Publish or Perish

The tornado sirens began to wail. The cheerful songs being sung by cartoon characters over the loudspeakers gave way to warnings: “Take shelter!” “Retreat to the nearest building!” “Cover your heads!” My mom grabbed our hands as we raced for the main entrance. The leaves of the Silver Maples that lined the park’s thoroughfare were flying through the air like confetti. Park employees directed us to the shelter that housed the ticket stands and turnstiles. We gathered tightly together. And, as more and more families rushed in, we crowded closer and closer together. When there was no more space available, a park employee pressed the red “Emergency” button with his palm. Oversized garage doors unfurled from the ceiling and slowly closed around us. We stood in darkness. The sounds of howling wind, straining chains, and hail pelting the metal doors like a machine gun filled the spaced. I covered my ears. I closed my eyes. And, I waited for it all to be over.

I am only one year and a month into my emancipation. I do not care to admit it. But, for most of my life, I have been enslaved by the expectations of others. I did what I thought others wanted me to do. I thought what I thought others wanted me to think. I became what I thought others wanted me to become. I towed the line. I blended in. I did a lot of pretending. It was only one year and a month ago that I chose to throw off the shackles that bound me to the rock of mediocrity. But, I am not fully free. I have learned that my emancipation is impermanent. It is not guaranteed to continue. It is a daily struggle. My demons are powerful. They want me back. They are always and endlessly calling me back. And, fear, shame and insecurity are powerful sirens.

I do not want to go back. But, sometimes I get so tired of the daily struggle. I get confused by our culture. I get lost without the guidance of a limelight. And, sometimes I think “would it be so bad to plug back into the matrix, just for a bit?” With that thought, I can feel them burrow their fingernails into my forearms. I can feel the vines of their venom creeping, wrapping and tightening around my throat. My eyes glaze over. A tornado siren wails in my head. Voices tell me to “Retreat.” A red “Emergency” button appears. My demons tell me to press it. They tell me that a storm is coming. They tell me to encase myself in metal, hunker down, and go quiet…at least until the storm passes. But, the storm never passes. I just grow old.

I want a life of agency. I want a life of meaning. If you cross my path, I want to leave a mark. And, to have these things, I have to be able to unmask, de-claw, and neuter my demons. I only know one way to do that. I call them out. I write about their machinations and misdirection. And, then I hit the *#%$ing “Publish” button.

The hail finally stopped. The wind slowed down. The rain gave way. The metal doors opened up. We all shuffled out of the darkness. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. I looked down at my Pumas, growled liked a cat, and raced down the thoroughfare naively believing that I had to be the swiftest creature to ever walk the Earth. What a great feeling.

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