Distractions by Lena Hartsough

As kids, we’re often advised to find ways to let out anger and sadness. Find a hobby, the adults say. Join a club, or a sport. Learn martial arts, or even just hit a pillow. Scream into that same pillow. Anything but hurt other people. Then later, we’re finally told what will happen if we don’t follow the rules the adults have set for us. If we hurt other people, they might hurt themselves—and we’ll get in trouble. And if we can’t find a different way to let out our anger, we might hurt ourselves.

A lot of us learn this the hard way. I went through time outs and punishments because I got angry and hurt people, and sometimes I still hurt myself a bit. But recently, when I’ve gotten sad, angry, overwhelmed, or anything like that, my first thought is to take out some paper and write. Sometimes I’m not able to put my thoughts into words, but the act of writing and searching for the right way to say things soothes me. I go into the writing pressing hard enough on the paper to break my pencil, or barely brushing the surface, but finish skimming the lines like a normal person…or as much like a normal person as my chicken-scratch-writing self is.

I put my whole self into writing, refusing to let my mind wander into whatever was making me upset. Writing about my feelings make them dull somewhat, and I can see how small my troubles are compared to those of people without food or education; it’s like I’m an outsider observing the silly problems of a teenager. I read through my work, editing it, and I can see what’s actually happening, and how I can fix it. My writing is a chance to step back and try to figure out what I need to know.

So although I do, occasionally, need to scream into a pillow, writing protects me from breaking the rules that I find are still just as relevant now as they were when I was in preschool.

Lena Hartsough, class of 2019

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