Tall Chai This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

October 28, 2008
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“Grande Cappuccino!” “Venti Caramel Mocha!” Caught in the coffee chaos at Starbucks, I stand impatiently in line waiting to order my chai latte. As I wait, I glance at the piles of low-fat blueberry muffins and stretch my neck to steal a glimpse at The New York Times. A dark green book catches my eye. I lean over to pick it up and my mundane morning coffee run is interrupted. An African boy around 10, eyes downcast, flip flops hanging off his feet, and an AK-47 slung across his back, is pictured on the cover. Memoirs of a Boy ­Soldier – the words linger in the drifting smell of coffee and paint a different light on this casual Starbucks trip. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. The title spins in my head.

The book resonates with my spirit, and I am reminded of a quote I heard on a BBC radio interview. The man being ­interviewed was Andrew Harvey, and he encouraged young people not to follow their “bliss” (as Joseph Campbell suggested) but to follow their “heartache.” Discovering Memoirs of a Boy Soldier in Starbucks that day reminded me of this quote, of my bliss and my heartache.

My bliss is writing creative stories about goblins who suffer from dry skin. My bliss is exploring French history and then telling the story of the French revolution from the perspective of a pink French poodle. When I’m in the creative process of writing a story, I want to wake up at dawn and get the day started. ­Focusing on the world of imagination is a secret ­passion, one I can slip into during pre-calculus class and when I feel alone in a crowd.

Expressing my feelings in the present moment is difficult due to my introverted personality and the fear of how my words will affect others. Therefore, I take the unspoken words and put them into stories. Writing gives me the opportunity to express my inner world of imagination and feelings. Writing serves as an escape from harsh realities.

But the book I am holding in this line will not be an escape; this book will awaken me to the horrors of war and reveal the cruelties of human nature. I realize I could easily put it down, buy my tea, and return to my world of ACT prep and the latest text message from a friend. This book could be forgotten.

But the boy on the cover haunts me. I pretend I have the power to reach into the photograph and pull him into Starbucks with me so I can buy him a peppermint hot chocolate and see childhood reborn in his eyes.

Since the world of imagination is my bliss, then my heartache is children who are robbed of their chance to experience the world of imagination. As the coffee line moves, I am now one customer away from the counter. I realize the author, Ishmael Beah, and I both write to reveal our inner journeys – a form of therapy through the written word. Reading his book will break my heart but at the same time feed the fire that burns within me, that grows stronger and more vibrant with each story about cruelty toward children. This fire hisses and demands change for the forgotten children of the world.

If I follow my bliss, I could be writing for myself, to show the world my wisps of imaginings. By following my heartache I could contribute to the greater good. I could use my writing to help others, to share the stories of people who have been pushed to the side and cannot speak out themselves. My heartache is the abuse of innocent children, and through writing I can help their voices be heard. I place Memoirs of a Boy Soldier on the counter and order my drink.

Like the author, I want my inner voice to speak powerful words that will in some way, however small, evoke change and bring peace in our world.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2009 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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This article has 15 comments. Post your own now!

michellemejia95 said...
Sept. 15, 2012 at 10:37 am
one of the best college essays ever
KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm
This is really good. You're a great writer, and thanks for caring about those who need it.
Betty said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm
Wonderfully written & very powerful!
McFluffy said...
May 12, 2010 at 9:41 am
What a great story. it makes me think about the war in Iraq where they are using children to help fight for the war, not getting even live their own lives past childhood...
bae.sanga said...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 9:15 pm
josie1314 said...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm
I can relate, and the child soldiers are the cause of a group called Invisible Children. They have a group on facebook that asks for the arrest of a man named Joseph Kony who is taking children like Ishamel and forcing them into such cruelty. DEMAN THE ARREST OF THIS EVIL MAN!!!!! SIGN THE FACEBOOK PETITION!!!!!!!!! AND END THE TEARS
screenname! said...
Nov. 17, 2009 at 6:43 pm
Wow...I love the way you write. You write in such powerful ways, with no cliches. I bet some of your phrases would soon become cliches because they are quite moving and right to the point. Thanks for listening to your heartache. We all feel like that. There are times we just want to have our bliss, of sunshine, under the beach, with sunglasses. But they are other times that our heart aches and we can't look aside. At those times, it's time to act. Thanks for listening to your heart ach... (more »)
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 17, 2009 at 8:26 am
Very good article. I found it intruiging, and a refreshing wake up call. I never think about this kind of an event, but your essay opened my eyes
...irie... said...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 8:19 pm
YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! same thing happened to me..well sort of...I can't look at the everyday world the same anymore...kepp writing! write write write!!!
mrsabbyjonas13 said...
Oct. 26, 2009 at 6:31 pm
Wow. This is amazingly written. Please continue! I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say. I too seem to enjoy writing purely for "bliss", but I will now try incorporate my heartache for starving children in Africa into my stories. Thank you for inspiring me! Your writing flows beautifully, as well!
piratequeen18 said...
Jul. 17, 2009 at 5:34 pm
This is incredible! I've never heard writing so well explained.
LimeBlack said...
Apr. 10, 2009 at 5:48 pm
That was awesome. It totally explained my bliss, and touched a bit of my heartache - both things I'd never really thought about. Thank you so much for writing this.:)
chipchipcheerio said...
Nov. 8, 2008 at 12:30 am
This is bloody great! It was probably the best story by a young writer that I have read in a long time. I'll be lookin out for your future publications here in London. :)
cupcake5 said...
Nov. 6, 2008 at 9:37 pm
Meredith! You are an amazing writer! Keep everything you write because it's soon to be FAMOUS!!!
seafarerchick93 said...
Nov. 6, 2008 at 3:05 am
This is a great story! She is an excellent writer!
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