We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofJanae Arcos

I grew up with separated parents. It was the norm for me. I found nothing wrong in having separated parents or going back and forth from each home. We were imperfect, just like everybody else. However, I was too young to understand. I am not an emotional person. It is hard for me to express my emotions, especially my negative feelings. Too young to understand, going through adolescence and finding out who I am. I began to realize that my norm was no longer my norm. I found myself surrounded by individuals who had both parents at home, but most importantly, they had a father. 

I found myself having difficulty accepting any love or presence from a male figure aside from my grandpa. I longed for my father's presence and love. Unsure of how to explain my feelings, I constantly asked myself, “why?” Why did I need anyone's love to feel validated? Why did it affect me this way? The reality was I didn't need his love to feel validated. I didn't need his presence to feel loved, but I did know there was a strong bond between a daughter and father that had taken a long break. I knew I needed my father's presence to have someone to look up to and show me his ways in life. I knew he could add to the love that my mother gave me. 

However, as time went on, it became difficult for me to spend time with him when it came time to reconnect with him. There were too many unanswered whys, too many strong negative feelings built up that I could not let out. I did not know how to let it all out. I did not hate him nor dislike him, but I realized I had grown accustomed to him no longer being present, so I began to ignore every emotion that came to me. The impact of his absence only exacerbated the loss of my aunt. It felt like a place in my heart was empty. It made me angry, still unable to express my emotions. Every strong feeling came back. I was furious, but I realized I could no longer remain unhappy and angry as time went on. My emotions poured out onto a paper in the form of this poem: The early morning breeze, cold and windy a normal day for a curious teen, comes to a heavy storm bringing grief to me at ease; the absence of being displeased lying there with machines; lifeless white strings beautiful as you redeem hearts of gold now giving you life, aid the heart of queens too soon, you knew, as to us is, Untold with time and pain, all we could do is breathe hoping all would heal with your endurance flaw to seek actions, awoke disbelief although your mere presence made much more sense, two twenty-four became like a grave dream though you left behind a beautiful scene. No longer having her presence and writing this poem to let out my feelings allowed me to become accepting of reality, showing me to hold grudges no longer but to love and let the past go. Life is too short to miss out on the love and life lessons my dad has given me. On the day we laid her to rest, we released butterflies, symbols of rebirth, transformation, change, hope, and life. I have come across millions of different butterflies, but only one determined my life’s story. She is my butterfly that brought change and gave me hope to accept Greater Love. I have learned to accept reality, and in return, I have been rewarded with happiness and my answers to “why.” How? The rebirth of my bond with my father has brought me a life of love and happiness.

© Janae Arcos. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.