Stronger than Mental Illness

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The heart speaks louder than the shaking voices of victims who didn’t know how to handle mental illness.

But even as your heart hammers against your chest,

Don’t be afraid to speak.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

Paint the town in wise words you’ve learned from your situation.

Sing the song of your triumph after the storm has passed.

Let the liberation of self-expression run through the flesh,

The very blood stream that connects to a healthy heart.

A beat that was once an unsettled qualm,

Is now a beautiful, steady rhythm

That feeds an honest self-awareness.

I repeat

Your health is a priority.

Repeat

Your health is a priority

Even before grades and schoolwork,

Nagging tasks and unfinished papers.

You are free to prioritize yourself,

Polish the best version of your personality.

You are not your disorder,

You are a living triumph,

A beautiful song that continues to play

Even after the drumbeat of your heart has grown weary.

You will wake up to another day

When you will expand your lungs to fill them with oxygen.

Tell me,

How amazing is this freedom?

The space

Between this inhale

And the next exhale

Is the greatest liberation I know.

The mind

And the heart

Are no longer weighed down by shackles.

Rather, they have grown stronger from having carried them for so long.

So parade in this wonderful freedom.

Beautiful green and blue veins ignite euphoria,

A liveliness once unknown.

Red blood traveling through the temples,

And eventually to the mind.

Tears of joy collect along your eyelid,

Tipping over the edge slowly.

You are free.

A living triumph,

A walking warrior,

Liberation personified.

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The Unpaved Road of Finding Employment

After I graduated from high school, I scrambled to find a job. The summer before college is the perfect time to start building a career. I assumed that getting hired was easy, confident that someone would call me for an interview. As I imagined it, I would fill out applications, get a phone call, and get the job. But lazy summer days came and left in the blink of an eye. I was still unemployed, spending my hours wondering when I would start earning my own money.

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So I changed my mindset and decided I wouldn’t stop filling out applications until my hope was restored. I applied to a gym, bread shop, coffee shop, and a few retail stores. But my haste hindered me from considering meaningful work. Honestly, I didn’t want to sell clothes for eight hours a day and then wake up just to do it all over again. And I sure as anything did not want to smell like coffee after leaving work. In mid-July, my sister informed me about a job announcement she found on Facebook about a reputable math tutoring franchise.

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Although I’ve never been the greatest at math, I have an enthusiasm for working with other people. It’s an opportunity to get out of head and view life from other people’s perspectives. The idea of working closely with students and making a discernible impact in their lives excited me. Now that I was considering my strengths and personal needs, I immediately sent my resume to the owner of the tutoring franchise.

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Financial independence is great, but if earning money requires us to ignore our strengths and desires, it’s not worth it. I look forward to my first day of work in an environment that fosters academic progress, growth, and cooperation. And I hope that whatever you do for a living, you find fulfillment and happiness.

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Reaching Adulthood

Independence is one of the greatest freedoms of adulthood. I will turn 18-years-old in a few days, and I cannot contain my excitement to become an adult. Throughout the summer, I experienced simple milestones that marked this transition, such as becoming employed and browsing for a car. Can you remember the days leading up to your 18th birthday? Or the joy of driving to your first day of work? Receiving your first paycheck? Perhaps the most liberating aspect of growing up is having the power to independently make decisions.

In these 17-year-old hands is the freedom to control my health, schedule, spending habits, and more. I imagine opening the door of my workplace, the cool air greeting me as I walk in. As a math tutor, I will have the opportunity to work closely with students and build meaningful relationships with my coworkers. I also imagine test driving my new car, or better yet, heading to my first class at George Mason University.

I am no longer a high school student. And soon, I will no longer be a minor. I cannot wait to turn 18, as I will experience new pleasures and challenges as a young adult.

The Drive to Personal Freedom

I started this blog in 2014 to share my experiences related to running. Thoughts of the sport occupied my mind most of the time; I always had ideas for original content. Running liberated my heart, mind, and body in ways that no other sport could. But as my blog unravels, I realize that I can achieve personal freedom through activities besides cross-country and track.

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My blogposts are like a stereo. I hit the pause button on cross-country and hit ‘play’ on the music that echoed off the walls of my yoga studio. I awoke a wave of liberation as I struck countless asanas. The peace and contentment of meditation cannot be found on any cross-country course. So I stretched my calves in downward dog, pointed my toes as I sat in a split, and encouraged myself to breathe deeply. I wasn’t able to achieve this improvement in wellbeing by running. But I was blessed that my mental health climbed to new heights.

My yoga track now intertwines with the sound of poolside waves, as I learned how to swim today. I floated above water and performed graceful breaststrokes, wishing my oxygen capacity were unlimited so I could stay underwater. The smell of chlorine still lingers on my skin, the image of cool blue water is the wallpaper of my mind. As I swam, I turned my freedom’s volume to ‘max.’ Although I’ve stopped writing about running, I combined every one of my freedoms today as I floated in four feet of cool water.  My body absorbs the impact of strides on merciless pavement. My lungs breathe into mindful asanas. And my legs kick through powerful breaststrokes. I was a swimmer, runner, and yogi all at once. I swam through clear blue water, ran from waterslide to pool, and struck a dancer’s pose underwater. As I write these stories, I gently play the notes on this keyboard. My blogposts record my every song of freedom.

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Movement frees the body and heart, but what’s missing? The mind. I may have stumbled upon liberation as I cartwheeled throughout the yoga studio. But in order to free the mind, I open the gates of my thoughts. I carefully type drafts onto a Word Document, often covering the pages in controversial thoughts. It’s easy to write a personal narrative, but arguing takes serious work. The current Presidential race fuels fire between our two candidates, as the United States of America become a little less… united. Minorities are under attack on a daily basis, as the LBTQ  community fights for their right to love and to feel safe in our (supposedly post-modern) society. The Black Lives Matter Movement strives to eradicate the harsh shortcomings of systematic racism. And the list goes on.

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We associate the American flag with “freedom”, but the actions we take to achieve personal liberation can lead us to live meaningfully. Write, whether your ideas are popular or not. Exercise, whether you are “fit” or not. Dance, tumble, run, swim, or do anything that frees you.  I’m thankful to say that, today, as I finished my last breaststroke before leaving the waterpark, I truly lived up to my meaning of “freedom.”