Basking in the Light

Print Editor-in-Chief Kaitlyn Piggott recounts how she has grown to be the person she is today and how she finds the light

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Ericka Piggott

Print Editor-in-Chief recounts what aspects of her life has made her into who she is.

Kaitlyn Piggott, Print Editor-in-Chief

I never kept an actual diary; looking back, I probably should have. Ever since I could remember, I had a difficult time expressing my emotions out loud, often quiet from all things truthful and meaningful. I lived in a tight-knit family that weathered impeccable storms with strength and dignity. I wore all the struggles of our family on my back, knowing full well I didn’t have to, and the worrisome heart inside my chest began to tint my soul. We were textbook worthy cases of medical mysteries and heartbreaking constant cycles of stress and pain. It brought us together really — all the trips to the hospital, the symptoms to watch for, the new normalcy — but it shut me out sometimes.

Growing up, for the majority of my life that is, I wasn’t a part of the family in the “there’s something ‘wrong’ with you” category. I just watched as my brothers braved through their own struggles. I never really felt left out, but there would always be some things I wouldn’t really understand because I didn’t walk in their shoes. I just watched, grieving the pain they had, and wishing I could take it all away, but knowing I couldn’t. There is a bit of hopelessness I always felt as I constantly just watched, knowing that I couldn’t help the people I loved; I was no doctor, no adult, just a child. There is no greater pain than seeing someone you love struggle, but not being able to make it all better. There was nothing I could say, nothing I could do, which made me feel entirely worthless. My brothers and I were always close we bickered over stupid things but they were always my world, my best of friends and bodyguards against any horrors that came my way. I didn’t want to worry my family with my meaningless concerns growing up, or the feelings I felt about the situations that plagued their lives. I never made myself a priority and I wanted to wash who I was in the waves that crashed into our sands because I didn’t want the attention. I tried to divide myself: no I wasn’t in their shoes, and no I didn’t understand their circumstance entirely, but I lived in the same house, ate the same food, heard the same conversations. I understood, to a certain extent, that we were different, and that it wasn’t fair. In my house, if it rained, it definitely full-on poured.

I never wanted to talk about it, how I was sad about how everything in my life seemed harder than in my friends’, how growing up people didn’t understand how much it hurt me, how it impacted me in my life. My greatest fear was always something bad happening to my family. I trembled until I fell asleep. I cried in the shower so no one would hear. I hid myself in my closet because the darkness concealed the pain in my body from everyone else. There was always a worry in my head, my house could reach a pretty high level of stress because we weren’t like everyone else. I bottled up how I saw the storm that raged over our heads and how it scared me to numbness. I bottled up how the anxiety from everything caused me to shake so much that tears would fall down my face. I thought I was helping, but in reality I was tearing myself apart. My imagination and the circumstances haunted my darkest of nightmares. I wished everything would just stop for once so we could be a normal family, with simpler concerns, nothing to really worry about. I just wanted the hurting to stop. My bottle would overflow with these emotions, crack until it eventually burst, resulting in an unexpected scream-filled outburst or a small fit of choking sobs.
Then, of course, I had to get sick, which in reality totally blind-sided me. Before, when all the issues weren’t about me, I hid in the shadows and tried to cope, but with this, all the illnesses now thrown my way, it was about me. I’ll be honest, it was rough, and again I didn’t think it was fair. I lost pieces of who I was. For a long time, I hated who looked back at me as I stood in front of a mirror. I hated the way she seemed weak and tired, upset and broken. It was another faze, of trying to understand who I was and attempting to figure out the why that I knew I never would. Like everything else, I struggled to be okay with who I was and what was going on. I was unwillingly added into the “there’s something ‘wrong’ with you” category, and let me just say, it was unnerving.

After a while, I noticed the storm still over my head, pulling me down with symptoms and strange test results, but this was just again another bump in the road. Another obstacle my family and I had to overcome.

At one time or another I think every teen or preteen feels misunderstood, lost in the world. I know I was. My bottle at about sixth grade was only being held together by some duct tape. It was also the first time I completed writing a novel. I wrote away my emotions. Sixth grade, I wrote about a girl who finally found that her older sister meant the world to her and they were a team and not enemies, when the “worry bully” was beating me up about my older brother. In seventh grade, I wrote about an overprotective girl who fought tooth and nail for her family, when I began to idolize the heroines in the pages of books I thought I couldn’t achieve. In eighth, I wrote about a tag-team of boys and girls, mirrored the strength I saw in my family, and a sister and brother who put each other first, when I feared for my little brother. Ninth, I wrote about a boy who sacrificed his everything for his siblings, when I felt I wasn’t doing enough. In tenth, I wrote about a girl who loses her ability to do what she loves and her best friend picking up her broken pieces, when I had hip surgery and my health drastically worsened. In eleventh, I wrote about how a girl finds her way in the world when I didn’t know mine. In twelfth, I wrote about numerous families at their worst of times but how they stuck it out, together, when I needed a reminder that everything would be alright. I found comfort in the words on a page, secretly stashed away in notebooks or in a file to never be looked at again. It gave me strength, courage in the face of all odds. I let out my frustration in a snarky comment from a main character, my gloom in a rainy setting, my annoyance in an eye roll and a bit of sass from a heroine, but most of all, I wrote about optimism so I could see it too. It was my way of not feeling guilty about my emotions, but it was also a way I could show someone protecting their family in a way I never seemed to manage.

I think about the hand we were dealt as a family; in some ways it was pretty shabby, but it has molded me into who I am. I got sick in the tenth grade and I’ll be sick until the day I die, but this was when I really began to look at everything thrown at my family differently. It shaped me into a girl who counts her blessings before she goes to bed, makes mistakes but learns from them, embraces each new day thankful for getting thus far and celebrates the small victories in life but stays grounded to the real world. I go about each day hiding myself behind the wall I have built up around me, but I chip at it with a picket. I cry because now I know it makes me human, and that just because I do doesn’t mean I’m hurting my family. Through everything, I have become more empathetic, less likely to judge and easier to approach. I’m not an open book. It is difficult to get to the core of me. Sometimes I’m overly sensitive, sometimes words hurt me more than a push would. I write because it is more natural than breathing and it has become who I am, the gift I have found in the darkness.

So now I bask in the light that is my life. I walk around with the stars shining down and the moonlight on my back, because I have learned beauty and strength in everything. There is still the darkness that left me trembling, the storm that made me scared, but now I see the rainbow and I embrace the rain because the rain, after all, isn’t so bad. It can be hard, it can suck, but it’s just rain. I guess in hindsight, my family was strong, but maybe I was too, just like all those characters I write about.