What You've Done to Us

This is what you've done to me.

You started to teach me as a child,

In rooms of bright colors and toys,

Rooms that smelled of crayons and grubby fingers,

When I was learning letters and numbers, I learned something else.

When my world was expanding and every new thing was a delight and it was beautiful,

You introduced something that was harsh and ugly.

You told me that I had to follow your rules,

That I had to color within your ideas,

Your lines.

This is what you've done to me.

 

And the leaves fell and grew green again,

Once, twice, three times, four, five, six,

 

You shoved me into another world,

Rooms of endless facts and and equations that mixed numbers and letters,

Rooms that smelled of dry erase markers and sharpened pencils and flowery air freshener,

When I was learning algebra and dates, I learned something else.

When I was trying to discover myself and it was different and exciting,

You whispered something that made me feel discouraged, worthless.

You told me I wasn't good enough,

Even as you said "be yourself" you said "be someone else"

And I was so confused between the two that I wasn't sure who "me" was,

This is what you've done to me.

 

And the hallways filled with kids that you said were probably better than me, then they emptied and filled and emptied again countless times.

 

You pushed me forward into new hallways with the same faces, just older, more tired.

Rooms of heavy books and lined papers full of words and maths with symbols, 

Rooms that smelled occasionally of damp carpet,

When I was learning calculus and government, I learned something else.

When it seemed as if there were endless opportunities and I couldn't wait to see the world for myself,

You told me something that seemed unexciting, stressful.

You said that life was a competition, and I had no choice but to compete.

This is what you've done to me.

 

And soon the time came for a new room.

And you told me I had choices, but then you took them away.

Be successful, you said. Make money.

Choose a path, you insisted, just one.

You must be successful, you reminded,

That choice won't work.

And I was confused and lost.

This is what you've done to me.

 

You said that you didn't control me, even as you bombarded me with lists of "can" and "can'ts"

You always said "be who you are" even as you tried to shove me into a mold,

You said "be what you want" even as you screamed "become what we think you should"

 

And at the end I stood up.

And my eyes were ringed and tired from trying to follow your rules, so many of them unwritten,

And my head hurt from trying to figure out what you wanted from me,

And my heart was racing with the stress of trying to choose something that would fit your standards.

This is what you did to me.

 

But I stood.

And you kept talking and telling me I wasn't good enough, smart enough, cool enough, successful enough.

That if I would do this or that, buy this or that, say this or that, I would be.

And I laughed.

Because maybe I couldn't stop your influence, but that didn't mean I had to pay attention to it.

And I defied you,

Because I could and because for the first time, I was sure that it was what I wanted, not you.

And then, I danced.

Because I was free from you, because you didn't write rules for me anymore.

 

And at the end of it all, it was when I stopped listening to you that I found me.

It was when I stopped trying to follow your road to happiness that I found happiness.

Because it turns out that the person I was made to be is much better than the person you want me to be.

 

This is what you've done to us.

From the first days of school until the last and beyond,

You tell us to prove that we fit your standards.

You influence us.

But we have decided that what you say doesn't define us.

And now, we are beginning to explore who we are,

So that we may truely decide for ourselves who we will become.

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