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Culture

To be free is to escape this merry-go-round

All the other kids ride the merry-go-round with smiles beaming across their rosy red, sun kissed cheeks, laughing and playing on a nice day.

Hallie Sternblitz

Youth Essay Contestant: Hallie Sternblitz is a 16-year-old student from Addison, Texas. Image by Courtesy of Hallie Sternblitz

This type of day is where my dreams meet their reality. I ride a different merry-go-round — one of violence and darkness.

When the sun goes down, all the other kids get off, but for me, the sun is always set, and I don’t get to leave. I’m trapped, always spinning, too dizzy and scared to let go, but never stopping to catch my breath. The bland taste of dried oats and hunger mixed with grief is foreign to most kids. It was a taste I never knew until I mistakenly stepped onto this merry-go-round.

My parents tell me that we are the lucky ones, that we are the survivors, but are we really living if no one knows we are here?

Droplets of dirt coat my body like paint the longer I’m on the merry-go-round. I have escaped so much just to be buried alive. I used to ride the real merry-go-round, the one filled with happiness and friends, but the exhilaration I once felt has turned into a plea to make it stop. The friends I used to play with do not even know that I am trapped here, spinning.

My parents made me tell them we were moving to Great Britain before we were taken away. They don’t know that I am still here — on the same street. They don’t know that I’m still me. So, it is hard to be grateful when my life has been permanently altered by this game the world is playing. A game of hate and discrimination.

I never did anything to be spending my childhood in darkness while my friends live freely under the summer sun. They are all balloons, drifting into the distance, but I am tethered to the ground, pulling to go with them, as I watch my life grow further and further away.

I know it could be worse. I’ve heard the rumors about where they sent the others, but I just need to stop spinning. I need to breathe fresh air and feel the harmless needles of a sizzling sun pierce my back, instead of dust swirling around me until I eventually fall asleep, with no sense of the time of day.

If I could turn back the hands of time, I would never have gotten on. I would’ve begged and pleaded with my parents to abandon the place I once called home. This is not my home anymore. Somehow, I’m losing the game. The rest of the world decided that I’m not worthy of playing, so they are targeting me until I’m out forever.

I don’t like hiding from the game, but my parents feel so lucky to not be playing. To them, it’s just a game, but to me, it’s the world. The bitter taste of salty tears and fear sting my throat as if I can feel the touch of my past life poking and prodding.

So please enlighten me; will I ever stop spinning? As the soft skin of my mother’s hand strokes my hair, I am reminded of our aspirations. We must play the game, for if we survive this diabolical dystopia, then one day, my daughter will have the freedom to step off the ever-whirling merry-go-round, sit on a park bench in the day’s prime, and breathe.

To me, freedom means that my descendants can be proud of their identity, rather than ride in fear.

I must spin round and round in the darkness for the freedom of the future.

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