Life Is What Happens to Me

The inspiration for this poem came from an exercise I did with my hall’s leadership team, which I am a part of. We were doing an activity where we had to listen to statements and respond to them based on a spectrum that was set up. The very first statement was, on one side was “life is what happens to me” and on the other side was “life is what you make it” and you had to choose where you fall on that spectrum. I knew from the beginning of the question that life is just what happens to me. I often joke that every horrible thing that could possibly happen to a person, has happened to me, and it’s true. It’s not really a joke, but I find it funny that of all the people to dump all these horrible things on, it was me. I wouldn’t change a single thing that I’ve been through because each of those experiences has played an intricate part of who I am. The phrase itself of “life is what happens to me” stuck in my head for a few weeks after that activity and it inspired this poem at 1:30 in the morning.

life is what happens to me when papi leaves
when dad comes and it’s not the same
when bailey screams and throws things at mom
when he tries to push her down the stairs
when he gets arrested time and time again,
when he beats mom right in front of me

life is what happens to me when girls make up rumors,
i spend a day in in-school detention
when teachers think i’m as bad as they were because of my last name
when his mistakes become mine and my triumphs go unnoticed

life is what happens to me when rumors start flowing about my sexuality,
“she’s a dyke,” they say
when a boy i thought i loved calls me
and tells me it better not be true or our whole relationship was a lie
when my mom says to me, no you’re not, when i tell her i’m gay

life is what happens to me when i make that first cut with purple scissors,
sitting against my door
i don’t even go as deep as a paper cut
but i open the door to the worst addiction i’ve ever had
when life gets hard and i can’t feel anything,
i break razors, pencil sharpeners, box cutters.
when i’d rather watch myself bleed than face the truth,
i’m not worth this life

life is what happens to me when he tells me i’m safe,
that he won’t hurt me
but he takes off my clothes
and uses my body for whatever he so pleases for four years
when i’m eight years old and i think this is normal
and he’s twelve and he knows it’s wrong

life is what happens to me when i just can’t bare it all anymore
so, pills are the only way to go
but i can take as many as i want, i can drink as much as i want,
but it doesn’t feel like i’m anything more than sober
when all i want to do is die and there’s nothing left for me here

life is what happens to me when in seventh grade, lauren tried to kill herself
when in eighth grade, marc tried to kill himself
when in ninth grade, mitchell tried to kill himself,
and died for twenty minutes
when in tenth grade, sarah tried to kill herself
when in eleventh grade, anna and tom tried to kill themselves
when in twelfth grade, edie tries to kill herself
when i’m a freshman in college, and i’m waiting for someone to try to kill themselves

life is what happens to me when my siblings don’t know i exist until i’m 15
when papi never told them about his two other children
when you’ve missed out on connections that should’ve been there in the first place.

life is what happens to me when as soon as rain hits my skin, i’m paralyzed
when my world comes crashing down
when i’m taken back to places i don’t want to go
when tears come out of my eyes
i’m stuck and i’m broken all over again

life is what happens to me
i accepted that a lot time ago
when every horrible thing that could possibly happen to a single person,
has happened to me
you start to think
life is just what happens to me

but life is also what happens to me when i’ve lost all hope that i’ll ever find a best friend i need and i meet her my first semester of senior year
when you’re the only two senior girls in a gym class
and you cling to each other
when you’re over 1000 miles away from each other
and you still talk every day as if you’re still 20 minutes apart
when your friendship becomes the only thing that gets you through the day sometimes
when she’s the only one who gets you and all the weirdness that comes along

life is what happens to me when i meet my soulmate and the truest love of my life when i’m 16 and move across the country for her at 18
when she makes me feel like i can accomplish anything
when she’s the one i want to live my life with, travel the world with, come home to
even when i don’t want to be her friend
i love her endlessly, unconditionally, forever, and always

life is what happens to me when I met a special boy at 12 years old
and we’ve been friends ever since
when he gives me so much strength to achieve my dreams
when he’s talked me off the ledge more than once
when he’s been a confident, a shoulder to cry on, a source of laughter for 7 years
when we have long talks just telling each other how much we love each other
when his dreams are my dreams and my dreams are his

life is what happens to me when i work my ass off to graduate
and be the first in my family to go to college
when i’m a first generation american going to a great school
and living a dream my parents had
when my parents both know that i’ll be the one taking care of them in their old age
when i’m following my dreams, and getting my education
when i didn’t even think i’d make it to 16 and be able to graduate high school,
let alone finish a semester of college and fall in love with life

life is what happens to me when my main motivation isn’t human
when he’s a pocket pit bull with a heart of gold and great hugs
when his cuddles and kisses get me through the hard times
when him loving me is the only thing i want most days,
i want him to be proud of me
even if he doesn’t understand what being proud is

life is what happens to me when my rock, my number one, my whole entire heart is the women who gave birth to me
when i can’t go a day without talking to her
when she’s the first one i call when i do well on a test or paint my nails a different color
when she’s the only constant i’ve ever known

life is what happens to me, sure
it’s a mean, nasty, unforgiving bitch i don’t want anything to do with most days
but then it brings me seder, and garth, and neil, and morgan, and erin
it’s my biggest enemy and my greatest love and the reason i cry most days
but it gave me mariokart and boy meets world and face masks and great book
it gave me all 7 of my annoying brothers, my inspiration of a sister, my blessing of a mom
it gave me spoken word poetry, disney movies, butterflies, big sweatshirts, and sourpatch watermelon
it gave me the breakfast club, music to sing and dance to, makeup to play with, shows to fall in love with
it gave me you, it gave me this, it gave me life

so yeah, life is what happens to me.
but is it really that bad?

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