Stories from Mango Street

The past. The past is like a looking glass where we fondly look upon actions that we’ve done, or things that we regret. The one thing that is gone is the fear. The fear of the unknown is completely lost to us, although that memory of that sinking feeling in the pit of one’s stomach may remain, most of the terror is gone. The tragic accident involving a little boy and his friend at school. Those precious days that they spent together, savoring those moments in each other’s company. But, one day. One day. That perfect world shattered, fracturing the mind of that boy. As that rooftop that they ate on together became stained with blood. The one thing he couldn’t prevent. The absolute worst outcome. Gone. He was gone. And nothing could replace him. And the darkness consumed him as the sparks left his eyes.

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I don’t want to. That one defiant memory was one that I held close for as long as I could remember once my parents pushed me to try new things. I don’t want to. I don’t want to play instruments, don’t want to play sports, don’t want to read new books, don’t want to eat new food. I didn’t want to. But, there was a point where my parents got fed up with my little rebellion. They stopped pushing me, and I felt the loss. To this day, I still don’t know why I didn’t want to do those things at that moment. The best that I can come up with is simple, childlike defiance. That strategy where you just keep saying no until the other person gives up, but you end up feeling a little bad at the end for completely shutting them down. I don’t want to. But at the same time, I want them to keep pushing.


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J.K. Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” Failure in and of itself is something that everyone has been scared of since before you can remember. Possibly the earliest memory was being chastised by your parents for some small, insignificant thing that you can’t even remember anymore. But that one memory leads to more and more instances of failure. Failing a test you didn’t study for, forgetting your lines in a speech, missing the final shot in a game. Slowly, all you remember is you failing, and you forget the successes that you’ve had before. And as a result, you stop trying new things. You stop caring about the small things that made you happy. But that new life that you try to live without failure, is also one without growth. One without new opportunities. And one without as much fun. But hopefully one day, we’ll be able to rise above failure. Be able to fail, but still smile and try again. But that would be impossible without “seeing failure as another stepping stone to greatness” (Oprah Winfrey).

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There are some people that I pass by every day as I go to school. That one kid on the bike that I never say hi to. The grumpy looking man reading a newspaper inside the coffee shop that I go to for hot chocolate. The cashier who always has bedhead, but gives me my order with a smile. How is it that I see them every day, but never talk to them? Don’t even know their name. Then there are those in my classes. I know their names, but I don’t know them. I smile and say hey back, without knowing who even said hi. Of course there are ones that I talk to and know but don’t know at the same time. I know what they say they like, what their classes are, and who likes who. But don’t know how they really feel. Sometimes it just feels like I’m sitting in an empty room, with people there but not at the same time. Sometimes they look at me, but don’t see me. Perhaps this challenge of really knowing someone is for the best, since once it happens, it’s incredible. You matter in their life, and there’s someone there who knows you. Who knows, knows you. Who can tell how you are without you saying anything. And that person who comforts you; as if they can see behind that fake smile that you wear when trying to get through the day. Perhaps some day, I’ll finally say hi to that boy on the bike. Maybe someday I’ll have a conversation with the man about what’s happening in the news. Maybe one day, I’ll get to know the cashier behind the counter. Because without knowing them, to me, they’re just faces lost in a crowd. Just faces that I no longer remember.

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The one question that I ask myself every day, without fail, is who am I? And every day, I answer myself the same way. It’s a habit, but one that brings comfort. But for some time now, I don’t think that the same answer that I’ve been telling myself is right. That the answer that my parents and teachers gave me is right. I don’t know why I think that, but maybe it’s my reflection telling me something. Whispering something, and hoping that one day I’ll listen. Maybe this is what people call listening to yourself, and acknowledging yourself for who you really are. Or maybe I’m losing it after sitting in a too bright, too quiet room for hours. With only the scratching of pencils, the tapping of keys to keep me company. After years, the teacher tells us to put our pencils down, and the bell see’s us out. Maybe I’m growing. But maybe, by constantly ignoring what I truly want, I’m only holding myself back. Because haven’t you ever wondered what you could do if you just took that one chance? And now that question that I’ve asked myself for years changes. Who do I want to be?

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We all wish for someone to swoop in and save us, like the knight in shining white armor in the movies, or the level-headed hero from the books. We wait and wait in an ever worsening situation, waiting for an opportunity that never seems to come. But the longer we wait, the worse it seems to get. Suddenly even talking seems hard, so we just smile and say ok. The smile isn’t a real one though. It’s just a mask that we wear while we wait and wait and wait for that perfect scenario to speak. A mask that we wear while we wait for someone to save us. But the world isn’t that perfect, or that kind to many. 

Some people close themselves off. Some people feign nonchalance. Some pretend it’s all a game. Regardless of the method, the outcome is always the same. Because although they can close themselves off to their feelings, it’s impossible to not eventually feel something. Feelings are like the ocean, always there and ready to either drag you under, or push you back to shore. Warring against them never does well, because it’s impossible to kill the ocean. Eventually you’ll just drown. But maybe. Just maybe, you’ll achieve the impossible. And you’ll have that picture perfect person to save you from drowning in your own emotions. And once you find that person, don’t let go. Because eventually, they’ll save you from yourself.
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Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, and maybe one of the hardest things to do. In fact, most of the time I’m not even able to say “goodbye”. The word hangs on the tip of my tongue, but seems to get lost before I can say it. It’s always been the same, no matter how small the goodbye is. But lately, I’ve noticed that others have the same problem. Sometimes others have trouble saying goodbye as well. And although I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, I just say see you later. Because hopefully, I will. Because no matter how far I go, I will come back for those I left behind. And come back for the ones that can’t leave.

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