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Campaign Contest: "With your whole heart" by Hailey Cariaga

With your whole heart - Fiction

I loved my best friend dearly, and I loved my mom and my dad, my two big brothers. Infact, I was in the middle of decorating a sticky piece of paper I had just folded, to make sure it opened up just like the cards at the market. The inside was scribbled with gestures of my six year old self’s seeping heart that longed to show everybody how much I cared for them. This one was addressed to my mom, mostly evident because of the big circle with hearts on it (it was a butterfly) that I had just colored in on the front page. I was at the kitchen table, my legs swinging back and forth because they couldn’t quite reach the floor yet. I am much bigger now. We got rid of the old table when we remodeled the kitchen, and most of my cards are store bought and given during the appropriate holidays. My parents no longer live under the same roof, and my best friend and I haven't spoken in years. However, it was around the age that I was still hiding hand written letters around the house that my mother had given me a piece of wisdom that has only recently resurfaced from my memories. She used to always say, “You can’t love anybody else unless you love yourself.” For a while, I didn’t take this notion seriously. To me, love was something you felt for another person, not really having any connection to whomever was giving but rather receiving. As I grew up, it became clear that the love i was surrounded by wasn’t as innocent as it had always seemed. I realized just how frequently my parents fought one another, sometimes staying up late into the night because the loud booming voice of my mom couldn’t be drowned out from my hands that pressed hard over my ears. When they separated, I was quite indifferent about their parting. was eleven years old then, and my letters had stopped being found.

When we moved the furniture out of the house, one or two crumpled pieces of paper were hiding underneath couch cushions. We mindlessly threw them in our trash bags along with the stuffed animals under our beds or cat toys under the couch. There wasn’t enough time nor reason to gather around and discuss our findings, as it was easier not to rock the delicate boat our family was now on. When my brother and I were given the choice between staying with my mother or my father, It was then I realized love wasn't so simple. Or rather, giving love wasn’t so simple. It was actually sort of similar to a skill—something you sometimes had to learn how to do. Throughout middle school, I was faced with a lot of people, and a lot of choices, options I may not have chosen wisely and people that I had hurt ignorantly. The more of life I took in, the clearer it became that sometimes it’s easier to cause damage to the ones you love dearly, rather than anybody else in your life. It was not a lack of love that caused my parents separation, but an unhealthy one. It wasn’t until one early morning, far away from my parents divorce, that It dawned on me I wasn’t too sure how I felt about myself. Life had become dull and uneventful, and not because aging can make things lose their color, but more so because I had stopped looking for it. I wondered how my mom felt about herself, or how anybody who i've ever crossed paths with looked at themselves. At any given moment, you can choose to look at something with love or with indifference, with hate—including yourself. But hate is heavy and there is no point weighing yourself down. I decided I didn’t want my seeping heart to infect those around me, for anybody to be aware of the resentment that had formed with my relationship with life. I didn’t want to have to yell at the ones I loved for them to know I loved them. It never had to be that way at all— sore throats and tired lungs wouldn’t ever make them love me. With every neighborhood walk, I listened to the sounds of birds chirping and neighbors chatting. I acknowledged the cold breeze but focused on the sun spilling out from behind the morning due clouds. On the days I did nothing at all, I tried to be grateful for the peace. Although some things will never be easy, and there are still skeletons waiting in the closet, I realized you can choose happiness, and you’ll be forgiven for it. It’s okay to live for yourself, and now, when I think back to that priceless quote my mother had preached years ago, the more sense it makes. The people I admire most, the kindest souls, all have one thing in common; their love for themselves. A certain type of glow that can only emit from those who love passionately because they love themselves. We tend to forget that we are one of the most important people in our lives. If I could go back, back to the time where my fingers were covered in ink and my legs were still swinging cluelessly above the ground, I think there would only be one thing I would take with me to the present, to make sure I never lose it again. The unconditional love I had for all things around me, that was only allowed through the unconditional love I had for myself. There is no caution needed to proceed loving others around you, so maybe I was right all along about my crafty work. Reminding others that you love them without any strings attached is a good past time.

Hailey Cariaga is an upcoming junior in highschool, who loves to write in her free time. She also is passionate about baking, drawing, and sports, and hopes to get into a good college.

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