“Light it up Blue” or Not

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. 

This sounds like a wonderful day but it’s a day the autism community dreads.

April as a whole is Autism Awareness month and I should be thrilled. 

Social media “Lights it up Blue” and people post about inclusion when in actuality, most of the time they are doing it to feel good about themselves.

“Light it up Blue” is from Autism Speaks, a unethical corporation. 

Many Autistics consider them to be a hate group and here is why:

Their main goal is to ‘end autism.’ Very little to almost none of their large budget goes to helping autistic people and their families. Rather they spend a plethora on researching for a ‘cure’ and a pre-natal test to give an option of not having autistic babies. Another part of the budget is spent on marketing material. They have videos that make it seem like autism is a monster that destroys families and lives (I’ve included two examples).

Lots of people use this month to fall into profile pictures with a blue border or blue backgrounds and #lightitupblue as ‘autism activism.’ Here’s the thing. That doesn’t do anything when you’re just doing it for a trend. 

Why blue?

Autism is stereotypically a ‘boy’s disorder.’ It’s true that boys are diagnosed earlier and more or diagnosed. That is because of the diagnostic criteria used is written with the boys typical behavior. Autistic girls usually go without an diagnosis or diagnosed later in life. Girls show different signs and behaviors. However, social media is cloaked in blue. 

Most people are aware of autism even without social media spreading awareness. It’s not awareness that is needed but understanding.

Alright, enough of that rant. Let’s bring understanding. 

When it comes to autism you will hear this terms:

Asperger’s Syndrome

Functioning labels

High functioning

Low functioning

Person- first Language

Identify-first Language

Asperger’s Syndrome has recently diverged into the autism diagnosis and it’s for the better. 

Hans Asperger was fueled by Nazi ideology and is speculated to have sent dozens of children to their deaths. Although he defended children with disabilities and talents in technical subjects from the child euthanasia program, he only did so for his own benefit. He rescued the ones that seemed favorable and beneficial to himself for career advancement and society. The ones he deemed unfavorable he sent to their death. It is no longer part of the DSM-5  (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual edition 5) but the term is still wisely used by people. 

Functioning labels: High functioning, low functioning

Functioning labels are  problematic and most likely you’ve heard them being used in regards to an intellectual disability or autism. They try to change a wide spectrum into a binary. They were developed in the 1980s to distinguish those with only autism with people with an intellectual disability and autism. They were trying to find the individuals with an IQ of 70 of lower. 

These tests for IQ weren’t designed to measure social skills or executive functioning, those needs are not dependent on a person’s IQ. Medical communities stray away from these labels but they have been adopted by the general population and it’s hard to change mindsets.

The labels try to simplify a complex spectrum. It tears away humanity from an individual and gives them terms used for a machine. People labeled with ‘low-functioning’ are infantilized, stigmatized and disregarded because of their difficulties in verbal communication. People are saddened by their ‘lost potential’ but fail to recognize the many things they can offer. High functioning people are also affected, in different ways, and can experience learn term consequences such as autistic burnout. Autistic burnout is intense mental, physical, or emotional exhaustion, often comes with loss of skill that some autistic adults experience. Many autistics deems that it stems from the effect of having to go through a world made for neurotypicals. The majority that it affects are the adults who have strong language and cognitive skills and go to school or work with neurotypical people. 

What is the experience of autistic burnout like? 

Like many aspects of autism, burnout varies greatly from person to person. Some autistic people experience it as an overwhelming sense of physical exhaustion. They may have more difficulty managing their emotions than usual and be prone to outbursts of sadness or anger. Burnout may manifest as intense anxiety or contribute to depression or suicidal behavior. It may involve an increase in autism traits such as repetitive behaviors, increased sensitivity to sensory input or difficulty with change. (Deweerdt)

In short, they don’t tell the full story.

  • Alice is a talented programmer but has meltdowns when she’s stressed. She doesn’t have a driver’s license and is barely able to handle public transportation.  Because she has a hard time keeping in touch with people and isn’t sure how to navigate social situations, Alice has no friends and has never dated anyone. She’s currently unemployed because she “messes up” interview after interview.  Alice is verbal, able to mask her diagnosis relatively well, and graduated from high school/college.
  • Bob is a great artist but must be frequently monitored so he won’t hurt himself stimming. He lives at home with his parents and relies on them for transportation because he can’t leave home independently.  Bob has a group of friends who also have disabilities, and they see each other often.  He currently works at the local Goodwill part-time stocking shelves.  Bob has limited verbal ability but is an articulate writer.  He graduated from high school, but didn’t attend college. (Planning Across The Spectrum)

Both are autistic but the second individual almost seems to have a more fulfilling life despite being deemed ‘low-functioning.’ Functioning labels give the impression that one is not autistic enough and dismissed. 

The DSM-V’s level of support do a good job of this but adding descriptions of the individual makes it even more effective.

On the spectrum

Please don’t think of autism as a binary spectrum but rather a color wheel. It presents the same challenges as functioning labels. Autism is different for everyone. What affects one person, might not do anything for the next, such as communicating or sensory. (I’ve included a comic for further explantation)

Art of Autism

Identify-first vs. Person-first language 

In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “Autistic,” “Autistic person,” or “Autistic individual” because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity — the same way one refers to “Muslims,” “African-Americans,” “Chinese,” “gifted,” “athletic,” or “Jewish.” On the other hand, many parents of Autistic people and professionals who work with Autistic people prefer terminology such as “person with autism,” “people with autism,” or “individual with ASD” because they do not consider autism to be part of an individual’s identity and do not want their children to be identified or referred to as “Autistic.” They want “person-first language,” that puts “person” before any identifier such as “autism,” in order to emphasize the humanity of their children. (Brown)

There is no need to act if ‘autistic’ is a dirty word. It’s a part of who we are. It’s not a disease. I am one of the many who prefer ‘autistic’ to ‘have autism.’

Props to you if you made it to the end. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk.

Sources:

Deweerdt, Sarah. “Autistic Burnout, Explained.” Spectrum, Simmons Foundation, 9 Apr. 2020, http://www.spectrumnews.org/news/autistic-burnout-explained/. 

“Glossary of Autistic Terms.” The Autism Advantage, autism-advantage.com/glossary-of-autistic-terms.html. 

Here’s Why You Should STOP Using Functioning Labels, Plumb, 18 Aug. 2020, planningacrossthespectrum.com/blog/why-stop-using-functioning-labels/. 

George, Kaylene. “5 Shocking Reasons NOT to Light It Up Blue for Autism Day.” Autistic Mama, Elite Cafemedia, 29 Mar. 2020, autisticmama.com/do-not-light-it-up-blue/. 

George, Kaylene. “Why I Do Not Support Autism Speaks.” Autistic Mama, Elite Cafemedia, 29 Mar. 2020, autisticmama.com/do-not-support-autism-speaks/. 

Rudy, Lisa Jo. “Making Sense of the Three Levels of Autism.” Verywell Health, Dotdash, 17 Dec. 2020, http://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-three-levels-of-autism-260233. 

Brown, Lydia. “Identity-First Language.” Autistic Self Advocacy Network, ASAN, 4 Aug. 2011, autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/identity-first-language/. 

Burgess, Rebecca. “Understanding the Spectrum.” The Art of Autism, The Art of Autism, 5 Mar. 2019, the-art-of-autism.com/understanding-the-spectrum-a-comic-strip-explanation/.

Me, Myself and I

Dear 22…

Dear 22,

As I’m writing this, it is exactly 17 days until I turn 22. Two weeks and three days. Nothing has changed but everything has changed in this last year.

Nothing has changed

I’m still introverted 

I rather write than hang out in a large group.

My dog is amazing 

I have the same core friends, for the most part

No social media, minus snapchat

Reading is a favorite past-time 

I am still as confused as ever about what is going on in my life.

Still can not spell February

Everything has changed

There’s a bit of a worldwide pandemic

Everyone wears masks

A lot of school is online

The Office isn’t on Netflix

On a more personal note:

Different college

Different major

I found someone that made me happy 

And I was diagnosed with autism

February 25, 2020

My best friend is over and as his birthday to me, we are watching a movie he likes, The Princess Bride. Afterwards we take a nap and it was a successful day of nothing. 

February 25, 2021

Today is the day. This morning I woke up and prayed for my birth mother. I thank her everyday for giving me the chance to live life to its fullest. Life has thrown curveballs and labels at me but I pushed through. And I will continue to do so. Life has also given me so many gifts. A family who I love dearly. The best cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents. It has given me the chance to make people laugh and smile and a chance to love. 

I’m currently sitting at a desk wearing a mask and it still feels surreal. I thought I for sure was going to Ball State for drawing but instead I’m working on psychology at PFW. 

I miss my extended family more than anything. I didn’t get to visit them but I’m so blessed that I have them to miss so much. 

But today is the day. I get to visit a museum I’ve wanted to for years with my favorite person. It’s going to be a good day. 

Birthdays

Yes. It’s a day you get older and celebrate the escape from the uterus. 

It’s also a day you get to reflect on all the blessings life has given you.

To Rosa:

Dear Mother, 

Thank you for giving me life and giving me the opportunity at a better life. I hope I would make you proud. I love you so much. Thank you.

Love, 

Annie

To Mom and Dad:

Dear Mom,

You didn’t know me on my birthday except through pictures on that day in 1999. Yet you loved me and love me. Thank you for sacrificing much to raise me and support me. I love you more than words can express. Thank you for everything.

Love, 

Annie

(Your favorite child)

Dear Autocorrect,

Thank you for helping me spell February and for all that you do for me. I love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Annie

Enjoy some pictures from over the years 🙂

Pre-K with Dingbat
Summer before college 2018 (with Dingbat)
Prolife march 2020 with Mom
January 2021 with Miles

Looking Through a Screen

It’s been over a year that my Instagram has been deleted. All three accounts. One, of course, was my personal account. Then I had my art account and finally an inactive one for a group that required it. At one point, I decided to combined my art and personal account together, but ended up deleting it. However, that resulted in losing 200+ followers. I still had my inactive account. Inactive meaning, I didn’t post anything but I still went on it and had 100 or so followers. Eventually, I deleted the accounts all together. 

Why?

There was too much comparison. On my personal account I couldn’t help comparing their highlight reels of their life to mine. The art account had art peers that I followed. Their pieces would show up and I would stare at them wishing I was as talented. Finally. The inactive account. This was for a fitness group for girls. I thought it would help me but it was the wrong time. They would share their progress and all I thought about was how I wished I was as skinny as them. I joined so I would exercise more. That sounds good, right? Here’s the thing. I spent most of my day exercising. I would go to classes, do my homework and would immediately go burn off calories. I burned off more calories than I ate, of which I ate 500 calories or less a day. I was not in the right mind set to join that group or have an instagram account. 

My best friend had been trying to convince me to delete Instagram for years. He saw it was mentally draining and I was exhausted. I was so exhausted.

“Social media is a distraction to drag people into being on it a lot. How? They make people feel lonely, not as good, less than they are etc, so they keep looking to see what they should/ want to be.”

He said that the night I needed it most. I needed to talk to someone, anyone. I scrolled through my followers and realized maybe 10 of them were friends I trusted, out of 200+. Followers are not friends. That revelation resulted in a breakdown. I called him, the person I could text or FaceTime and I knew he cared. I deleted Instagram that very night. His first words? Finally! About time.

Last time I wrote about social media, I still had Facebook. Now that has also been deleted. I kept going back to Facebook and spending too much time on it. My excuse was I needed to post blog links there to get the word out. Even that didn’t seem worth it anymore. 

I do indeed have Snapchat but this I use as a messaging app and just posting whatever goofy things I want and not caring. 

Do I still wish I had Instagram and Facebook? The short answer is no. The long answer is also no. There are people I lost connect with because of it but it’s all for the better. I asked a friend recently if there was a way I could contact him. He responded with I think I follow you on Instagram. I told him I deleted it and he gave me his number. I wanted to connect with him as a friend and not a follower. My point being, stop living in the virtual world. Live life in real time. Connect with friends and not just as followers. Don’t get your life get sucked into social media like I did. We need humans, friends and really social interaction. Go start living outside the virtual world. 

Happy 2021 to you all.

Are You Sure? Oh, wait. That’s Me.

“Have you even considered you might have autism?” 

I looked up from my lap to the therapist and shook my head.

She continued.

“Your social anxiety, the non stop fidgeting, the blank stare we get when you zone out, and a few other traits I notice mirrors symptoms we see in girls.”

She’s crazy, that’s not me.

A Few Weeks Later 

A former teacher listened intently as I rambled on.

She asked me if I thought I had autism. That’s crazy. I get I’m a bit quiet but that’s it.” 

She hesitated.

Why did she ask?”

“I was anxious to talk and fidgeting. She also mentioned a blank stare when I zone out. I probably did have something in my hand as comfort, but also it was a tense situation.” 

Once again she paused. 

“I agree with her.”

“Uh…why?”

“The way you talk, your difficulty to maintain eye contact, your hyper-focus in art, and yes, the fidgeting. Not to mention, I’ve seen you around crowds of people and you seem to have strong reactions to loud sounds.”

Ugh.

*fade out*

Once again I’m plopped in a chair facing a therapist, this time a different one. 

This time I informed her about the former therapist and then the teacher talking about autism. 

I can’t say. I don’t know you well, but keep me updated during the testing.

Later that night

*phone dings*

A text from her: https://the-art-of-autism.com/females-and-aspergers-a-checklist/

“Females and Aspergers: A Checklist”

Oh.

Check. Check. Check. The list and the check count continued. 

For once, I can see myself in a mirror.

Oh yes. The testing. 

It sucked. The first four hour session I was too anxious and didn’t answer enough of the questions that they weren’t sure if the results were skewed so I have to go back.

3 Months pass

I’m back. I spent time memorizing pictures and answered similar questions to before. The worse part quickly came. Staring at faces of people figuring out unrecognizable emotions. It seemed to last forever. Finally the end came. I thought a brain break would be in order but alas, I was wrong. Figuring out emotion through voice with NO face was next. My brain was screaming.

A Week Later

I follow the neuropsychologist back into her office. 

“I’m so proud you answered all the questions. I have some more questions to ask you.

How is school going, how are you, blah, blah, blah…”

I answered each question, ready to move to the next.

Finally, she summons my mom to the room.

“She has a few symptoms of being on the spectrum.”

She proceeded to talk about the low score of reading people’s emotions and social cues. I’ve been taught what to say which is why no one could have really noticed. She brought up the conversation earlier in the day. Apparently, it was supposed to be more of a conversation and not a one way street. Also, why do people move their hands when they talk? 

I had my answer. I do indeed have autism.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

So here’s a quick note to autism:

Hello,

I have you, but you do not have control over me. In someways you may be an obstacle, but in others a gift. You are not going to stand in my way. Rather than learning to adapt and overcome, I will just learn to adapt and live. You are a blessing and a curse. Thank you for being here and helping me be who I am.

Love,

Annie

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Now a letter to you:

Dear friends, 

Props to you if you read this, if not that’s fine too. For most, this is a surprise. Females with autism tend to get diagnosed later as we know what to do and say as we have taught ourselves to mimic others. This is known as masking. It’s always been hard for me to maintain eye contact and listen. I’m quiet and now I know it’s more than just social anxiety, although it still plays a role. I know I don’t present the stereotypical male symptoms of autism because shocking news, I’m a girl. Noise can be overwhelming for me, so can smell and some textures get a rise out of me. Getting diagnosed was a relief, and I hope that sharing this with you will allow for a better understanding. You are all incredible people. Love you all.

I’m neurodivergent and, in my opinion, that sounds way cooler than neurotypical.

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfection: The quality or condition of being perfect
A few days ago I found a slim notebook with the words Summer 2018 scrawled across the cover. Before I even cracked the cover I knew exactly what was inside. There was one page with four lines written.
Cut hair
Lose weight
Change style 
Wear more makeup
Update social media
That was my action plan for the Summer of 2018. I wanted to go back to school and be more like the other girls. I wanted fit in. I wanted to be as perfect as them. 
Like every other kid in high school I felt uncomfortable in my skin. All I could see was my insecurities of my body. 

  1. Nose was too big
  2. Acne and acne scars
  3. Not perfectly straight teeth
  4. Off kilter smile
  5. Deep lines under my eyes
  6. Round face
  7. Yellowish skin tone
  8. Didn’t seem as skinny

This was the summer before my first year of college. I figured if I made myself more like other girls that I would be able to make friends. Lots of times on campus you see so many people. The ones that stood out were the skinny and seemly perfect girls. 
Plot twist: Didn’t work out as planned. 
I told my best friend of my plan. His response?

Ever consider you’re fine the way you look already?


That was a rare compliment from me.

The response gave me second thoughts. I didn’t want to pretend to be someone I wasn’t, so I ditched the plan. Instead I focused on enjoying my summer. 
That was the best thing I could have done. During the summer I made new friends and two of them I can text whenever. Best of all they like me for me. Not for the way I look. One of them is very open and honest with me about her body image. Not to fish for compliments but because she trusts me to understand and I know I can do the same with her. 
The funny thing is, everything thing she mentions I don’t see. I just see my friend and she’s beautiful the way she is.
The only change I made that summer was updating my social media. It was just deleting photos that I didn’t care for anymore, a small thing to move on. Something for me, not for a goal of perfection.
I came to the realization that no matter how hard I try, I will never look perfect. We all have flaws. Most of them only you see. 
So this is the new list of how I’m trying to see my insecurities.

  1. Nose too big- it’s perfect for my face
  2. Acne and acne scars- they will pass
  3. Not perfectly straight teeth- it’s so much better than they were
  4. Off kilter smile- no one cares, it’s my smile
  5. Deep lines under eyes- once again…no one cares
  6. Round face- I mean…it’s a face shape.
  7. Yellowish skin tone- I’m going to blame the lighting
  8. Not skinny enough- I’m healthy and that’s what matters.

Trying to be perfect led me down wrong paths. I didn’t eat much at all my second semester of college to try to lose weight and went to the gym a lot even though I didn’t eat enough. I burned out the same semester because I overworked myself. I didn’t end up with the results I wanted. 
I thought I was aiming for the goal of being the perfect daughter for my parents. Good grades, look like the ideal of healthy and an art major. Here’s the thing. Two of those things were hard for me. I was fine with grades. But I didn’t know what the ideal of healthy looked like, or at least for me. As for art, I liked what I did on my own. Being in art school frustrated me and took away the joy of creating. Something had to change.

And it did. I’m perfectly imperfect. We all are. I’m pretty dang good at being me. Maybe I wasn’t the best at swimming but I improved. I dropped the art major but I found one I’m beyond excited to pursue. I’m great at forcing myself to sit and write everyday. I’m really good at putting in time for practicing Latin, a language I’m trying to teach myself. Not to mention bragging of my 92 day streak of practicing everyday. I can make people smile and laugh. It turns out deleting Instagram as a whole made it easier not to compare myself. I’m perfect at being me. You’re perfect at being you. That perfection we can achieve.

Originally published 5/8/2020

Thank You Mom (…s)

Dear Mom,
June 25, 1999. I don’t remember how I felt the day I entered into your life, I was an
infant. However, now I can tell you exactly what you should know.
That date forever will be the day my life changed for the better. I’ve had three legal mothers over my life, my birth mother, my foster mother and you. I’m so grateful for the first two but you are the one who truly deserves the title of Mom. You are my number one. I do joke around and say I have another mom, like my Segunda Madre. Then amazing moms of my two closest friends’ who show so much love and care.
(Seriously you both are awesome and I’m blessed I can call those two my best friends)
I’m not your biological child. What?!? I know…surprise!! But you chose me to call your own. There was a poem that I wrote when I was younger, I happened to stumble upon it a few days ago. It was about adoption…there was also one about an elf but not the point. I think his name was Steve McJingles or something like that.
Adoption
Within my mother’s eyes I know that I am hers
I see the smile that breaks as her arms wrap around me People ask if she’s my mom and I grin and answer yes
She wasn’t the first to hold me
She wasn’t the first to hug me
She wasn’t the first to care for me
Now she’s the one that holds me when I cry
Now she’s the one that hugs me all the time
Now she’s the one who cares for me every second of everyday Now she’s the one I call my mom
She loves me and I love her
Thank you for watching me grow
Thank you for holding my hand
Thank you for being by side
Thank you for calling me your own
I don’t remember writing this but in some ways it sums up what I want to say. Now there’s more. Mom- It’s been quite a year and yet you are always right besides me. When people tell me that I’m growing up a wonderful young women I think Thanks Mom. You taught me to speak up. Still working on that. Even the slightest thing of speaking up in class makes you proud. You get up every morning even when you don’t have to. That habit influenced me to start my day earlier. Now I get so much done by 8 in the morning.
When I decided to stay home this semester you supported me. Now everyone is home but that’s besides the point. Staying home was one of the best decisions I ever made. I became closer to you and started to joke around with you. You proved to me pretty quickly that you have witty comebacks and even a joking insult to throw at me. Thank you for believing in me and reassuring me that a slower path in school is okay. Thank you for pulling me out of art school to pursue writing. Thank you for listening to my nonstop stories and laughing. Thank you for dealing with my sass and hyperactive self. Thank you for telling me I am beautiful. When I look at you all I see is a beautiful human inside and out. Everyday I am more and more grateful for you and all you have taught me. There is so much more I could say, but even writing fails me now. I am so blessed to have ended up with you and Dad as my parents. I forget I’m adopted regularly. That is because I know this is my family and this is where I belong. I love you forever.
Love, Annie

Dear Bio Mother,
I’m not quite sure what to write. So I will make it short and hopefully sweet. Thank you for choosing life. Thank you for letting me go to a life you couldn’t provide. I never ever forget you. Your photo is always close to my heart. You are the reason I am here. I love my adoptive parents beyond measure. I want to pursue writing but tried art at first. I thought it was a given but it wasn’t. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet you. I hope I would make you proud.
I love you, thank you for everything.
Dear Segunda Madre,
Hello hi I love you. Every single day I think about you and miss you tons. Thank you for letting me come down to your house for years on end. I always felt loved and enjoyed every second. Minus when Laz spit up on me. You taught me so much. Whether it was a recipe or enjoying the simple things in life. I miss seeing your smile everyday. It made me feel safe and I knew I could tell you everything. I remember the night I stayed over. The next day I hoped my mom would pick me up because I missed her. You were the one that did. I was sad at first but that was the day I started referring to you as my second mom. I was quickly able to smile because it meant more Gregory time…and better math help. I’m grateful for the years I got to play with Mary and Marta. They are the closest I ever got to siblings and I love them more than they know. I wish we could see you soon. Letters aren’t the same. I can’t wait to see you when we can.
Love you always,
Annie
To the moms of my best friends’
Hello hi,
I figured you both deserve thanks. Thank you for allowing me to reach out when I need it. Your words of care and support have helped beyond what you know. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me when I was upset. Thank you for letting my strange self hang out in your house sometimes. But most of all, thank you for the best humans I know. They put up with my antics and act goofy right next to me. They show love and unconditional care. Not to mention, they both give good hugs. All of you are blessings and I’m grateful to have you in my life.
Love you both.
Annie

Originally published 5/2/2020

Dear Me

A Letter to my 21 year old self

Background: I’m 11 year old writing to my future self. Flash forward 10 years. I’m less than a week away from 21. I find the letter stating clearly not to open till my 21st birthday…but by now you probably figured out that I did not wait. This is how it went.
The letter
Dear 21 [year] old me,
Am I pretty yet? All the girls in my class are. I even heard someone say that the only girls in the class that aren’t is me and my best friend. I really don’t like my class. The kids don’t like me because I contaminate the air. They don’t want to become like me. I don’t this I’m that bad. Lizzie doesn’t like me because I embarrass her. She says I act like a little kid. So it’s easier not to talk at school. I don’t need them to hate me more. I hope I have better friends. I talk to Olivia on the phone. I wish she was here. The only time the kids pretend to like me is in art class. Which is the only class I like. I do ok in school though. I need something to do. I swim too. I’m slow but I like my group. They are nice to me. Also I hope I am better at math. Numbers are confusing. Maybe I won’t be as weird when I’m older. I miss my friends in 1st and 2nd grade. They were nice. Hopefully I am smarter and prettier. 
From,
Your 11 year old self
P.S Hopefully I can spell ‘Febuary’ now. It’s our birthday month!

The response
Dear Tiny Human,
When you say pretty, mostly like you are thinking about the way society portrays pretty. I hate to break it to you…but we are not that. No long hair, still dealing with acne and a bit of a wonky smile. This was the point you wanted to grow your hair out again. You swore you would never have short hair again. Plot twist, it’s even shorter. I chopped it when I started pulling it out from stress and frustration. The great part is that I love it so much and my friends like it too. Did you hear that? I said friends. You did have challenges with friends at school. I definitely remember that. Little did you know Olivia would be back and she would stay one of your best friends all the way to present day. You will have the best friends once you get to high school. True, you will go through some rough patches until you find them but it is worth it. The best of the best stayed by your side all the way till now. That is really special. There is a hard part of your life where you felt like you were engulfed in darkness. These friends stood by your side, took your hand and pulled you out. I want to mention two guys. They know you inside and out. They can read you and always know what to say. Never take them for granted. You never had friends like these before. Friends like these are hard to find. Don’t worry, you have Olivia too and another best friend that is a girl. In fact, she coming over tomorrow. You can’t wait to laugh until you both cry. You still act somewhat like a little kid but your friends are perfectly fine with it. It’s when you feel super goofy and hyper. They like that side of you. You will have many labels put on you. You will learn to look past them and the people who love you will too. School is a bit postponed but it was a decision that you knew was best. You are learning to be happy and you are happier than you ever have been. Art is still a big part of your life. You are trying not to place your worth on only your art. You are so much more than just an artist. You are a daughter, friend, and most of all a child of God. But you still suck at math. Swim is an off and on relationship. It will bring you opportunities and great friends of whom you love. You still are a bit weird, but in a good way. I mean, no one is really normal. As for the 1st and 2nd grade friends, you reconnected with a few of them. It’s awesome. They are as kind as you remembered them. Just taller. Oh, by the way you’re still short. Really short. Honestly, it was not a choice. I promise, you are smarter. You’re learning everyday. Even if it’s not in a classroom. You are learning to love yourself. You may not call yourself pretty yet, but you’re getting there. You love your sense of humor, your laugh and the light in your eyes. You know you are beautiful inside. Maybe someday we won’t judge ourselves so hard. You grew up. There were hard times but you like who you’re becoming. You love to smile, even if our smile is wonky. You love to laugh and fill the air with the sound of laughter. I am trying to be the best I can be. I hope I can make you proud.
Love,
Future you
P.S February is still hard to spell. Thanks autocorrect!!

Originally published 2/22/2020

A Day of Love

I always found Valentine’s Day to be a stupid holiday. However, I remember waking up every Valentine’s Day and coming down to a family breakfast. On my placemat was a card from my parents stating their love. This morning, my dad burst through the door to surprise my mom and I with roses, I was reminded once again of their love for each other and for me. I had to grin when I saw a huge smile on both of parents’ faces as they looked at each other. Although that sight made me happy, I also was a bit sad. I thought of my biological parents. After I was born, my biological father dipped out of the picture and there is nothing known about him. When I was old enough to be aware of what he had done, I was angered. I remained angry at him for a long time and sometimes I still am. I was mad at someone I don’t even know. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why. It could be the fact, he didn’t care. I think it’s because there is a void in my life. I want to know where I come from. I see my birth mother’s picture every day. When I think of him, I think of a black silhouette of a man that I will never know. A man that is a huge part of my life. But I love him. Maybe he doesn’t know I exist or doesn’t care but because of him I am here. He is a part of me and will always be. I love my birth mother. She gave me a chance to live. A chance to love. Without her, I would never be able to love my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncle, friends, my dog and so much more. I wouldn’t have the chance to look at my parents stupidly smiling at each other with love in their eyes. I could never hug them and tell them how much I love them. I know I have another family out there. But right now, I’m surrounded by so much love and beyond blessed with what God has given me. That’s all I could ever ask for. Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you all.

Originally published 2/14/2020