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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand


The world feels safer when I make myself small. Squeezing inward in open spaces, sucking in my breath, moving out of the way. Soft smiles and crossed arms only. Quietness is a restraint I learned when I was young. Don't speak, don't get hurt. Cry soundlessly, feel deeply, and do it all alone. Hope for others, but never seek them out. See the good, be the good, forgive the bad. Break a heart for free because I didn't think it mattered anyway. Didn't think I mattered anyway.

When I was a child, a true fresh speck on this earth, I was carefree and clueless. Bare feet always two inches ahead of everyone else, tangled tawny brown hair, dirt on my bruised knees. I was always falling, clumsily knocking myself down on the sidewalk, falling up flights of stairs. I was always getting back up too.

I was a serious kid. I was a silly kid. I was a sad kid. I was the one they sat the troublemakers next too because she would influence them to be good. Goodness is quiet and clean, isn't it? I was frustrated by the pace of life - wanted it to slow down and speed up at the same time. I was begging to be assigned the lead in the recess musical, but the one assigned as Ms. Darbus instead. I felt unfeminine, I felt ultra-mature, I felt weighted down by some internal measure of validation that I wasn't living up to.

I am a serious person but I carry a steadfast sense of humor. I am often sad and yet that doesn't make me a sad person. Goodness is messy and born from wanting to do better. I can let myself become that endearingly loud classmate, but I am also the one telling them to reign themselves in. The world is terrifying because we have no idea why we are here. Dreams are scary because we are always on the brink of letting them go. Our minds are scary because they pose detrimental self-identity as protection. Giving up is always an option, but at the end of the day, it just means you gave up.

The world feels freer when I make myself big. Daring to dream, taking up space, walking through unopened doors. Cackling with crinkled eyes and lighting up a room. Humor is a currency I've exchanged for a smile, sometimes in the mirror, often in a stranger. Talk loudly, feel deeply, and do it with a friend. Never fearing rejection if I just let myself be earnest. Be the good and see the good because life can be good. Heal a heart for free because I matter in that way. We all matter, anyway.

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