I’ve always thought I’d be a writer. It was the only thing I’d ever cared to do, dating back to the minute I learned how to write real letters and not just the scribbles and loops I’d been pretending were words. I’d make magazines and newsletters for my brothers and parents, big signs for Kool-Aid stands that never made it out of the kitchen, invitations to tea parties for my favorite imaginary friends and tv characters. Any chance I had to articulate something on paper, I’d take it without a second thought. The summer between fifth and sixth grade, when I was bouncing between 10 and up rated chapter books from my Scholastic Book Orders and classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Little Women, my world started to tilt a little bit. Instead of bad song lyrics and four square essays, I wanted to write in rhyme, I wanted to turn my sunny Kool-Aid posters into something darker and deeper, I wanted someone to understand the hurt I was feeling so heavily for what seemed to be the first time. The words never stopped coming, the world kept pushing me down, but I was happy to be crushed if it meant I could keep writing. I never thought it would stop, my whole life had lead me to believe the pain would never fully stop, and I don’t think it does, not really. It only stops enough to let the ink in my pen dry out, and the ocean of words that lived in my brain dry up in a drought. It comes and goes, the creative flow. My writer’s block seems more normal than the ability to express my own feelings lately, and at first that hurt. It was the only thing I knew that I could do right, the only thing I cared enough about to put genuine effort into. Yet, as the years have gone by with only small bouts of drizzle on the deserted side of my brain where creativity used to run wild, I’ve realized that this life should be more than trying to talk myself out of ending it. I’ve gotten to a place where I no longer need to convince myself I’m talented in order to feel validated enough to stay alive, and I feel like that’s better than where I was when I always knew what to write. I’m not constantly aching to survive, I’m just surviving and doing alright without even thinking about it, and I think that’s kind of beautiful. I spent so much time trying to justify my life with some sort of poetic justice, when all I really wanted was to want to stay alive, and now that’s not even something I have to strive for, it’s just a default. I’m so proud of myself, and I hope you’re proud of yourself, too.