The yelling was loud; my thoughts even louder. The nights were long, but the pain still endures. The age of five was when tragedy struck. My parents divorce stole a piece from me mentally. Emerging from the ashes of the ongoing chaos, alone I was left to cope with the pain, degradation, and utter dismay. A responsibility that I was much too young to have lingering with me. With that responsibility I was forced to discover my own way out, my own sanctuary from the shambles. Although, among all of the upheaval I found refuge in writing and reading.
Sleepless nights would be the ultimate maker of my torment. I could hear. The walls spoke late at night. Although, they preferred to yell more often than speak. Hearing them talk, I considered those times a more silent night. When the yelling erupted, that is when my blood shot eyes would pain me once again. On nights like those I began to lie awake for countless hours on end; long after the yelling ceased to seep through my threshold. It was the thought of my family being torn apart that left me awake. My insomniac nights began to eat away at me. I was exhausted of the tears that would trickle down my face to create a pool of sorrow beneath me. Every night I prayed for just a few moments of rest. My prayers were not heard. The loneliness crept closer once again.
Eventually through those restless nights I found a way to set my mind at ease. One long night I grabbed a book and began to read. I was never an exceptional reader at a young age. I was such an awful reader that I was placed in a class for kids who struggled to read. I never read on my own. But that book comforted me profoundly at an hour ungodly to man, let alone a child. As I read, the anguish that burdened me began to evanesce from my mind. The nights were quiet for once. My thoughts were deceived and entangled within the pages of that book. I would read until my eyes grew weary. My prayers were heard. The loneliness crept away for the first time. My eyes shut and I slipped away. Thenceforth, the nights were no longer restless, but the walls, the walls were stubborn.
Even though I could sleep, I was exhausted. Exhausted from the uphill battle that I was clearly losing. My grades suffered dreadfully as every altercation unfolded. I knew it too. I was not stupid. Just a smart kid caught in a war of dying love. I had to make a change for myself. I was mature enough to know my responsibilities. Besides, I had an obligation to be mature, not a choice.
The books I read every night saved me. Those books drowned out the pandemonium from my personal life. They enabled me to focus on my priorities. To not quit. To work hard regardless of the situation. That is when I discovered my haven without realizing. My foundation was set, the only thing left to do was seize it.
The fights still endured. The only difference was that I had my solution. Their words were deadened. My thoughts were deluded from what I really wanted to think about. With every new quarrel came another new book, another instance to write about. An instance to become engrossed within. They were just more reasons to keep fighting my own battle for myself.
Even though I had literature, the fight was still arduous. I was not the only one enervated from my parents divorce. My brother and sister, much older than I, they were deprived too. I struggled to reach out to them. I struggled to show them how literacy was helping me. Me being young, they did not want me involved. Looking back on it now, they were both trying to protect me. They thought that I would be hurt the most from it all.
They were wrong. Everyday I woke up and got myself to school with my dad one day, my mother the next. They would act like everything was fine, but I could see right through their masquerade. I would end up unhappy because of it, but once I arrived at school those thoughts became dormant. I was a different person there. School was my escape. Might as well take advantage of it, I thought.
When I was at school I was my happiest. School was the only time I could get away from the mayhem which awaited me at home. I worked hard. For a first grader I considered myself much smarter than expected. I read everything I could get my hands on. I did not want to be in a class for challenged readers any longer. But soon I proved my teachers that that class was not the place for me. In time, my hard work paid off.
My family was broken, but nothing was going to change that. That is what kept me thriving. That fire burning inside of me. I possessed an unprecedented amount of frustration and stress, so much so that only books and school could help me. But I turned my negative energy into a driving force. That is when the divorce had an effect I could have never accounted for. I read more often, my grades picked up, my outlook on life differed, which in turn aided my writing ability.
Soon enough the books I read inspired me to write. I wrote fictional stories with my own magical characters and the same marvelous castle fit for kings and queens. An immaculate white citadel comprised of marble and granite, shimmering accents of gold strips that would spiral around 40 foot tall pillars, the Garden of Eden just behind, and the Fountain of Youth lie ahead. My stories brought me joy. I could float adrift on the clouds of my imagination for hours. It was if my thoughts came to life. This was the first time I felt such a sensation. The first time I actually started to develop my writing skills. From then on, writing was apart of my sanctuary.
Sometimes I am asked if I could change the past, would I? If I could somehow go back and change life so that my parents were never to be divorced. No, never. That event in my life shaped me to be who I am. Who would I be without the knowledge and experience I had when I was young? What kind of student, friend, son, brother, person; who would I be? My life would be an entirely different story with different pages and different chapters. May that be for better or for worse, that is an alternate reality I have no desire to acknowledge. I am strong. I am resilient. Could I still say that if I never knew the same pain? In time I overcame my responsibility, and I silenced the walls on my own. Literacy helped me with that. I owe it to the book that saved me that restless night, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. From that book I received the message, one can only take and give so much until there is nothing left for them to take or give anymore. The difference was that I made a change before I had nothing left, but still plenty more to give.