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Hope All Around Us

Morgan Richards, Staff Writer

Throughout elementary school, I had been a bubbly, energetic ball of energy, bouncing off of the walls and running my mouth off whenever I had the chance. I had places to go, people to meet and new experiences to have. The playground was my oyster, the supermarket was the place to make new friends and everywhere I went, a permanent smile was plastered on my face.

The spring before fourth grade turned my life around, and by the first day of the new year, I walked with my shoulders hunched forward and my head hung low. My mouth, that had at one point never shut up, was completely silent during the day –– only speaking when the teacher called on me in class. The total 180 degree spin in my personality turned-off the abundance of friends I had made years before, and the other children either A.) avoided me, or B.) bullied me.

The teachers I had had before suspected there was something going on at home, but they never asked me about it. Only stole glances at me before sipping at their coffee mugs and whispering in a huddle.

But they were right. One day, in March, I was assaulted by a family member. And I cried. And I screamed. Because I had never experienced such absolute fear in my eight years of life.

I was then diagnosed with PTSD.

From then on, everything scared me. At home, I’d check the windows and doors, making sure they were properly closed, locked and secure in case He ever came for me. When we were let out to the playground, I’d stay close to the adults during recess because He couldn’t take me if I were with them. I hardly ever went to the park, or to the grocery store, and I never spoke to anyone I didn’t know.

At nights, I’d have nightmares. Relive that day, over and over, in an endless cycle, and wake up in a cold sweat.

My mom brought me to different counselors and therapists, to help me get over this looming hurdle that I just couldn’t seem to overcome. But none of them really did it for me. Talking to them was like talking to a stranger, because they were one, and that only meant I didn’t talk to them.

Even the few friends that had bothered to stick around weren’t people I could trust enough to confide in.

The fear consumed me. Like a thick, black fog of doubt and worry, slowly coming over me. I couldn’t see. When I breathed, it crept into my lungs and settled there like heavy lifting weights. When I tried to walk through it, I found myself shambling deeper into its dark abyss, burdened by anxiety. There was no shaking it.

Life seemed hopeless.

Enter middle school and all its prepubescent glory.

There wasn’t much to say about me academically. I did my work in class, I spoke when called on, I finished and turned in my homework on time, and I made fairly decent grades. Socially, I was at an all-time low. And while joining the school band wasn’t complete social suicide, it didn’t help either. But I needed an elective, and band was my only option.

Plus, there was Vaughan. William Vaughan, the middle school band director, and someone I had come to depend on over the course of sixth grade beginner band when crying in class was a daily occurrence.

Though friends were hard to come by, I knew I could always count on Vaughan for guidance. For advice. To listen to me rant late after school in the empty band hall, waiting for my mom to come pick me up. He knew how to cheer me up, and the right things to say. He was the first person I ever opened myself up to trust again after my diagnosis.

And things didn’t seem so bad anymore.

In the shrouded cloud of doubt, Vaughan led me back into the girl I once was. With him by my side, with him to depend on, I could do anything.

In eighth grade, I made friends. I put myself back out there. I walked with my head held a little higher. In ninth grade, I had my first real boyfriend. And my second. I made a varsity spot in the school marching band, and fourth chair in the top ensemble. In tenth grade, I stood up for myself. In eleventh grade, I became a leader in band. I tried something I had never done before and joined journalism. And in twelfth grade, I became me again.

The more I think about it, and the more I try to make coherent sentences on this blindingly bright Google word document, the more corny it sounds.

Some part of me wants to believe everything up until now has happened for a reason. That there’s some greater force in the world –– fate, karma, religion, or what-have-you –– that caused this massive heartbreak, that had me weak and on my knees, that drove me to Vaughan and then others, who remade me to who I am. And who can really say for sure if that’s true?

What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that life isn’t hopeless. It has its ups and downs, one more than other in some cases, but it always gets better. There is always someone for you, to lift you up and bring you out of the darkness, be it a close mentor, or friend or yourself.

Hope is all around us.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Hope All Around Us”

  1. Mary Peterson on November 13th, 2017 8:13 pm

    Hey Morgan,
    I just wanted you to know that your story touched me deeply. It takes a lot of courage to talk about something so tragic. I’m so happy for you, that you found hope again in a band teacher. Mr.Vaughan was a great band teacher!! Teachers like that are priceless❤️

    [Reply]

  2. micaih on November 14th, 2017 10:21 am

    Favorite story. Love this so much.

    [Reply]

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