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Freedom for me is freedom from you — a poem

Editor’s Note: The Forward is featuring essays, poems and short stories written for our Young Writers Contest. Today’s entry was written by Victoria Y.T. Nealey, a 13-year-old student at the Brandeis School of San Francisco. You can find more work from our young writers here

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE

you

you are the world you represent all the good worth living for; happiness, love, kindness, hope, peace. you show me what it means to give, to nourish, to treasure.

your smile is the sky; bright and sunny. it gives birth to all who walk. your nose are the vast oceans, who grow large and vast and never turn down the rain your eyes are the stars who walk the sky, who guide us even when we don’t know. and every little bump or flaw in your skin; those are the people

you are very word uttered, every smile given, every notch or crack or imperfection. you are the world

would it be different

would it be different if we didn’t meet, didn’t speak, didn’t trust, didn’t hope

would it be different if you never opened up. if i never saw what you hid behind your perfect walls and sunny lands. if i never saw what you really were.

if i didn’t see your hatred, racism, corruption. every ounce of pain, every tear shed, that was you too.

but i forgave you because you were you.

you were everything. you held my hand when i was too afraid to walk; you kissed my tears when the thunder clapped. when i started to drown you taught me to swim. i put my head in the water you said would never hurt me

we have forgotten memories, broken from a summer day. chasing shadows down a sidewalk. realizing that forever could be okay because my color was your color

and then i showed you the real me. the me behind my fake smiles and fake laughs. the me that i hide behind a mask of you. the me no one else knew because i was too afraid to show them.

and then you called me a monster. you said that no one would love me the way i was. that no part of you, not the oceans, the stars, the sky. not the people who walked the earth, who grew to love and trust.

i would never survive you because of the way i was.

because i was different. because i was too tall, because i was too shy. you said it was because i was jewish, because i liked being alone. because my smile was weird, my hair was short. because i wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest, the strongest.

and when you left you didn’t leave footprints on the ground but rather in my head

and then i realize the only way to be free. truly free; to be myself. is to escape the room you hide me in behind your eyes

because i know that you will never accept me. because i’m different than you, you will always shun me. you will always hate me.

and true freedom is being my real self. being me without the fake. not being afraid that you would hate me if you really saw me.

i know that freedom for me is freedom from you.

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