Overwhelming– Poetry Place

patrick-fore-381200Two poems for you today, pay attention and see if the context is a little different than you think— you tell me.

But we all have certain things we run from, pieces of ourselves that are hard to separate from the rest; it can be quite the crisis of self that comes when we try. So here you go, for my finals week, here are two very dramatic poems that I kind of love. Especially the second one.

Let me know what you think.


One

tim-marshall-82948-unsplashIt’s exhausting, the way you follow me around

and believe in yourself when you take me down

to drown out all the noise that you put in my head

with words I don’t want to hear, your presence like lead.

It drowns me, suffocates me, while I lose all the love

that I believe can help fix me up; you just push and shove

your hands straight into my chest, the other wrapped around my throat

I can’t breathe a single breath, can’t even stay afloat

paul-wong-465234-unsplashbefore you take me over. It’s no longer a choice to make

I have no other options, only to let you in to take

every last bit of my sanity, I let you under my skin.

Because I’ve played this game, I’ve fought this battle

too many times, and every time

you win.

Two

I sat there watching as you crawled over my skin,

grinning as you gnawed your way through me

past my gritted teeth and screaming eyes, asking you not to.

I knew you wouldn’t listen.

I could feel it in my bones as you hollowed me out,

inch by inch I lost every space I called my own

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Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash

to the shaking the hoping, the fading in my body.

While you drained that hope from the inside out,

my vision went blurry, the voices in my head

twisting the volume up and up and up

as high as it could go. The louder you got

the louder I needed to be, hands shut over my ears,

screaming against the cacophony of your voice;

It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay

its—but it’s not okay.

I don’t like the way it feels when you make a home

out of me, make me shake and make me cry,

you make me question why I’m alive

so  I can’t answer when someone wants to know

if I’m okay; you take my tongue, you twist it up and

all I can ever seem to do

is let you.


See you Friday.

 

When a Flaw Becomes a Risk…

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I saw this article in the New York Times earlier this week, one that we all should be talking about. So today, let’s talk.

Take a look here at the article, the one that showcases a class-action lawsuit against Stanford regarding ill-addressed mental health and its students.

The title reads Feeling Suicidal, Students Turned to Their College. They Were Told to Go Home. Like many colleges nationwide, Stanford struggles to support its students with their mental health as conditions ranging from eating disorders to anxiety are on the rise in the college-age generation.

The Lawsuit

Yet, according to several reports from groups like Top Class Actions or the Stanford Daily, one University is not doing enough to support students but rather ask them to leave in accordance with their Dean’s Leave of Absence policy.

Including this article from the Disability Rights Advocates Corporation, most state that “Stanford routinely bars students from campus and on-campus housing when Stanford perceives that they may be at risk of self-harm or experiencing suicidal ideation.”

The Problem

Now I understand that many schools face the issue of caring for more students that they can truly handle efficiently or appropriately. Yes, at a certain point it is beyond the scope of a university to provide certain kinds of help, and in some cases it is best to point a student towards facilities and resources that can properly suit their needs.

But cutting students off from their current resources or even schooling when they are in need of help does not seem like a solution. It seems like rather a diversion.

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

One that may help for some students who take a leave of absence and find proper treatment from home before returning to school with a better mindset and overall wellbeing.

That does not mean it is a solution for all.

For some students, turning them away only hurts them more. Not only this, but the alternative options of medication or counseling outside the school may not be affordable– even more so, the trial and error approach along with the side-effects that come with medication may leave the student worse off before they get better, especially without a proper support system in place.

Not only does this say something about how college’s value a student’s overall wellbeing, but also about the flaw in an educational system to provide a productive environment for students as a whole. Just like professional companies often offer services, sick leave, and other options for their employees, it seems student’s don’t quite have that luxury.

Not unless they’re willing to pay, more than their tuition, but also the loss of that tuition in order to leave school and find the help that they need.

This is a broken system.
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Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

When I say “system,” I am talking about both our mental healthcare and collegiate educational systems. First of all, the amount of people who cannot graduate high school or get to higher education at all– due to family obligation, school-to-prison pipeline, money, complication, etc.– is astounding and largely unequal.

If so much of the professional world depends on a degree and proper education these days, how can we hope for a diverse and productive work environment when there is no equity in getting to that education?

From ages 25-34, we see about 37% earning at least a bachelor’s degree while only 23% of African Americans and 16.4% of Hispanic Americans earning college degrees. I understand that some people do not desire/need college degrees for what they want to do and that is fine.

These numbers are a problem for those who do hope to attain degrees out of their reach.

So within our education systems, there is a flaw of gross inequity. And within the mental healthcare systems, it seems proper care is not always being offered.

When you combine these two issues with the academic, financial, social, and professional pressure of college, it becomes dangerous. This puts the future of a generation’s professional and personal wellbeing at risk for failure.

No matter where this class-action lawsuit goes, I know we can do better as a people. There needs to be a higher value on mental health as well as equity within education as a whole.

Students have to get to a point of being suicidal; it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. And children need to be educated properly from the very beginning– all children from all backgrounds, with some way for them to reach higher education if they would like to.

We Need Change
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Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

Think of the world we are about to live in, the one we want our kids and grandkids to thrive in. We shouldn’t have to live within these broken systems that foster inequity and improper treatment. And they shouldn’t either, not when we can start making a change for better now.

Those students are using the law to make a difference. As of today, I have my voice for change so I am using it.

*Cue Allstate guy “are you in good hands?” voice…

So what are you going to do about it?

A Quick Reminder on Mental Health

henry-be-239191Last week I told you all I had a post planned, but I moved it to this week due to some new circumstances… Well it’s next week isn’t it?! So here we go.

We are now in the second week of May, what I like to remember as Mental Health Awareness Month and also Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month— today I’m focusing on that first part. This isn’t just for people diagnosed with mental health issues or those who have love ones who are, this is for everyone. Because just as much as a broken leg can hold us back from our routines, a broken mentality can do the same. Just in a different way than one might expect.

Hear me out.

If you know me, you would know that I love to people-watch. On a college campus, this becomes 10x more interesting— college students talk about so many things in public that I never imagined I would hear and sometimes, I wonder if I should be hearing at all. But one thing that I’m not surprised to hear far too often? The same answer when someone asks “How are you?”

Good.

As long as someone means it when they say “good”, that’s great! But there are a lot of times when someone isn’t good and doesn’t mean it or does need to talk about it, yet this answer comes out automatically instead. I’m not saying to spill everything to the grocery store cashier just trying to get through their shift, but I am saying to be honest with a friend if that’s what you need. 

Because that’s the thing; if you’re not good, you’re not good. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if it’s just waking up on the wrong side of the bed or not really feeling it some days, we get so caught up in our lives or grades or work that we forget to take care of ourselves and really consider our answer when someone asks us how we’re doing. We forget that maybe it matters.

Everyone is different— some people need to talk about things as soon as they go wrong and other people would rather work through it on their own, not needing someone constantly checking in to make sure they’re okay. A lot of times, people are just looking for acknowledgement of their own situation, whether they failed a class or lost a friend; it’s acknowledging other people’s situations as they are regardless whether you can “fix” it or not. There’s a reason there are 7.6 billion people in this world and each and every one of us has a different way of functioning.joshua-clay-27368-unsplash.jpg

That doesn’t mean we can’t help each other function better when we do need the help.

Even though I’ve seen attitudes around mental health change in my short lifetime, there are still a lot of people who worry about the stigma of seeking help because they believe “it’s not even that bad” or “it could be worse.” I mean it could, maybe, but it shouldn’t have to be. If someone has to qualify their own struggle, it’s enough to at least talk about it, right?

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers for college students from January 2016 (USA Today):

One in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan, according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression.

49.5% Students who reported feeling hopeless in the past year.

60.5% Students who reported feeling lonely – a common indicator of depression – in the past year.

Two-thirds of students who are struggling do not seek treatment, according to the American College Health Association Spring 2015 assessment.

Suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death among those ages 15-34, according to the Center for Disease Control.

john-noonan-420156-unsplashNow mental health goes far beyond these statistics and factors, but did you notice that little piece about loneliness? As much as we focus on suicide rates or depression or eating disorders, they all have to start somewhere. For college students, a lot of the time they start with being lonely.

Whether you’re mentally diagnosed with severe depression and can’t get out of bed, a social butterfly, or somewhere in-between, loneliness has a lot to do with how we feel on a day to day basis. It can be in our relationships or how we feel, it doesn’t have to be one thing. But anyone can get hit by a heavy workload, a long to-do list, a day that never seems to end, a week that seems to drag by…

And anyone can feel like they’re up against all of that on their own. It’s important to remember that you’re not, sometimes you just have to let someone else know what you need. Or, for all you autonomous people who want to try this first, you can get out there for yourself and do what you need to do. Just remember, sometimes a willful independence can hold you back too.

At Cal Poly, we have this saying— 25/35— to remind people they should be studying 25 to 35 hours a week. As much as I advocate for it, and probably almost doubled that on a bi-weekly basis freshman year, I also know how easy it is to get caught up and forget to exercise or eat in a timely manner. Or sometimes, you know, breathe.

Mental health is about more than medication or statistics or yoga, it’s about knowing when to take a step back when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re struggling, and doing whatever you need to do to get past that. It’s about taking care of our minds the way we are constantly reminded and taught to take care of our bodies.

Because I have to say, this is a beautiful life and though college isn’t quite the best four years of it, they shouldn’t have to be the worst either. And none of it should be made harder than it needs to be. Mental health is incredibly important for all of us, just like hydrating more or being on our phones less. The point is to be better clement-percheron-607072-unsplashfor ourselves on a daily basis, to let us thrive the way we want to. This month is just another reminder and I hope you remember to take care of yourself today.

I think we all deserve at least that, right?


Hotlines are here, I hope you never need them but if you or a loved one does, remember these: Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741 in the US) which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And, The Trevor Project,(1-866-488-7386) a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Lost in Translation– What now?

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I wanted to focus on Black History Month for all 4 of my posts this month, but I feel like this is important to talk through. In the midst of watching the world grow up around me, my goals and hopes rearranged with every step I take. I’ve got some big plans for my future, I know I have said that before.

But weeks like this make me wonder “what if I never get there?”

I used to follow every news story, whether it came out in class or late at night, I would go through each memorial and headline and tribute video down to the end. Call it an need to know, I’m not sure why I did that, but it felt important. I guess in some sense, I was trying to understand how we even got to where we were and where we are now, how it all happened. Each child, each sibling, each mother, each friend… To me, their losses felt personal.

Because they are.

When I look at the news, I have to acknowledge the fact that those could be my friends, my parents, my brothers, my classmates. I know it’s not just me; I’ve gotten a few extra calls from my parents this week, not because midterms have made these weeks so busy or for Valentines day ,but because they miss us. And I think they need a reminder that we’re still here.

That we’re okay. I’m sure my parents aren’t the only ones.

I’ve only been out of high school for almost two years now and it is astou

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nding to me how much I see changing. I remember the lock down drills we used to do– good for preparation but I don’t think we truly took them seriously enough in the weight of what we were possibly preparing for. Even as the last six years hold the 4/5 deadliest mass shootings in the US modern history, schools often being targeted, I know I was ignorant in my own security. Maybe I has the privilege of feeling that way, of not quite acknowledging the reality around me.

I can’t say students now have that luxury.

There’s a video circulating Twitter that’s been up for past two days; a Florida student is filming in a classroom as police come in to help a girl with a gunshot wound to the leg, before ushering others out through the halls. The officers keep telling them to stick close to the walls while they cry and run, passing unmoving friends and peers on the floor along the way out.

I wasn’t going to watch it, I didn’t want to. Yet I clicked play anyway, the need to understand more compelling than the need to be complacently ignorant. But in watching that video, nothing makes any more sense than how devastating it is to go through something like that. To accept the reality as it is for students and citizens trying to figure out where to go from here.

People are scared and I could not imagine being in middle school or even elementary school right now. Maybe comprehension at those ages isn’t as deep as it is for me now, but I think everyone knows something is wrong.

As a young black woman, I can be proud of the opportunities I have and the platforms I can reach in this day and age– fifty years ago, things were very different for people like me. Sometimes I get excited, thinking of the capability and creativity and intelligence I see in the presence of my generation. It can be humbling to acknowledge just how much I think we can do,

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with so much technology and capability at our fingertips.

But I also worry, about the lives we are coming into and the safety of our current state, the questions that come with it. I worry about the fear that now seems to haunt my generation and those coming after us. Because this uncertainty doesn’t discriminate by skin or gender or color or even political party. Every single one of us is living in this reality of yet another mass shooting just this year.

Shouldn’t just one be enough?

Something needs to change. There have been too many “prayers go out to…” or “my heart is with…” You can fill in whatever place you want there; it’s probably still on the ever growing list of places tragedy has struck. Yet nothing changes, people pray and lives are lost and it happens all over again. Now I’m not saying gun control is the solution, nor am I saying the opposite.

What I am saying is this: memorials and prayers and testimonies and thoughts are not enough. Though thoughts are great and we all have our own need for faith, neither is doing anything to change the future. We need to do something more than just watch more people lose their lives. Sure, I talk a lot about mental health because it’s important– these news headlines talk about mental health because it’s an excuse. This is just a factor. There’s more to these situations than that, than being “orphaned at 19” or having an “undiagnosed mental illness“.

We need to go deeper and find a way to fix the problem, whatever and how large this problem may be. Because it’s not going away.

Students shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school. I wish I didn’t have all these plans in my life only to lie awake and night and wonder “what if I never get to finish that book?” or “when was the last time I told my parents I love them?”

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I don’t want to keep following these stories, the friends or the families or the lives, taking each loss personally when they aren’t and they are at the same time.

I just want to see things change– I don’t know how or when or what, but we can’t keep waiting. We can’t keep watching it all fall apart. I don’t want to live in a world where I look at the news and think “Oh, another one?”

And I know too many people feel this way too.

A Resolution for Something Better

annie-spratt-178364.jpgWelcome to 2018, a new year and a fresh chance to accidentally write the wrong year on all your dates for a while. But maybe this year we can get the hang of it a little faster.

New year, new us right?

Except not really. Every year, I seem to share this sentiment more than the last when I consider the idea of starting over. As much as a new year doesn’t truly mean that we have a completely clean slate, even I can’t deny the fact that it means change.

This year is fresh chance to try again. A new start with resolutions of exercising more, getting better grades, spending more time with the right people… The list goes on. But aside from the hope we all seem to hold of something better, these are all good things, I think there’s something that truly needs to be focused on this year.

We need to focus on ourselves.

nathan-lemon-482951As the countdown came for the new year, I watched the time tick closer to the end of my teenage years. Not just that, but in watching my brother’s graduation and the people I always saw as little freshman in high school coming into their senior years… Time is something we have no control over; I knew that, but that doesn’t stop it from flying by.

So instead of focusing on the big pieces of our lives that can change who we are, I wanted to focus in on the little ones for ourselves.

Like trying to be a little kinder this year.

Volunteering more or holding doors, smiling at strangers.

Think about the people who matter to you in this life, remind them of that.

And remember the singular, fragile lives we all hold— try to spend every day doing something worth living for.

Because this is a new year, not quite a blank slate but still a reason to give yourself a second chance (maye a third or a fourth).

I believe it should be a year of self-love, not just taking baths every night and treating yourself while you can, but truly appreciating who you are. With so much technology in our faces and social media showing what people want us to see, especially in my generation, we can lose sight of our own brilliance.aaron-burden-143101

We forget our own worth.

I think sometimes people get so caught up in their jobs or worries or responsibilities or friends that they forget this: every one of you should be a priority in your own life.

At times, that means slowing down. Whether you’re in college, you’ve got a demanding job, or you’re simply in a position where you can work too hard, maybe you should do the opposite. As I’ve said before, burnout is real and it truly affects every aspect of your life.

If you need to slow down do it— this means taking less units, calling in sick, springing a random day-trip… Whatever you need to do to get yourself where you want to be, do it. This isn’t a year to hold back.

This is a year of taking every step that we can towards a healthier and happier population.

With a world that holds 4.7 billion people, I can’t deny the rise of mental health issues and unhappy people around me. That doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to change it. The thing is, that change starts with you. And me. With every one of us making eduard-militaru-133851.jpgan effort in our own lives to being better.

This is day 5 of 365, with a little time left to make yourself genuinely smile at least once today. If there’s something you want, something you need to do, there is no time like the present to get started. Because this is a new year, same old us, but still a chance to change who we are becoming. For today and the next 360 days, here’s to our journey towards a better version of ourselves.

Welcome to Year 2: Plan for Success

My sophomore year here at Cal Poly officially began yesterday morning and I can already tell that it’s going to be quite an… experience. Quick summary of my two days of class: Ran to catch the bus three times (only for it to be late), started work at the University Store, emailed far too many professors about crashing classes, denis-bayer-97398went from 8 units to 20 in three days, joined a large theatre lecture class made up mostly of freshmen, ran into a wonderful amount of familiar faces, and experienced my first 8-10pm class.

This is going to be a year of firsts and a whole lot of learning.

There’s something surprisingly comforting about not being new to the whole college thing this year— I’m more comfortable than I thought I would be just having been here already, whether I felt like I knew what I was doing or not. I guess there’s something to be said about knowing that there are trials ahead, but at least having an idea of what to expect. That’s the difference between being a freshman and being a sophomore, I actually know how rough this can be.

I also know how fantastic this can be.

As it is with so much in life, the key to getting it all right is balance. I can’t spend all my free time at work because I still need to study. I can’t spend all my free time studying because I have committed to a job. And I also can’t only go to class and do those two things because, well, this is college— a social life is somewhat necessary for both sanity and survival.

So maybe the question is how do any of us find that balance between everything?

First of all,ben-duchac-66002 your people are so important. Not only do they keep you in check to say “hey, we haven’t seen you around lately,” reminding you that there are people who want you, but they also to check in on you when you forget to do it yourself. With a world heading towards higher productivity and more time working, we often forget to take breaks for ourselves or step back from things and remember to breathe. Our people are always important to pull us back when we fall off course.

Rule number two: Make a plan. We’re all busy people, I get that, and it can be hard to keep track of everything going on in our lives. So make some plans, get a planner going, and mark down some due dates. The key to this part is organization— the faster you get more organized, the easier it is to figure out all the information and to do lists in your head. At least for me, I know that when I’ve got a lot on my plate, it’s at least nice to see on paper that it’s possible to do it all. A little confidence boost never hurt, even when it just comes from everything fitting in one box on my calendar.

Rule number three: Failure to succeed is not the same as failure. Does that make sense? Let’s put this in lettered terms— there is a large margin between passing a class with an A and failing one with a D. If you’re giving something your best shot, asking for help when you need it, and doing what you can to get to where you want to be, that’s all you can ask of yourself. andreas-kind-338509Your best isn’t always going to get you an A, not when there are so many other things to focus on and remember. Lucky for us, a C is still passing. And sometimes, that’s the best we can do. Find a way to be okay with that, and if you can’t, then find a way to make your best a little bit better.

And finally, rule number four: You come first. If your body is telling you something, if you’re constantly tired or have a hard time getting through the day, something has to change. Burnout is very possible, both in work and in education, and it takes a toll on everything you do from your relationships to your sleeping habits. Even when it seems you can’t slow down or you have no other option but the pace you’re currently going at, there is always another way. It just might not be ideal. Before you even get there, it’s best to avoid burnout altogether by taking the time you need for yourself every day, not skipping meals, and definitely not skipping sleep. But it’s not always easy to stick to that, even with the best intentions. So if you fall a little behind on self-care, take whatever steps you need to in order to get back to good health. For college students, that could even mean a quick trip home or dropping a class— do what you need to do. And don’t forget about your people, the good ones are always there to help you out. All you need to do is ask.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and in the midst of the natural disasters and recovery efforts we see around the world, I am also reminded that some allef-vinicius-230238tragedies are those we don’t see. From the American Psychological Association back in 2013, 41.6% of college students struggled with anxiety, 36.4% with depression, and 35.8% with relationship problems. These three top issues can all lend a hand into impacting the wellbeing of students and if ignored for too long, they could become too large for one person to handle. I say this to point out that these percentages are not small— if you are a part of it, that is okay. You are not alone and you do not have to feel like you are either. Like I said earlier, ask for help and do what you need to do to get yourself to a good place, you deserve that much.

This world is a beautiful place and this life is a beautiful thing, at least I know it can be. So as I go into year two, I am going to do my best to embody the beauty, even amidst the turmoil of getting my life together. And hey, if I’m lucky, maybe running after busses can be a part of it too. Until next week everyone, have a wonderful weekend and here’s to the beauty 🙂

Intro to September: Here’s something you need to know

Here’s a little honesty for you: I miss writing. Not because I don’t do it anymore, clearly, but because I haven’t been doing it for me. It’s been a while since I’ve put up a new poem of mine because, well, I haven’t been writing anything. hans-peter-gauster-252751Sometimes we put little pieces of ourselves on hold for other things, things we think are more important or more necessary like school or work. But after some time, we might lose those pieces. We might lose ourselves.

That’s the thing about growing up, losing pieces is a part of the process— as long as we find new ones. I’ve learned in my first year of college that people are going to come in and out of our lives. It doesn’t always matter how long they stuck around for, but really how they change us while they do. Some people give us more strength and happiness, other people give us more stress and misery. The trick is to find the right ones.

The people we surround ourselves with has a high impact on how we see ourselves and how we see ourselves can really change how we feel. September is World Suicide Prevention Month and this post was a very important information piece to me last year. This year I want to go in a different direction: I want to talk about us.

Every single one of us comes with flaws, I understand that fact— we wouldn’t be human otherwise. Growing up, I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a pushover. And I know that, patrick-tomasso-352184sometimes it’s been a good thing. Other times, not so much. But just because we all have our quirks and little thing we could do to be better, that doesn’t mean we should have to change who we are for anyone else. Health and well-being is extremely important for every single one of the 7.4 billion people in this world; it is such a big part of this month, of our lives. And it applies to every one of us when I say that you deserve to surround yourself with people who make you truly feel like it’s a life worth living.

So here’s to finding out who we can be with the people we deserve, flaws, fading adolescence, and all. Here’s to getting back into my writing and here’s to being okay with letting things go when we need to. Even when it’s hard.

Here’s I’m sorry

I’m sorry

I’m a pushover, I know.

People tend to exploit that

and that’s okay.

Because when you love them,

and they make a mistake, they might hurt you.

But you don’t blame them,

no, you couldn’t.

You simple apologize and move on. You let it go.

It’s better that way.

sawyer-bengtson-264361I’m sorry

We haven’t talked for awhile and it’s sad.

I got busy, you got busy, that’s how life goes.

Maybe there was time, somewhere,

we could have made things work.

But we didn’t, distance was too much,

and in the end

we couldn’t stick around for each other.

I’m sorry

I should have walked away back then.

I let bad things happen when they didn’t have to

but they did.

I got hurt trying to pull you back

I kept trying, always trying… But it was never enough;

with you, I never was.

There was never any good enough,

there was just you and there was me.

I was hoping for a change of heart

A change in us maybe.

But the only thing you ended up changing

was my mind.

kristopher-roller-110206So I’m sorry…

But I’m not, not really.

I am not sorry.

Because sometimes things don’t work out

and people get left behind.

Sometimes we grow, we find what’s best for us,

we learn how to cut strings that tie us up

instead of letting us grow and move on.

Sometimes, we need to learn when to stop apologizing

to people who cannot see our worth,

and instead, be okay with walking alone

until we find people who can.

 

So to health and well-being, to World Suicide Prevention Month, and to all the love people deserve to feel in this world: Welcome to September.