/ Grow /

The booth of life


you get up everyday

you look in the mirror

you see the same face that you think

you’ll see tomorrow

but its different

its losing a little bit of you

every tomorrow

you keep going

you are pretending

to be stronger than you are

the truth is

you’re weak, fragile

and broken beyond fixing

you can’t handle

you can’t push

you can’t go

you call

you make an appointment

you see a psychiatrist

you talk

you say almost everything

she prescribes you Zoloft

then she tells you to walk with her

you walk to the window

she shows you a booth

“the booth of life”

with a sign that reads

ready to entertain all your parties and make you laugh

she says go see this man

this man is good

every time i feel low

i go see this man

he’s the best at planting hope

making people laugh

inspiring others

and helping them

stand up on their feet again

what she doesn’t know

is

that booth is mine

i wrote that sign

and

i am that man.

I wrote this poem on December 14, 2016. It was my 26th birthday.

On that Wednesday, I checked myself in at the hospital to receive treatment for a recent diagnosis. After I finished my appointment, I went up to the 4th floor – Mental Health Services. I wasn’t doing well by any definition of the word – neither physically, nor mentally. It had been a very difficult year… difficult being the understatement of the century. I asked them for help.  They were enthusiastic, and ready to help immediately – it was encouraging. However, I was shocked to find out that I absolutely hated the way they wanted to “help.” So robotic, so calculated. Plugging me in to a computer algorithm. I felt misunderstood. They didn’t realize how heavy my burden was. Within the first hour of the session, I excused myself to use the restroom – leaving the building and once again feeling helpless and alone.

Having grown up in Baghdad, Iraq, I’ve had years of practice in resilience, persevering, and overcoming under my belt. I spent my childhood years under dictatorship, poverty, among other challenges, to then be welcomed to my teenage years by a vicious war that has changed the political and economic demographics of the entire Middle Eastern Region. Then my family and I somehow won the lottery – we were accepted into a refugee program through the United Nations, and we came to the US.

Despite my past, Wednesday 12/14/2016 was the day I came closest to giving up. I folded and boxed my clothes. I wrote out checks and cleared my bank account. I wrote a short, vague note that was a mix of sorry’s and I love you’s. I was ready to step over the edge. I had one foot in the air and one foot loosely on the ground. I was ready to jump… But I didn’t.

I don’t really know exactly what had happened that allowed me to move past that day. Perhaps it was knowing how miserable my family would be for their remaining days. Perhaps it was the regret of not living up to my full potential, or possibly a combination of the two… Something happened and I pushed again, one more time.

It took every little drop of resilience and strength that I had to push through that time. It took a very conscientious and consistent effort for me to keep going.

What I have learned from my past experiences is the following:  No matter how dark it gets, there is always a light somewhere ready to beam through. Your efforts to push through are your scissors that cut through the dead layers of darkness surrounding you, until you break free. The more you give, the better your scissors work, no matter how rusty you think they are.

Today, I am happy to let you know that I am back to working my booth again. My sign is there, and I added another sign below it that says “open”.

My friends, please keep pushing. Please keep going.

Write your signs, and open your booths.

The world needs you.

I need you.

                                                                                                                                                        photo by ELIZA