Because I cannot sleep, despite the late hour of the night, or, morning, I suppose, I posed to myself a question: why do I keep going? Because my mind needed something to focus on other than embarrassing moments from my past, I thought about the answer.
Because I feel a moral obligation to finish what those who passed too quickly started. Because I want to avenge the deaths of those who were stolen from us by the demons that hide in the shadows of anxiety and depression. Because of those that were murdered, no, martyred by society. Because of those who were told they were faking it, they were seeking attention, they were fine, they were crazy, that it was all in their head. Because the tragedy is not only the death, but also the fact that we (chose not to see) didn’t see the signs that led to it. Because they were not crazy, they were not making things up, they were not attention seeking, they were struggling, and their community failed to help them recover from the trauma that was dealt to them as children, adolescents, teenagers, young adults, adults, if they even made it that far.
Because of them, I choose to keep going.
Because society says I can’t, and I can prove it wrong. Because I’m too young. Because my brain hasn’t fully developed yet. Because I’m not experienced enough. Because I don’t know what I’m talking about. Because I have nothing important to contribute. Because the world feeds me lies to try and silence my voice. Because the world is scared of me, of the truth, of me, who knows the truth. Because I refuse to let another generation be handed lies on a silver platter. Because my voice matters, and I do know what I’m talking about, and I do have something to contribute, and I will not be silenced.
Because society said I can’t, I will.
Because I will not conform to the status quo. Because the status quo is bullshit. Because I, a queer Black girl, am nothing in the eyes of the status quo. Because according to the status quo, I am not pretty, I am not smart, I am not important, I am not worthy of love, I do not exist, I do not deserve simple rights, such as what I can do with my own body, or who I love, or how to cope with the world trying to erase my history. Because I am beautiful, and I am smart, and I am important, and I am worthy of love, and I am allowed to fight for the rights that I deserve, and no one, especially not the status quo, is going to stop me. Because my identity should not be controversial in anyone’s eyes. Because I don’t want to live my life with a target on my back.
Because I deserve to live freely, I will persevere.
Because I have systems to break. Because I have societal gender rules to splinter. Because I have stigmas around race and sexual identity to dissipate. Because people make assumptions of me before they even know my name. Because I have to pretend to be calm when I have a right to be angry, but all black girls are angry, so just smile and nod. Because I have to deal with straight girls who were taught to hate me, eyeing me in disgust, wondering if I find them attractive, as if I would have any interest in someone who is the personification of homophobia. Because I have to brace myself for pushback whenever I tell someone I’m asexual, because nobody believes I exist, and apparently my existence is abnormal. Because I can’t walk through neighborhoods at night, and when I grow up, I won’t be able to enjoy a drink at a bar without fear of being drugged. Because there are people out there who believe the kitchen and the nursery is the only place I belong.
Because of rules that cater to the needs of people who think they are superior to me, I will keep pushing boundaries.
Because I am scared. Because I was brought into this world, and it couldn’t have been for nothing, and if it was, then I’d rather keep believing the lies. Because I have to have faith in myself, and if I have no purpose, no direction, no function, then I have no faith. Because I need something to cling to, and if there’s nothing there, then all of the fight drains out of me and I’m nothing but an empty shell of the person I pretend to be. Because there has to be a reason behind all of the suffering, all of the pain, all of the dark, lonely nights, filled with only the light of the moon and the raging whirlwind of my own thoughts. Because I refuse to believe I had to go through everything I went through for nothing, and I refuse to believe that the struggles that will no doubt plague me in the future are for naught. Because I’m scared that my life has no meaning, and everything that I do is barely a drop in the ocean that is reality.
Because I need proof that it was worth it, I keep fighting.
Because the world is a terrible place. Because every day, people are murdered, children are abused, students are bullying their peers, adults are walking around pretending to know everything when they’re just as lost as the rest of us are. Because there are still places where ‘freedom of speech’ is nothing more than a fantasy for most, and ‘freedom of religion’ is not a freedom that people get to have. Because governments are still corrupt. Because wars are still being waged. Because America’s Constitution states that “all men are created equal” while at the same time discriminating and stereotyping against men of color, men who weren’t born as men, men who love other men. Because America’s Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” but completely discredits women, and still discredits women, because in this country, guns have more rights than women do, and that needs to change. Because America’s Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” but ignores and ostracizes people who identify as neither, either, or both. Because the world needs people who are actually willing to think outside of their own personal interests and biases and make decisions that benefit the community that is our world as a whole. Because I am a person who can create that change, and even though I keep getting pushed down, I will not stop getting back up.
Because I want to live in a different future, a better future, I speak up.
Because I’m needed. Because this world deserves better, and it’s been crying out for healing. Because we have ignored its cries for far too long now. Because this is my home, and I will fight for it. Because my future matters. Because I matter. Because my friends matter. Because my siblings matter. Because you matter. Because we have lost hope, and we need to find it again. Because the present is bleak, and the future looks bleaker. Because I know I am not the only one who finds it taxing to get through every twenty-four hour cycle, and I know I am not the only one who feels the anguish of this world, and I know I am not the only one who looks around and weeps at what I see, and I know I am not the only one who deserves to be fought for. Because my life is worth the hardship. Because the outcome is worth any pain I may endure. Because I want to make a difference, I need to make a difference. Because this planet needs something different, someone different, and I can’t be different if I’m dead.
Because the world needs me more than any grave does, I will continue to survive.
Because I am a survivor.
Jaime Sullivan, future occupier of the New York Times Bestseller List, currently spends their days romanticizing the future, reading fanfiction, and writing what will someday be the world’s next Pulitzer Prize winner. If you find them in the wild, they will most likely be drinking tea and scrolling through Pinterest when they should be writing. If asked, they will look at you with a crazed gleam in their eye and tell you they can’t wait to get out of Maryland and escape the big city.