SEPTEMBER 11

Nothing makes me feel quite as old as September 11th. I distinctly remember sitting cross-legged in front of the television watching in horror as the first tower burned, and screaming as the plane hit the second tower. With the news of the other attacks and plane crashes scrolling across the bottom of the screen, my mom and I sat in the living room, blankly watching the nightmare unfold.

It is little surprise to me that with that as such a vivd childhood memory, the sound of an airplane overhead still inspires fear in me, especially if I am anywhere above the first couple of floors in a building. Nonsensically enough, I enjoy flying, but for some reason, the sounds of planes still scare me if I think about it.

It amazes me how much that one event shaped our world. As a child, I hardly ever entered an airport, so I have no memory of how it was before the myriad of security screenings and searches became an integral part of travel. The war on terror was on the news every night. I don’t really remember a time where the US was not at war with someone.

The idea of being a child of war usually brings to mind bruised and malnourished toddlers, infants with bloated bellies, and adolescents doing the work of adults who are no longer present. But we are on the verge of a second generation just like me–one who cannot remember a time before the everlasting conflict in the middle east. In that way, we have a generation that, instead of generation x or generation y, is the generation that are all children of war. Because whether or not we are in a war zone, our worldview and perspective is shaped by what we know. And I cannot remember a day where joining the army did not mean entirely too possible active service.

9/11 is supposed to be remembrance for who we lost. I was fortunate enough not to lose anyone I personally knew. Instead, September 11th always brings to mind what I lost. I lost some of my sense of personal safety–that people could attack somewhere in the middle of the US terrified me. As cliche as it sounds, I lost some of my innocence: no one who watched could forget the people who leapt from windows and plunged to the street below to escape being burned to death.

It would be so infinitely wonderful to be able to turn on the news and not hear about whatever terrorist organization or dictator has become part of this near 14-year war. Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Hussein, Bin Laden, Isis–I can practically breathe these names. I remember the breathless shock it was when Bin Laden was killed. One of my younger siblings though that his death would mean that every American in the Middle East could come home, that the death of one man was victory. Oh, don’t we all wish!

I wish to God that I could not search the name of my aunt’s brother and find an article about his death in Saudi Arabia as the result of a suicide bombing. I wish, when my friend told me he had enlisted and was going to basic that “Afghanistan after that.” had never had to come out of his mouth. I wish I had never had to open my laptop and see a headline about terrorist beheading journalists and posting the video on the internet. I wish I had never had to stand on a sidewalk in my hometown to see a parade honoring a dead Afghanistan vet–I wish even more that I hadn’t known what his friends said in their eulogy, hadn’t known his mother received a letter two days after she found out he was dead, hadn’t hugged his sister while she cried.

September 11th makes me feel so old, so worn and tired, and so full of empty wishful thinking for a world where such atrocities were unthinkable.

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Year Four

This, if you know me, what you are likely to consider “year two” of the rest of my life.

No one knows me quite well enough to know that it is actually year four of when I decided to start living.

That is, I confess, sort of misleading. Maybe.

I read an article yesterday that a friend shared. It was someone who borrowed the ‘coming out’ metaphor for being open about their depression. ‘Well’ I though, ‘okay, is this for me?’

No, I don’t think so. Because coming out of the closet indicates it’s a secret. It’s never been a secret, the opposite, in fact, as I’ve all but begged people to notice, to fix it, to help me fix myself.

So this is year four because I stopped begging. I put down the pen, tucked away the paper. I took the soul-sucking misery and let it take over. I let it make me angry, furious. That anything would try to take me from myself, lock me away, chain me up– Then I stood up. Sort of like when you stand up when you’ve had the breath knocked out of you. I staggered to my feet, when I shouldn’t have been able to. But I wrenched myself up and held on. My fingers bled from how I held myself up and tore the skin away.

Once in a while, the best metaphor I had was that I wrenched my ribcage open. I’d never really been able to understand why someone would get a tattoo of their bones showing through their skin. I’ve considered it now.

I cleaned my desk out about six weeks ago and found a crumpled sheet of paper that I had shoved into the desk drawer in a panic years before. I smoothed it out on my desk. Usually, even if I tuck something away, I have a vague memory of writing it. This one, not so much. And as I read the first line, panic swamped me as I realized what it was. It was a suicide note.

It was unfinished, little consolation. It’s one of at least three. It’s the only one I know of still having, though. One, I know, I carefully shredded into confetti while sitting on the ground sobbing and wishing I could just do it and be done.

I picked up a taste for music that was a little bit harder and louder, and a bit more miserable. I decided I really like my coffee bitter. I ran and ran and ran until I was dripping with sweat and tears. I took every step I could toward fixing myself. No one else could or maybe, they just wouldn’t. Or, somehow in my pride, I hadn’t let them.

It didn’t matter much by then, and it doesn’t much now. This is year four, and I’ve earned every second of it in agony and tears.

There are still days where I regret living. Generally, those are the days I get up anyway.