Growing Pains

Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.

-The House on Mango Street


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 I was 10. There was an upperclassman who I was always close with, and we spoke a lot over the holiday. She was in 6th grade, but I found it strange how she was always struggling or asking for help from someone younger than her. I was too young to understand, too young to be of any use. Too young to understand the effect of self-harm and sexual assault. I’m 15 now, and I occasionally see her on social media. She is doing good but has fallen into a lot of bad habits. A lot of the time, I feel guilty. She obviously needed somebody, and I wasn’t able to help. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and handle it as I am today. Maybe things would have been better. I’m sorry.


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There’s a song she always sings. She used to put me to sleep with it, and now she hums it quietly to herself. She was never the best singer, but that never mattered to me. Every time I hear that sweet, comfortable tune, I want to doze off. One day I got curious and asked about it.

“Why are you always singing that song, grandma?”

“It reminds me of home. It always has.” 

The response I got shattered my heart a little bit. She hasn’t seen her relatives in 20-30 years, and I can’t imagine how much it hurts to be far from home.

“Do you miss it sometimes? Vietnam?”

“Of course I do. But I have to move on. You have to be okay with leaving memories as memories.”

The one thing I really love about the elderly is their wisdom. How do they always know what to say?


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We go every day. Always having fun at the park, amusement park, anywhere really. Today was no different.

¨Can we go soon? I want to go before it gets dark outside¨

¨Okay con, I don´t mind. Can you wait for me to finish cleaning up the room a little?¨

¨I´ll wait outside!¨ The biggest smile on my face, getting ready to skate that tiny hill in the park. 

It doesn’t even take months for our routine to change. Things get busy with work, with school, and now I´m stuck at home with no one to play with. 

¨Jeffrey, can you please get off the computer? Mom’s busy again today, come outside with me.¨

My only response is a cold look. Why do you look so sullen? Yesterday, you didn’t worry about getting homework done. You just went to school, wanting to see your friends and that one teacher who gives you snacks. Why do you look so tired? What changed in that little amount of time? 

(AuthorNote: con is a Vietnamese word that translates to address someone younger, usually a child)

Comfort Zone

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I’ve always been afraid of the unfamiliar. Stepping out of my comfort zone is terrifying. I’m sure nobody likes being uncomfortable, but I think I’m the biggest scaredy-cat there is. I am terribly afraid of the struggles I will face as life gets harder, or even as school gets harder. I think I’m fortunate enough (and young enough) to have not been through any hardship that was memorable or worth talking about. I can’t recall any time in my life when I felt terrible heartache. This makes me absolutely terrified for the time when something eventually does fail or break my heart. I guess that’s just a part of growing up and there’s not much I can do about it. I find that the fear gets a little smaller with every year that passes by, so maybe I have hope as an adult.

Parental Expectations

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I’ve always been grateful to grow up with parents who raised me well. My mom and dad are both people I look up to, they’ve done everything they could for me. They were never people to verbally put expectations on me, but I can feel it. Sometimes, when my dad sees my grades/accomplishments, he always says I know you can do better. Always says “Why couldn’t you get that extra credit?” or when I do get that credit he says, “That’s expected of you”. However, when I really do get upset about my results, they are supportive and tell me they will accept whatever I get as long as I try my best. Honestly, I’m not too sure if they are being truthful about that, but I’m happy they try to be supportive. The added expectation makes school a bit more stressful, but really I feel like I have no right to complain. I can’t imagine what it would be like for other kids who have to deal with even harsher expectations. My heart goes out to them.

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