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It’s funny how a person remembers certain details of their life more clearly than others. For instance, I remember the exact song I was listening to the moment when I realized that I was never going home again. I was in the backseat of my new family’s minivan, somewhere in between Phillips, Wisconsin, and New Hope, Minnesota. We were on our way back from spending the weekend on vacation, something I had never done until the summer everything changed. The song I was listening to was Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down.” That song used to give me courage and strength when I needed it most. Lately though, it’s just a song. I no longer need Tom Petty to keep this world from dragging me down.

I was lucky that we had left Wisconsin late because by then, the sky was completely black save for the speckling of stars and the distant moon. No one could see how my eyes had begun to water. It was still hard on me to think about all that had happened within the walls of the past few months.
It was the last day of August but the weekend weather had felt more like November. Just months earlier, in April, I had left the home where I’d grown up, for good.

I grew up with my mother and father in North Minneapolis. My two older brothers lived with us for the first four years of my life, then decided that they would rather live with their stepparents. I never found out the exact reason why they left, but I have a strange feeling that theirs is similar to my own. I cannot blame them. When I was twelve, my brother John died of alcohol poisoning. His death has had, and will always continue to have, a profound effect on my life. What I choose to remember of my childhood is haunting. My father is an alcoholic who also abuses drugs. He was violent and terrifying. My mother chose to respond to our desperate situation by doing nothing at all. However, I try not to blame her. She supported the three of us on her own for sixteen years. Nowadays, she only has to support the two of them.

When I was sixteen, I decided that I could no longer live with my parents. I left everything I’ve ever known: my pets, my bed, my neighbors, and most of my possessions behind, in order to attempt to get away from my past.

My junior year of high school was the breaking point. I had found myself in a position where I could no longer function, as a student or as a person. I skipped school because I was tired from lack of sleep due to a bad night with my father, my grades were slipping, and I was emotionally depleted. Unless you have had the unfortunate opportunity to live with someone who does not care for himself or those around him, and takes it out on his own family, you cannot possibly imagine just how hard it was for me to go home each night.

I’m seventeen years old now. I haven’t spoken with my father really in months. I see my mother once in a while. I’ve lived in two other homes since I left my first. Where I am now is where I plan to stay. For the first time in seventeen years, I feel as though I am part of a family, even if it is not my own. I’m no longer afraid of going home. I can sleep through the entire night without worrying. I joke and laugh and smile. I’m happy. My parents may be the reason I’m not living at home, but they are no excuse for not living.

I will always have bad memories. I will always have regrets. I will always have an abusive alcoholic for a father. But in place of all of that, I have something else: I have a second chance. I have a future. And I have the strength, just as a blonde-haired musician once said; “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”





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