From Sand to a Planet

Venus J. Champagne

August 28th, 2020

A recurring theme in my life when I was fifteen was that I was depressed and anxious. I spent my fifteenth birthday at a Benihana with my family with antidepressants in my system; I never hated myself so much. I was depressed because my academic achievements were thrown out the window; in the span of months I lost all that I had been positioned to receive. My scholarship to my Midtown Catholic school was gone, my NBC mentor and internship had dissolved. All the “big” opportunities in my life at that time didn’t strike me as blessings. Perhaps it was due to my prolonged grieving process from when my nana passed ten years ago; I was a child and didn’t know the first thing about death except for funerals. My middle school experience was my personal high and my high school experience was my spiral. I couldn’t leave my house. Thoughts of doom echoed in my head. I tripped and instead of getting back up and running again, I was crushed by the things I tried so hard to forget. Unacknowledged death, gun violence from locals, and stress from private schools pushed me to the edge. I needed to start over.


I went to school on the top floor of Bellevue. As a child, before I attended Bellevue,  I once asked my mom where the neighborhood kids went to school. She told me that some kids went to the school across the street, or Bellevue. I always went to the hospital when I had my accident prone mishaps, but I never acknowledged the fact that children got their education from the same place I got my cast. It would be a couple years until I, too, turned to a hospital for schooling. At that point I believed that I was damaged, I believed there was something deeply wrong with my psyche. I didn’t feel normal. I hated the time I spent in Bellevue, and it became clear to me why my nana never fancied doctors. I demanded to transfer to East Side Community High School.


I had dreamt of going to the East Side when I was in Catholic school. I thought it was ideal for school because the student body was co-ed. Like any kid on their first day, I was nervous. My first day was on Halloween, my conversation piece included my name, where I grew up at, and my new found freedom from Bellevue.  I lacked confidence and lost my backbone from laying in bed for a few dark months. My irrational fear of crowds and large groups of people stemmed from the local gun violence that ricocheted from one childhood memory to another. Playing in the park was not safe. Playing in the park is not safe. Ghetto playgrounds vary in severity. As my cousin and I played in the park set, bullets started to fly. My mother grabbed me and my cousin, we had to go down the slide in order to get out of the set. My mother banged her head on a piece of metal from the playground structure. We continued to run into the building. What was once a normal day, what we thought would be a normal day, turned into a ghetto nightmare. We just wanted to play as kids in peace. It wasn't my last violent experience, just the first. It was “normal” though, and it was something that people didn’t ask their kids about. It was something we collectively experienced; running for our lives. We collectively forgot, but the fear remained. The memory came up several times, and of course my mother addressed it emotionally, but I couldn’t process it. It began to manifest itself in my social life, so going to a new school after being in emotional hibernation caused issues for me. I didn’t know how to communicate with people anymore. I felt feral.


My first year was difficult and the one that followed seemed to be the consequences to my confusion from year one. I had no friends and my favorite teacher had gone. I lived in a bubble, sometimes liking myself while simultaneously feeling the blows from a demented first boyfriend. I lived that year different from the previous.


Junior year was the year I shined. No matter what situation I got myself into, I reassured myself I was going to get out of it. I promised myself that this year was going to be an enjoyable one. I got tired of feeling sad and small.  I had encountered people that had the objective of draining my energy, my happiness, my creativity. I had people that rocked my boat until I fell in the water with no lifejacket, but I flipped my boat back over and sat back down. I like to imagine that I get back in the boat and order a yacht over the phone. That is life. That is recovery. To go through the worst and experience pain, but make it to the best feeling when the wounds and deep cuts heal. When you believe you’d be an amputee, but you just needed to clean and heal the wounds. My life was once a broken arm, like the one I broke when I was in third grade; loving myself is the cast that binds all the broken pieces. I’ve learned to accept my past as a pathway to peace, it is where I was. I make art everyday and stride for self progress. Pain doesn't move on our time, but it never stays.

©2017 by The Highly Indy Project

highlyindy@gmail.com, New York City

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