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Hel is Other People

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I started writing this story in 2016. I posted Chapter 10 in response to Trump winning the presidency.

Nearly a year later, in October 2017, I had a mental breakdown. I had to call the suicide hotline. I had to walk away from my job. I shaved all my hair off. I lost the ability to enjoy the things I used to love, such as writing.

It was due to a lot of factors but the news cycle definitely didn't help. I had always been hopeless, angry, and bitter but it became a serious debilitating problem.

I was shaken down to my foundations and forced to look at myself, my choices, and decide what sort of person I wanted to be.

I began to rebuild, sometimes slowly, sometimes with such a rapid pace that things that used to be impossible for me became possible over night. I began to risk letting myself experience the beautiful pain of hope. I decided to see my anger as a valuable teacher, one that merely let me know when my sense of right and wrong had been violated and did not dictate my responses; I separated my behavior from my emotions, questioned my definition of right and wrong, my core beliefs about myself and the world around me. I learned that bitterness weighs me down, like rocks in my pockets, and began to try to let each hurtful moment I'd been clinging to go. I began to rise.

And as I rose I looked around me and saw so many others struggling with the same things, choosing for the first time to address it with themselves. I have grown, I have watched others grow--I have watched us rise.

I love Loki. I love trickster gods, those gods that tip the balance and swing us from stagnation and death into action and growth (whether we want it or not). I love Chaos.

Chaos is destruction and creation.

I was nearly destroyed, but I have chosen to change. I have become stronger, kinder, more willing to be vulnerable and open. I believe the United States was nearly destroyed (and might still be destroyed), but I believe we have a chance to take what we've learned and thrive. We can choose to look at the things that have been broken--trust in each other and our institutions, civility and compassion, unity--and rebuild. We can choose to change.

This isn't an issue that plagues only the United States. There is no border on this. I think right now we are, as a species, at the edge of a precipice. We will live or die as one, this pandemic illustrates that.

We choose every day what kind of world we live in. We cast votes with our words, our actions, our beliefs. You might believe that one person doesn't make a difference, but may I remind you of the following individuals:

Martin Luther King Jr.
Nelson Mandela
Oskar Schindler
Rosa Parks
Harriet Tubman

This a short, short list, but I hope you get my meaning. These people were just people, with virtues and flaws like the rest of us. They cast their votes for a better, kinder, freer world and were willing to put their lives, freedom, and comfort on the line. They willingly took on the burden of hope in what must have felt like a hopeless world. They resisted the seductive call of violence, knowing that violence begets violence, and instead used their anger to grow steel spines and stone faces, to withstand the harshest cruelties the world could toss at them. They were vulnerable enough to release their bitterness, which only ever isolates us, in order to connect with others.

This is all that separates any of us from any of them: The willingness to abandon what you have for what you could have. The willingness to befriend your anger without letting it rule you. The willingness to be vulnerable again and again, and again.

The willingness to cast your vote for a better world and mean it.

It begins with you. It ends with you.