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“How did this happen again? You had trapped me into one of your fits when you knew I couldn’t go anywhere.” – Amanda Springob

“How can we be aware of everything in today’s society? The answer quite simply, is that we can’t. We can’t serve two Masters at the same time.
If we allow ourselves the expectation that we can be all things to all people then we most assuredly will fail.” – Pete Carling

“But you knew, in the back of your mind, that every day you tell yourself something similar. You say, Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I will wake up with the alarm, and I will do all of the things. Tomorrow It’ll be sunny.
Tomorrow is today, now. You woke up some hours after shutting the alarm off by unceremoniously turning your phone off.” – Liv

Fear

Fiction. Inspired by a true recurring nightmare.

By Bry LeBerthon

This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.

You are torn between fear and desire, as always, as is the only struggle you’ve ever really known.
There, outside, are the streets that you have been longing for. Your freedom, your whole life. Art, people, passion, food. But there, outside, is also imminent danger. A raging pandemic being only the tip of the iceberg, the new haute threat. You are equally haunted by the idea of getting all your stuff stolen from you, being the stupid LA native, ignorant privileged student, who got her shit ran. By the idea of getting yelled at, called out, or attacked, by one stupid blunder blowing up to overcome your whole life. By the idea of your body itself being taken, your control over your identity and your vulnerability taken away, being split open into two by some man never taught to do otherwise, never taught basic respect.
You’re so scared. You’re terrified of being taken, of being useless, being dumb. You are the weakest link – you know you are – and if you’re exposed as such? If the trueness of your stupidity, of your unbelonging, of your normality comes to light? It will be over.
So you fill your days. You will not be the girl stuck at home, in place, in fear. You will not allow your resume to sit idle and dusting any longer, you will not let yourself sit stagnant and useless, you will turn your identity and time into something to be desired.
You discover that you cannot do it all. You are simply not your most productive at all times, especially not with weed. You don’t want to be, you don’t think. You hunt for the in-between, which seems to effortlessly evade you.
And just like that, you’re drowning.
The world demands of you what you promised you could give to it. You lie there, paralyzed, in the dark and quiet corners of your bedroom. It approaches, all of it. You’d shrink away in fear if you could move.
In the most productive of moments, you are that girl. Wonder Woman, who can do anything. You manage all three internships at once, never letting one fall behind into the dust. You get to work on time. You write outstanding articles and essays, and your professors never have a single note. You learn, and you learn, and you learn, and you learn.
But most moments, you are scraping by. You are dodging deadlines, the slowest bullets in the world, and somehow still getting hit, over and over and over again. You rotate which internship you ignore. You get to work ten minutes late, every single fucking day, somehow. You write “meh” articles which professors doodle over like a blank canvas. You drown, and you drown, and you drown, and you drown, and you never seem to manage to sink heavily to the bottom.
You wish you could.

But you are trapped. You don’t know where or why or by what, but you are in a room that is slowly shrinking, walls closing in- no, a lockbox to which some stranger holds the key- no, a sealed tank filling with water, droplet by droplet- and there is no escape.
And there is so much that you miss from the outside of the trap.
The world was bright, and colorful, and wondrous, and you remember loving it. You remember, when you were out in it, feeling so free. Once upon a time, you could go anywhere and be anyone. Hop in a bright yellow taxi and zip away to wherever you pleased. Now, the idea almost feels unfathomable. Being- just being- bears down on you suffocatingly. You miss the person you were. The person you had potential to be.
And the worst part of it all is it scares you.
Not the wanting, or even the stranger holding the key, but what life would be like if you did somehow manage to return.
Thousands and thousands of murmurs of doubt fill your head.
You will be crushed beneath skyscrapers’ steel beams, they whisper. You will be obliterated.
Run into the ground.
Torn to pieces.
“I survived before. I can again.”
But you won’t.
“Nothing has changed, not really.”
But it has.
“I’m a strong person. A survivor. I’ll get through it, even if it’s hard.”
A retort is not even needed.
You still see it all. The skyline, not in the distance but soaring above you. Twinkling electric lights, illuminating you before dissolving into the distant horizon. Cold winter wind whipping around you, singing sweetly into your ears with its sharp embrace.
You step into the road to hail a cab. A bright yellow taxi comes rushing forward.
Just a deer in the headlights.
You are in the taxi. You are under it. It is painful either way, and hard to tell.
You wake up.
You are in your tiny New York apartment, hundreds of feet above the ground, shivering in fear while sweating hard from your heater overworking itself. It’s minutes past the witching hour, and everyone you live with is asleep. You can tell you won’t be joining them for a while, though you long to.
Days lately have all looked the same. It’s a pandemic, after all, and you’re stuck inside for everything, working eating praying and breathing at your desk hunched over your laptop, biding your time until you’re allowed outside again. It feels like it’s never going to change, like the world will never be okay again, and you don’t doubt your gut this time, since the world seems to agree.
But now all you want to do is wander the city.
A young, barely 18 speck of a woman, still really a girl, stalking the streets of New York in the dead of night, in a pandemic with her mask off, wearing pjs with no shoes. You long to roam until the sun goes up, a lost house cat, enjoying the sights of the city without the people or the sounds. If you get hit by a car, or a person or a bullet, that’s the morning’s problem– it’ll be none of your business, little house cat with bare feet.
In very much the same way, you want to wander the world. Visiting country after country leaving nothing behind, observing and experiencing without intruding, allowing your life to be changed without the pain of being known and leaving loved ones behind. You don’t want to think about the evil cities hold. You don’t want to think about the barriers of language, the fear of being lost. You want all of the pleasure, none of the pain.
The closer you get, the more nightmares you have. The harder you work, the harder you realize you can fall. Your fears themselves terrify you. If you’re this scared of getting hurt, do you have what it takes to be who you want to be? You think you’re strong now, will the world agree?
Not tonight.

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