter chill of Connecticut and the breathtaking scenery of New England. In the same town as the house that the Rotaru’s would find and purchase in one month lived their aunt, studying at Wesleyan on student Visa. At the chance to spend time with family in this foreign country, the aunt reveled and immediately invited Robert and his parents to stay with her until need be.
Last year, on the first day of school in Romania, Grandma Rotaru carefully lifted up the new first grader and placed him onto the back of her clean bicycle; Robert’s uniform had to be in pristine condition. One dirty pair of dress pants is easily recognized amongst a sea of perfectly creased navy blue. Eyes had to be kept on one’s school supplies, the same floppy notebooks and stiff folders overwhelmed each desk. The pink of an eraser seemed engulfed by a wave of neutral colors. Before the start of math, fountain pens popped, ready to show their work.
Now, in America, the desks flaunted various neon colors, bulky binders next to thin, multi pocketed folders. Where one desk was covered in pictures of kittens, the next had been decorated in geometric designs. The disorganization only heightened Robert’s desire to have his mom wait outside of the classroom until the end of the first day. At the warming “yes” escaping his mom’s lips, the wails slowed into breathy sobs. An hour later you could hear a young boy pronounce from the classroom: “Wait! I have to go back outside and tell my mom that she can go home!”
Later on in the day, the cognitive speech therapist embraced herself as a colleague called and told her, “I have a boy who needs to come do ESL”. Robert walked through the doors as the teacher prepared to take on the challenge of English lessons to a student newly here from another country. Two board games and a stack of flashcards later and the teacher was asking, “Why are you here?”
“My teacher was like ‘wait a minute, you’re not from this country…you need ESL.’ And so I’m here”.
“Just don’t come back here please….because you don’t need to”.
Six months of vacation time glued to cartoons on the TV proved to be an efficient means of breaking down a language barrier. Who knew every concept you needed to know in order to function in the US could be picked up from SpongeBob?
Job applications immediately flew out of the Rotaru household; Mrs. Rotaru’s to a restaurant close by called “McDonald’s”, and Mr. Rotaru’s to a soap factory as well as a place that sold glass. Mrs. Rotaru is now celebrating her ten years of employment at that same McDonalds and Mr. Rotaru began American employment at two factories.
Outside of school, Robert experienced streets without horse and buggy transportation, and well working plumbing that spanned entire states, but this did not stop him from missing his family back home. The topic of family is one that is readily discussed amongst Romanians, and Robert excitedly told me a story:
“Well, I’m not actually a first generation immigrant. My grandfather came here in 1912 on a boat. He said he was 27 when he was only 18. But…it’s legal… because nobody asked”
“Oh, wow! Did he find success? Did it make it to the United States?”
“He made a lot of money and had a house in Chicago, and I guess he had a family and decided when he was old to take the boat back to Romania. So, he did. And brought all his money and gave it to my grandfather and his brother and he brought them from the countryside into the city and gave them houses and stuff…The idea of kin and being blood is kind of big.”

“So your grandfather also came here, but illegally, and got extremely wealthy and then left and spread the wealth to the rest of your ancestors, without ever getting discovered…?”
A cheery smile and nod of a head answered my question. It was difficult to find hardships amongst any of the immigrants coming here from the Rotaru family. For a child, the hardships were not ones that would be understood until later on, with age. The racism and degrading attitudes towards certain friends that Robert would bring home were unrecognizable to a child, they did not impact him. But the views of his homeland would reveal themselves with time, as one does not have to search far to hear a Romanian making comments such as: ‘Oh, in America there are a bunch of those black people who are dark-skinned and bad’;  ‘I heard that in America, there are a bunch of guns. Do people really carry guns there? Isn’t that awful? Isn’t that terrible?’ The comments did not and do not affect Robert, who created his own identity in America and is now preparing to graduate college and make a name for himself.
Immigration stories of despair, mistreatment, and loss are prevalent and brought to my attention constantly and urgently. Although important to be subject to, it is oddly refreshing to be searching for hardship amidst a life changing move to America and hear, “I got my foot stuck in a bike once!”

Jinx

“You’re Invited to Amberleigh’s (place age here) Birthday Party” letters used to be sent out years in advance as I predicated who would still be my friend and who would be long gone. I once got reprimanded at a job interview for being too early. So, as expected, Robert and I towed open the train station doors forty five minutes before departure. Being midnight in New Haven, Robert insisted on waiting with me until I was safely settled on the train.

We quickly spotted “NHV to WAS- Washington, D.C. 12:35 am ON TIME”. Since the 70 degree day became a 40 degree night, staying inside until the train arrived seemed like the best choice.

The usual chaotic hustling of the station was replaced by the flicker of “closed” signs on the shops and some rather interesting characters: a toothless gentlemen standing by the entrance and speaking to someone (himself?), and an extremely obese, unkempt woman who was patronizing her small dog as it heaved and coughed, “kennel cough again!? Stop!”

Robert’s eyes anxiously trailed over to the schedule screen every fifteen seconds, expectantly awaiting the appearance of “ARRIVING” or “BOARDING”. When our phones displayed “12:34”, we mutually headed upstairs to check on the train, perplexed by the unchanging “ON TIME”. Up one staircase, and left one turn, a gust of wind chilled my face as I looked down at my phone, “12: 37”. A sigh of relief escaped Robert at the high pitch screech of metal, and we patiently waited for the train to come to a halt.

Robert nudged me with the familiar “trying to be sarcastic” face:
“Oops! There goes the train! I guess you’ll have to sleep here tonight and wait for the morning one!”

It continued at a steady pace but was clearly slowing. Stubbornly laughing and playing along, I responded, “Imagine the train just kept going and then we see the tail of it pass!” Mimicking the imaginative situation and waving to the train as if it had abandoned us, I shouted cheerfully, “Bye train! See you next time!”

Silence suddenly ensued as my mouth slightly parted, eyes wide and stomach turning. Desperate pleas of “no!” filled the background as the steel tail and red break lights disappeared into a black hole of darkness.

I raised my hand, hoping to lighten to mood, and hesitantly exclaimed, “Bye train! See you tomorrow…”

Not so Little

Sheets and stools: our own cloth mansion.

Hide from the outside, our secret.

Mistakes. Dramatic reactions.

Push, scream, cry; no one will confess.

Just disappear! Now! Get your own

life! You enrage everybody.

For the last time, hang up the phone!

Antagonize repeatedly.

I yearned for a sister, and would

envisage parting when I’m grown.

I never presupposed I could

miss your insults and tetchy tone.

You no longer intrude; I find

myself hoping you’ll bother me.

Your pranks and guiles, I would not mind.

Time triggers change; we’ve changed vastly.

Two years quickly turned into ten,

and our memories I shall not omit.

How could I? Roommates can’t even

build forts with just chairs and blankets.

Sibling ties prove themselves ageless,

forever a best friend to me.

That spunky child, I may miss,

but can’t match the man I now see.

46.7 Miles

As I sit here, I marvel at how anyone could believe that what thrives in front of me was a mistake, something that just happened. 46.7 miles; nature’s natural road.
The way the water flows, so powerful yet so tranquil. This town that many call home becomes ephemeral for the rapids that pass through and then fleet; gracing Windsor, New Hartford, Otis, and Becket with its wonder. I am captivated by the explosion of foam as the water fiercely crashes into the smooth rocks that are jetting up through the surface. The single rock in my view seems like an imperfection, but all you need to do is take a step back and absorb the river in its entirety; you will notice that the one “flaw” is just one stepping stone completing a path of breathtaking formations. A wall of trees encircle the path, lacking their leaves but not their liveliness and vivacity. The perfection mirrors a picture someone has painted, retouched, and restored- all of the supposed defects covered with fresh paint that becomes its new identity. The architect of this river could be nothing short of faultless.

We are rivers.

A soggy green shirt flails as the water streams by a branch on which it is caught, red spray paint spells out “PROM” on four different tree trunks, broken pieces of what once were bottles are scattered around the area where the ground meets the body, joining some wrappers on a bed of leaves and kindling.

But that does not take away from its natural splendor, its ability to make me feel like there is not a lovelier place in the world that I could be in this moment.

I wonder if the river knows where it is going, where it will end up. Either way it rushes on, effortlessly going around the obstacles in its way. It goes as far as I can see and then beyond that, into the unknown, to a place of uncertainty.

If everything was an accident, a slipup, a coincidence, and we have no significance on this earth, then wouldn’t it seem silly to follow turns into territory that you cannot discern? To just trust that everything will work out? Why would it? We are nothing. Nothing in a distorted world of malevolence, selfishness, and hurt.
But the river has a reason to trust, has a purpose. It follows its course, brings life to its surroundings, completes its journey, becomes a part of something greater than itself, and then its end turns out to be its beginning; the water will soon make its way back to this very spot. The current will have the same foundation, is still the same river, but having encountered other sources it is also completely changed.

In how long that specific water will make its way through those forty seven miles, we do not know. After what happenstances, we cannot say. That information is not for us to know.
What we do know is this:

the ambiguity, the broken shards, the garbage and the blemishes, the rocks, the unforeseen turns, the remains and scars from others who have passed through and secured their place as a part of the story…

that is what completes us and makes us who we are.

This river is unlike any other one in the entire world because of those small flaws: the one bottle or that dash of red paint.

We will not ever know where we are going, how we will get there, what turns we will face, or when we will even reach our destination. But we trust, much like the river trusts, because the river and we were molded by the same hands. Not accidentally, not to do as we please, dwell, and go through life believing we have no purpose. We trust because we are the center of a masterpiece in which every single detail, step, and fragment was thought of.

I sit here and marvel at the gift given to me. I gaze at the beauty, knowing that I do not deserve this incredible home I have been temporarily placed in.

We are rivers.

You’re Too Young to Know What Love Is

On Friday night I went to a concert. The bands that were playing happened to attract people of all ages I guess…because there were twelve year olds screaming and jumping as well as what seemed to be thirty and forty year olds swaying to the music.

By the time the second band went on, I was about to lose it. There were these two kids standing in front of me; they seemed to be maybe sophomores, definitely not out of high school yet. They were so distracting, so inconsiderate of the people around them.

They were all. over. each other. *motions gagging*

I felt disgusted and annoyed. I looked at them kissing and hugging each other and doing some strange interlocking thing where they had their arms around one another but were still holding both hands of the other person… I don’t even know what that was.

I turned to Rita next to me and said “someone needs to tell them that they will most likely be broken up within the next few months, if not sooner”. I wanted to yell at them- you guys are just kids…stop. It will never last. Ever. It’s all fake, mine as well get over it now. Or at least have some decency and save the kissing for somewhere else.

As soon as I said that, my stomach turned.

I remembered that time- having someone to always talk to and claim as yours and walk around in school hand in hand with and love. Knowing that they thought they loved you, maybe because you are their first relationship or maybe because teenagers are prone to that infatuation-based “love”.

One song came on, and they sang every verse to each other. Turned towards each other, smiling the most genuine smiles I have ever seen, holding hands, and kissing after every verse- only to do the same thing thirty seconds later. He was running his fingers through her pony tail and she was scratching the back of his neck and rubbing his back. When she looked up at him, I saw sincere bliss in her eyes. I stared at them, but they saw no one besides each other. For the first time, I saw that cliché term in real life, and it was beyond authentic.

They held each other so close that nothing could break them apart.

I was disgusted again, but this time with myself.

Love is a beautiful thing. And whoever said “I would rather have loved and lost than have never loved at all” was really on to something. The passion, joy, and contentment that radiated off those two was incredible, and something that may be worth the possibility that it will end in a few months.

Right now, in this moment, they felt secure, loved, purposeful, wanted, protected, and cared for.

If only for a day or a week, those are emotions and a connection that we should encourage, not feel irritated by.

We can only hope that [healthy] relationships flourish instead of fade away. But if that is not the case; at least we know that we leave each relationship having learned something, having trusted ourselves with someone else, having made an impact on someone else’s life.

They sure made an impact on mine.

January 3, 2004

*So I have finished a rough draft of a Realistic Fiction YA novel written from the perspective of a young girl as she goes through middle and high school. It is meant to represent the way children and teens may view or react towards alcoholic and abusive parents. It is made up of journal entries, so the posts with a date as the title are from the draft.*

January 03, 2004 (10 years old)

Every time I want to make a CD, dad has to get a list of every song that I want and then listen to every. single. one. If they “pass his test”, I get the opportunity to listen to them. It is so stupid. I hear the songs on everyone’s game boys and iPod shuffles at school anyway.

That is why I could not believe it when I heard the Pussycat Dolls’ “Buttons” blaring from the mudroom computer. I walked in and saw bare legs and breasts on the screen. The music video was playing and mom was collapsed in the chair, dazedly watching. I knew this was not allowed, and as much as I wanted to see this forbidden video, I did not want Jayden to view such a thing. He was my responsibility, after all.

I ran over to mom, yelling at her to turn it off (and the yelling was necessary for her to hear me over the “bleeps” coming from the loud music). Every time I hit pause, she would swat my hand away and press play again. I tried to explain that Jayden could hear the song and that it was a bad influence but when mom was like this, usually on any given day after ten o’clock in the morning, there was nothing you could say to get her to listen. Drinking makes adults so stubborn.

Finally I lost my patience. I exited out of the repulsive video and snatched the computer mouse, running with it into the living room where Jayden was watching TV. I hid in underneath my dress- it was my favorite dress; light blue with green and yellow daisies on it.

Mom came in after me, holding onto the wall to guide herself and keep from falling flat on her distorted face. She could see the mouse under my dress because the red light signaling to change the batteries was blinking through the fabric. She wrestled with me gently for the mouse and I laughed- the whole thing feeling kind of like a game. The laughter stopped when mom pushed me off the side of the recliner and took back the pieces of the mouse as it broke apart beside me at the impact of the hardwood floor. She whispered “little bitch” under her breath and walked out.

I wanted to cry, but I also couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that she thought she needed the mouse to listen to the music. Dad was right, that “crap for music” really did rot your brain.