When You Say You’re Not Creative Anymore

You’re wrong

Creativity is a living, breathing thing. I imagine her dancing across lines of language and leaping from imagination to imagination, sparks flying as she skips from pen to pen. All people can be creative, for creativity herself is not exclusive. She welcomes anyone who takes the time to call her name. Inspired, she’ll move like energy– zapping through neurons from your brain, down your spine, right through your hands– tickling your fingertips until you reach towards a tool, be it a pencil, a keyboard, or a paintbrush.

What makes humans so unique is our natural curiosity and our ability to harness those free-flowing wisps of creativity as they float by. Like the great rat, Remy, from Ratatouille once said, “There’s something special about [humans]. They discover, they create.”

Our ingenuity, our determination, and our success when it comes to following through with creative efforts can all be linked to inspiration. Inspiration makes us antsy to create something worth sharing, either with the world, a single friend, or even just ourselves.

Inspiration is the strike of a match that sends a spark high in the air, a signal designed to catch creativity’s eye.

If we’re lucky enough to catch her, creativity becomes the fuel to our slow burning flame. Inevitably, we’ll run out of creative ideas, and it’s at these moments when we feel the well is empty that we return to our initial inspiration and seek to strike another match. Once we’ve worked hard enough to create something, it becomes a part of our story.

Without language, however, ideas would never leave our minds– they may not even exist at all. Language is humanity’s greatest tool, a system of communication so intricate and advanced that a single language can be molded into infinite stories and inspire infinite ideas. Our desire to pass on these ideas to future generations and leave a record of our past innovations have caused us to develop thousands of foreign tongues across the globe, some written, some drawn, some only spoken. Language’s widespread existence is just another piece of evidence that proves the boundless reach of creativity, for language couldn’t have been developed without it. Who decided that an A would represent the sound “A”? Who was the artist who drew the first letter, or the writer who wrote the first word? I cannot even fathom the amount of creative work it took to develop the first alphabet.

I wonder how many years the architect sat striking matches.

It’s an endless cycle, you see. Inspiration drives creations that we share through language. Language itself was a creative response to our need to communicate. As someone who loves foreign languages, the people I’ve met around the globe inspire me everyday to expand my vocabulary and add my ideas to the discourse. I take a dose of creativity every time I set out to write a poem in French or an essay in Spanish. Creativity is woven through the music in my headphones, the paintings on my wall, my host sister’s sense of humor, and the movie that  always makes me cry. (Yes, I’m referring to Titanic).

It disappoints me when people claim they’re not creative. They speak and they write.

They discover, they create.

When Plagued with a Homework Free Vacation… 

That’s It?

What do you do when faced with days of spare time? How do you choose to fill those empty moments?

When school is your identity and school is your future, you pour your heart and soul into every assignment each and every day until your fingers twitch without an essay to write or a sheet to fill with notes.

This Winter break, I find myself without anything to do. College apps are in, I’m more or less caught up with my online work, my principle declared this week “homework free” and for once in my high school career, I feel like I’m caught up. This is freedom… right?

Well, if that’s so, then why do I still feel like there’s a to do list hidden somewhere with a hundred things to do.

Suddenly, every project I had sitting on the back burner, lukewarm, that I’ve been waiting since September 1st to work on feels like a chore.

This Christmas Eve, as I’m supposed to be lying in bed and wishing for presents to pile up beneath the tree as I sleep, I find myself making a list and checking it twice, though it has nothing to do with who’s naughty or nice. On my list, there are a collection of things for me do–fun things. This is a list that holds nothing for me to be afraid of.

My list:

  • Cuddle up by the fireplace with a nice Gingerbread latte and read a good book (or two)
  • Go café hopping with a good friend
  • Find a new bookstore and take the time to browse
  • Work on my scrapbook– cement those memories with paper and glue
  • Bake something ridiculously unhealthy and enjoy eating it
  • Practice my Russian and finally get around to translating that Pushkin poem
  • Catch up on Marvel movies (Infinity wars is coming!)
  • Do some yoga
  • Take a walk
  • Write some poetry and learn how to doodle better
  • Write a blogpost (check!)

Everything on this list sounds amazing, though I have a nagging suspicion it would be hard to complete in six days. Nevertheless, it now exists.

It’s out there, floating around in some internet oblivion for me to stumble across one homework filled evening when I need to remember that lists are just fun.

Nothing on this list takes a long time to do. Nothing on this list requires long periods of planning. Nothing’s stopping me from taking small chunks of time out of busy days and getting some of these things done.

So, as my favorite bloggers Damon and Jo would say, it’s time to Shut up and Go.

Happy Holidays,

 

Why I’m Scared of Schedules

Consider the Setting

It’s senior year– the year of college applications, AP classes, and last ditch efforts to make yourself as well-rounded and perfect as you can possibly be before your stamped onto paper and sent in to admissions.

Sometimes it’s a wee bit overwhelming, so instead of working on blog posts and being productive, I write poetry.

Schedules

There are one hundred and twenty six things I have to do today.

One hundred and eleven of them are nothing–

steps in an everyday routine.

Five assignments due tomorrow,

four languages to tune,

three miles to run,

two books to read, and, somehow,

a life to live.

 

Schedules are terrifying.

Schedules are necessary.

Schedules are bone needles and sinew thread.

 

I wake up on Thursday morning and the there she lies,

an agenda fully stocked.

That’s when the veil settles–

one a needle cannot pierce.

Through the thick, grey fog

there’s a dark hole with a warm candle, and

a flurry of soft music

whose tinker-bell chimes invite me to their home

where schedules don’t need to exist.

 

There are one hundred and twenty six things I have to do today.

I can’t do one.

 

I’ll test my weight on tired feet

and think about apples and oatmeal and shoes and eye shadow and that book half finished on my nightstand and that test I have tomorrow and that application thats due on Sunday and those return labels I still haven’t printed and that text from my aunt that’s 136 characters too long and I won’t reply.

 

Each empty box on today’s to-do list pings

like a marble dropped into a crystal glass.

I teeter on the edge of a single shard,

frozen solid,

terrified to move,

an unproductive hazard.

I’ll make another list.

This time I’ll add time.

Then I’ll compile another.

 

I’ll set my plan.

I feel marbles rolling through my fingers.

I’ll step towards the kitchen.

I taste dust and fresh ink.

I’ll pick up a spoon.

I hear a beating heart that’s two sparks from out of tune.

I’ll sit back down.

I see F’s and idle hands.

I’ll stare blankly at a ticking clock.

I smell the lazy coffee still in its mug.

 

Here I am, hours later–

hands tied to this chair,

feet bound in rope,

pure panic in my heart–

with one hundred and twenty one things left to do.

Oh, To Write Again With Whimsy

Writing Playlist Prepped and Ready!

There’s something unnatural yet addicting about creative writing. I’m not talking about blog posts, or essays on Capitalism, or even philosophical discussions, but the flood of euphoria that I know comes only with storytelling.

To someone who’s never created their own story before, it’s hard to describe the way that writing makes you feel when you’re crafting your own character, devising your own plot, latching onto a theme, and playing judge, jury, and executioner. Few things measure up to the sense of urgency you feel at midnight when an idea pops into your head and pulls you to your laptop, or the sense of mindlessness as dialogue runs through your fingertips.

Recently, I’ve been feeling the creative itch, and all I want to do is immerse myself in a world of my own creation, but although I have notebooks full of ideas, I can’t seem to make myself begin a project. I wouldn’t call this writer’s block, but writer’s doubt, as I worry that I will waste my time on an idea that may soon run stale. A little over a year ago, I wrote a 60,000 word manuscript that now sits in my computer’s trash can, months of incessant work staining a page without substance.

I’ve been trying to figure out if I mind that I abandoned my first work. Needless to say, I think I’ve improved as a writer, so I know that I shouldn’t dwell over something that no longer represents me, but I can’t help but have moments when I read over a certain paragraph from a particularly emotional chapter mid-way through my manuscript and am shocked by that which I was able to express through words. Passages such as these inspire me to dive back into my characters, even if I know the novel is a lost cause.

I began my last manuscript as a means of catharsis, and found that writing was the key to developing and understanding my own thoughts. I want nothing more that to experience that contraction in my chest and clarity in my head again, but I want to make sure that I write something that will last. I want to take my time with a story and try not to throw everything that I wish to explore into a single plot. There are ideas in my notebook that I don’t think I’m ready to write, and those that I feel I’ve grown out of. I don’t know if now is the time to tackle an entire novel, but I do have a few thousand words of a Nanowrimo manuscript that I may take another look at.

I guess the point of this article is to express my burning desire to write and the frustration that I feel not being able to do it. A few days ago, I received a flurry of terrible grades in a class dedicated to writing, and found for the first time in years that I was doubting my writing abilities. My flowery, rhetorical, often broad and generalized writing did nothing to impress my teacher, and I just couldn’t seem to find a way to incorporate the type of writing my class required with my personal method and style. I have to remind myself that my ability to write an adequate English class essay may need work, but that by no means diminishes my ability to think creatively and critically about topics. If I’m writing for my teacher, I’ll have to be more careful, but if I’m writing for me, I am free to write as I wish. I have molded my writing to my own model of what I believe to be an effective use of language, but perhaps that which I have always perceived as a style open to analysis and debate is not appropriate in an essay in which I must pick a direct side and try not to let my personal culture shine through.

All that aside, I what I really want right now is to write a story, so that’s what I’ll go do.

AH! A Bear Attack!

Who’s the Best?

Eliud Kipchoge vs. Usain Bolt; who’s the better runner? Pernille Blume vs. Katie Ledecky; who’s the better swimmer? One athlete finishes their race in less that 10 seconds, the other takes far longer, but maintains an equally impressive pace. Clearly all four of these athletes are worthy of their olympic titles, but who is better? In order to answer this question, I think back to a time when there was no competition to measure an athlete’s talents on the track or in the pool; a time where there was no such thing as an athlete, only a particularly strong individual able to run for a really long time or swim wicked fast. Back then, being the best at something didn’t mean that you might one day win a medal at the olympics, it just meant that you could survive another day.

If we take this universal concept of survival and use it as a means to measure how good someone is at something, then perhaps we can determine which runner or swimmer is better. That being said, we would still have to figure out what is more important, speed or stamina? Who can outrun a bear or swim to shore if they’re stranded in the middle of a lake?

Runners and swimmers are easy to evaluate on this primitive aptitude scale, but there are some talents that prove to be more tricky. What about a writer? There are millions of amazing writers that excel at their disciplines across the globe, but which is the most adept to survive? Is it the world renowned scientist who writes books that explain complex astrophysics, or Anthony Doerr, the author of All the Light We Cannot See, a haunting work of historical fiction? Does the president’s speech writer have a better chance at survival than a journalist from the New York times?

If we turn back the clock to a time before newspapers and presidents; before astrophysics and novels, what disciplines of writing are we left with?

One man’s words rally his warriors before a grueling hunt while his friend watches closely, ready to relay the details of that expedition to the leader’s wife who waits by the fence, fearing that this time her husband won’t come home. There’s a woman explaining how to build a fire while another enchants the children of their village with a story of how their mighty ancestors battled the vicious saber-tooth tiger.

Motivator, messenger, teacher, and entertainer: who will survive?

Our instinct is to respond with “depends on the situation”, and perhaps that’s true, but what sorts of situations were you likely to find one thousand years ago, and what situations do you often come across today?

We like to label people as being the “best” at what they do, but we’ll never really know who places highest on this primitive aptitude scale until a bear decides to attack the stadium. We worry that we’re not good at anything, but having made it to this moment proves that you are good at something, keeping yourself alive. How did you do that? You used your unique skill set the persevere through life’s obstacles. You may have run, swam, or written a kick-ass english essay, but all that matters is that those talents brought you to this moment. Go you!

Why I Refuse the Refundable Ticket

My choice- Surrender or Victory?

I’ve been in France for a nearly three months now, and I feel comfortable enough to say that I have a relatively decent understanding of the effects France’s most recent tragedies have had on the population. For anybody who has been living in a reclusive wooden cabin in the middle of the forest, there have been numerous, devastating terrorist attacks in the last year that have resulted in high casualties and low self esteem when it comes to security in major cities.

France is not the only country to endure major acts of terrorism recently, but the scale of their two most deadly encounters with extremists, Paris (13 November 2015) and Nice (14 July 2016) have been highlighted in the media as some of the worst in the world. These sorts of attacks are heartbreaking and terrifying, but with time, the community has to return to some sort of normalcy and figure out how to go on with their lives.  

Moving on after tragedy is hard enough on its own, but when the time comes for another highly publicized event, all of the emotions of fear and trauma arise again to torment the minds of every citizen within a 20 mile radius. Terrorism inevitable succeeds in its goal to instil terror simply by attacking and causing grief, but the extent to which it can truly succeed in breaking our society depends on how much control we give that fear. It was not until my host family told me to pay extra for a refundable train ticket to Strasbourg for the annual Christmas Market that I realized just how strong the hold of terrorism is here in France. My host family warned me that they might cancel the Christmas Market, just like they had canceled a festival in Lille last weekend and an air show in Marseille last month.

For some reason, hearing them talk about this broke my heart and filled it with fire; I honestly don’t think I have ever felt as bitter and angry as I did at that moment. I hated it. I hated that the French people were giving in. I hated that they were ready to ignore tradition for the sake of security. I don’t have a very extensive French vocabulary, but I managed to make my feelings quite clear in a three word phrase. “Je deteste ça.” I hissed.

My host family then looked at me very surprised and almost looked offended. I went on to tell them that the entire point of terrorist attacks is to make us live in fear and to make us feel unsafe- like every city is a war zone and every crowd surrounded by hostile soldiers. If we adopt that mentality, then they win. We say that we are engaged in a war on terror but if that’s true, then each time we cancel an event or chose not to go to a concert or a soccer match because of safety concerns, we lose a battle.

We keep surrendering.

I couldn’t seem to get this across to my host family- they didn’t understand why I was so upset. After all, this was meant to protect me. But the thing is, I want to make my own choice whether or not I go to that Christmas market. I want to decide whether I think the war against terror is a cause worth risking my life for.

If I wanted to shelter myself completely from danger in the United States, then maybe I wouldn’t go to school or shopping malls because of all of the mass shootings. I would never go to concerts or walk down Newbury Street or go watch the start of the Boston Marathon. But I choose to do all of those things because I chose to have faith in law enforcement and faith that the more I demonstrate my endurance despite the constant reminders of danger, the more I prove to terrorists that terrorism doesn’t work. Why? Because I chose to ignore it. I will respect the ones who have died in this war and I will be more cautious when I attend high profile events, but I refuse to stop living my life.

I choose to adapt to my new reality, not hide from it, and I trust my fellow citizens and government officials to do the same. I will ignore the flood of emails I receive daily from the State Department reminding me to avoid crowds, areas of worship, concerts, demonstrations, and basically every else that I walk past every day. I live in a world terror that I cannot escape, so I chose to live in spite of fear to prove that we will win this war.

I am alive and I am not afraid; I have already won.

Mandy Signature

How Words Find Their Meaning

A Tissue is not Despair

Have you ever seen something or felt something and said to yourself “Dang, I wish there was a word for that?” The truth is that the word to describe whatever it is you want to name does exist, just not in your language.

A few months ago I purchased the most precious book that a foreign language nerd could ever find, “Lost In Translation” by Ella Francis Sanders. The concept behind this book is genius; a collection of words from around the world that don’t exist in English. This book contains everything from szimpatikus which is a hungarian adjective used to describe the feeling you get when you first meet someone and you can just feel that they are a good person, to a Malay word, pisanzapra, which gives a name to the amount of time it takes to eat a banana.

Flipping through the pages of this illustrated work of art, I realized that there are so many things that I see or feel everyday that I’ve never been able to name. This got me wondering, how does a word find its meaning?

We’ve all wondered who got to decide that a dog was a dog and a cat was a cat, but there are some words that couldn’t have been named by simply pointing at an animal and saying “I hereby declare you, animal that goes woof, a dog.” Take, for example, a word like happiness. This is such a common word that we use all the time, however the word has thousands of different meanings for different people. Sure, dictionary.com has defined happiness as “the state of being happy,” but who defined “happy,” or better yet, who decided that the happiness was a positive feeling?

From what I can tell, a word goes through several stages before it becomes integrated in our daily speech. First, someone has to identify a specific object, feeling, or concept and give it a title. Next, they give the word an definition; an outline for what can be classified as this word. Then the word is send out into the world where society puts it into context, thereby developing the word’s connotation through a cultural lens. At this point, the word may have been translated to another language or been spread across continents where more and more cultures decide their own meaning for that particular thing that guy over in some other country wanted to define.

I think the most fascinating thing about this entire process is that it’s really like one continuous game of intercontinental telephone: each time the word is used, the meaning is warped just a little bit.

Sometimes I wonder how we would feel about certain things if the telephone wire had been wound a little bit differently. What if the first person to define sadness didn’t think that it was such a bad thing? What if that person thought that sadness was something to celebrate, or that tears made eyes more beautiful? Or what if nobody ever gave sadness a name? Just because a feeling doesn’t have a name, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but without a name, we couldn’t develop connotation. If sadness wasn’t classified as a negative emotion, or laughter was thought of to be painful or annoying, how would our lives be changed?

Words are capable of doing damage and creating beauty because we’ve decided that they can. Language was built by humans to express ourselves and our thoughts to others through oral communication, grammar gave that communication guidelines, while cultural context built connotations to further develop the meanings behind each phrase we spoke. Language is fluid and alive and we have the ability to manipulate it; to mold it whichever way we choose. We can never go back in time and change the path of the telephone, but we can push it it a new direction by changing the meanings we associate with certain words.

Beauty doesn’t have to mean size 2 Victoria’s Secret models with flawless skin and perfect hair. A decade or so from now our generation will be in charge of passing on our language to our children, and when we do, we can teach them that beauty is a universal term used to describe a positive feeling one receives when looking at themselves or another person. If that’s the case, we all become beautiful simply by feeling happy when we look in the mirror. Next time somebody asks what equality means, we can express the term as mutual acceptance and shared opportunity for all people.

Let’s not further clarify words with exceptions and categorizations. Treat language as a tool and build whatever you want and make it mean whatever you wish; build yourself a new reality out of letters bound with feeling.

Mandy Signature

Like Versus Love

I love music.

Ask me 10 things I like and I’ll say things along the lines of: ice cream, the TV show Arrow, Avatar, swimming, running etc.

Ask me 10 things I love, and things become more complicated.

There are things that we are supposed to love, like our friends, family, or a sport we’ve played since we were still in the womb, but as time has gone on, I’ve been trying to distinguish the difference between liking and loving, and why exactly we all feel compelled to give often true but very similar answers when asked what it is we love most.

This whole train of ideas started a while back in my school’s advisory when my teacher asked the class whether we would rather be deaf or blind. Now for me, I have always wanted to learn sign language, so I’ve always chosen to be deaf. I’ve been asked this question numerous times and have always been pretty confident in my answer, but I have a friend who always chooses the opposite; she would take blindness any day over losing her ability to listen to music.  

At the time I said something along the lines of “Yeah, I feel that, but I mean, I still wanna see stuff.” (Yes, I know, my eloquence is outstanding, thanks for noticing.) When I think about that now, that I could never hear my favorite songs again, I feel something strange and empty that quite literally hurts my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a day without listening to something, even now as I write this article I have Ludovico Einaudi’s slow, beautiful piano melodies streaming through the speakers on my laptop. Music has been a method of escape for as long as I can remember, whether it be blasting Novocaine by Fall Out Boy to drown out my mother’s lectures, or staring out the window on a rainy day imagining that I’m a character in some sad movie while I listen to Kodaline’s What It Is.

When it’s 1:00 in the morning on a Tuesday and I can’t turn off my brain, I’m listening to Tyler Joseph’s precious voice crack through my headphones. When I’m ready to punch a wall or an obnoxious sixth grader on my bus, my shock over Brendon Urie’s unbelievable vocal range keep my fists by my side.

I guess the point of all these examples is to illustrate that I don’t just like music because it sounds good or it’s fun to dance to, I live through lyrics and my heart beats to the rhythms hammered out on drum sets. Music is more than something to include on the “my interests” part of my profile, It’s something I’m passionate about- something I love.

Acknowledging this made me wonder- what else do I love? What else stirs up indescribable tremors in my chest? I thought about the things that I do that make me excited beyond reason when I talk about, things that are constantly on my mind, things that I can’t imagine living without.

I love writing, I love books, I love to travel and learn languages, I love adrenaline. There are more things to love in my life than I realized. If I’m ever feeling miserable and stressed and I can’t seem to find anything that I want to do- nothing left to do that I like- I picture that feeling of true ease and adoration that I get when I do things I love, and that’s enough of a distraction to pull myself out of that dark space.

I never want to undervalue the importance of ice cream, my favorite TV shows and other things I like, because those can be my little spurts of happiness as I go throughout my day, but it’s the consistency and solidity of those few things I truly love that keep me moving.

I’m still not sure whether I would prefer to be deaf or blind (that practical part of my brain makes choosing too difficult) but I’m glad that I can’t find an answer. There are things I love about my ears and my eyes. At the end of the day, that silly little question sparked an entire wave of ideas about the difference between appreciation and adoration, and I hope that something within this article ignited some thoughts in you. Go on, think, “ponder of something great”, search for that feeling, you’ll know it when you find it; it’s called love.

Mandy Signature

Just Promise Me You Won’t Tell…

The Nature of Secrets

A few weeks ago, I was binge-watching the TV show Reign, a drama on The CW network about the politics of Europe in the 16th century. Now, this show may be fictional, and the politics may be over exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, but there is not a doubt in my mind that some of the scandals that the show presents were real issues that people of that century had to deal with like the revulsion against women royalty leading without a King by their side. There is plenty to be said on the feminist topics cleverly woven throughout the show, but that is a discussion for another rainy day.

Today, I want to talk about secrets; the act of hiding a certain truth from somebody in order to protect oneself or one’s investments. Not everybody has to worry about tricking monarchs and hiding infidelity scandals, but despite what we might tell ourselves, we all have secrets. Whether it be a hidden love for One Direction fan fiction, or an affair with a protestant lord that wants to lead a coup against your husband, there are truths buried in all our hearts that we pray will never see the light of day. However, to a certain point, we all understand that our secrets will never truly remain hidden. An older sibling will someday find the journal that you used when you tried to write fan fiction of your own, or your husband will ultimately realize that there is an army camped at his door and you are across enemy lines holding the hand of a certain Prince of Navarre.  

Nobody can keep something hidden forever, as it is at great cost to ourselves if we attempt to do so. We weigh the costs of telling our secrets against the weight we bear and the torture we endure if we keep them locked away. Most of the time, we admit our secrets to somebody because we feel we need to tell somebody or else we might explode. Sometimes, they come out on their own, and we have no say in when our secrets are exposed. Whenever we have a secret, I think that deep down, we want somebody to find out.

Secrets are forged through guilt and panic- most of us only keep secrets because we fear the cost to ourselves if somebody were to discover that which we are hiding. Eventually, we look for sympathy- somebody who will understand why we did what we did, or feel what we feel, and we pray that that person will comfort us and forgive us. If we have the chance to expose our own secrets, there is hope of a lesser reckoning than if our secrets were revealed through a third party.

If a secret is exposed too soon, or to the wrong person, our lives can swiftly feel ruined. We will lose whatever advantages our secrets gave us, and we risk the consequences of keeping something from someone we care for. When you learn that somebody has kept something from you, lied to you, it is only natural to feel anger. As a secret bearer, that anger is directed straight at your heart and you must beg for forgiveness. Perhaps your secret endangered somebody else or prevented them from getting something they wanted. Perhaps keeping something hidden away made them feel as if you couldn’t trust them, and maybe now they don’t trust you.

Some secrets we need to keep, others we build up in our minds to be horrific weapons that are not, in truth, incredibly important. We think that since we have kept something a secret for some time, we have to keep the truth’s of our soul buried even longer. We are constantly compelled to create new secrets through our lies and omissions, so eventually our arsenal of cover-ups becomes so extensive that the secrets are buried to deep to ever be told.

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Assisted Suicide

Who Gets to Choose?

If I were in bondage, and I begged to be released, would you be punished for setting me free? Would you tell me to wait until I accepted my fate or until my captor one day chooses to release me from my chains? If I freed myself, you would be safe from punishment, yet the process would have wounded me and left me in tatters. Think of how much simpler things would have been, how much less painful, if you gave me the key. There is no difference for a person feeling oppressed by their own circumstance, for the mind can hold chains that are far stronger than metal.

Choosing to die is not a split second decision; it is something that races through your mind maybe once or twice, then more and more frequently until the thought of death consumes you. Can you imagine being so incredibly hopeless that there seems to be no possibility of escaping the wretched weight of the minds’ aggressive attacks? The terminally ill are often in pain, and what right do we have to continuously subject our loved ones to daily torture in the effort to save just a few more days of their lives.

We are tricked by smiles and laughter. We are deceived into believing that a person is incapable of being both happy and miserable at the same time. Someone may feel pleasure while watching a movie or spending time exchanging witty banter with their friends, but that doesn’t mean that they are any better off when the lights are turned back on and the friends leave for the evening. The most crippling moments are those in private when the joy seems to fade from the air. Staring wide eyed and paralyzed at the ceiling, they dread the moment when their eyes open and the trials of the day await them.

We see our loved ones get up in the morning and go about their day. We don’t see the clockwork in their mind ticking away the time until the next bout of happiness may hit, or wondering whether or not that happiness may come at all. We watch the ill suffer in hopes that they can hang on until a cure is found. That hope both enlightens us and constrains us. We tell the ones we love to keep on moving forward, not necessarily for their benefit, but for ours. We don’t want our loved ones to die. We don’t want to imagine lives without them, but we must understand that at a certain point, those people are already gone. They have been replaced by doppelgangers, shrouded in misery, struggling to keep us believing that they are stronger than they feel.

If it comes to the point when a patient is begging for death, for release from the pain of existence, what is a parent, sibling, or lover to do? Keep the suffering bound in torture, or face the wrath of thousands of strangers who will forever judge them for letting their poor child kill themselves? These strangers believe they are upholding the standards of ethics as they accuse husbands of manslaughter after they’ve sat next to their wives and watched them take a drug that erases all of their pain. The prosecutors rarely have any relation to the deceased, yet they feel compelled to argue on their behalf. Do they not think that a parent, spouse, or sibling understands the desires of their loved ones the best?

If there is mutual consent among all parties, there is no one to blame. Poor widows are unable to grieve with mobs gathered around their doors threatening them with threats and handcuffs. Suicide itself used to be considered a noble sacrifice, a preferable death to dying in battle or being held hostage, why have things changed so much? We criticize terminally ill people for cutting their suffering short and releasing themselves from the prisons of their own minds, and how is this different from what used to be thought of as “justifiable” sacrifice.

Death is by no means a good thing, however it can be preferable to a life of suffering. We need to decide as a community whether we want to scorn the dead for the way they ended their lives or appreciate the positive ways in which they lived.

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