I am nine years old, and I fear the monsters.
They hide in my closet, under my bed, behind my curtains.
Their shadowy forms leer at me, laugh at me.
I flick on the lights, run to my parents' bedroom.
Tucked in between my mom and dad, I am safe.
And the monsters leave me alone for the night.
I am eleven years old, and I fear death.
It steals the life of my uncle in a heartbeat, a heart attack.
Death doesn't care that he is young, that he has a child.
I lay awake at night and wonder who it will take next.
My mother, my father, my grandparents, me.
But I can escape from reality at least in my dreams.
I am fourteen years old, and I fear rejection.
It whispers lies in my ear, telling me to keep my distance from everyone.
So I hide behind my schoolbooks and cry when no one sees.
My friends are few, and I fear I will never be loved, never fall in love.
It takes years for me to let myself grow close to people.
I realize that I am loved, I just couldn't see it.
I am seventeen years old, and I fear the monsters.
But they aren't in my closet, or under my bed, or in my curtains anymore.
These monsters are inside of me, inside my thoughts and soul.
They are the hidden pets I've fed, believing I was raising puppies.
Only now I see the truth - the real monsters aren't out there.
They lurk in the the habits I want to break, the brokenness I don't want to name.
I am eighteen years old, and I don't want to fear.
So I fight it.
I stand up.
I reach out.
I lay awake at night and remember what is true.
I am loved despite my monsters, and one day I will defeat them.