For several years
I did not shed a single tear
I was stoic and strong
I had a thick skin
A shell around my heart
I wore like an armor
There was nothing
anyone could say to me
that would hurt my feelings
There was nothing
anyone could do
that would break me.
I faced the world
face forward
on my own two feet
and I prayed
no one could see
my hands shaking.


For several years
I denied myself
the ability to truly feel
I was so accustomed
to protecting myself
from verbal assaults
from rejection
that I hid my heart away
I hid my love
my compassion
because every time
I showed emotion
I was perceived as weak.


Eventually I started
to realize
I was denying myself
the ability to be happy.
If I forced myself
to be strong
I wouldn’t be able
to smile when I saw beauty
to sing when I felt joy
to laugh at the absurdity of life.

The time eventually came
when I accepted the truth
I cannot be strong
I took off my armor
I broke the shell around my heart
I let my spirit flourish
I wore my emotions on my face
and I finally accepted
some days
I might cry
the tears might escape my eyes
but by embracing my pain
I have opened myself
to be loved.


I understand the world is complicated
I may not have a fairy tail ending
but I cannot not
sleepwalk through life
I will embrace my life
I will not be a doormat
Nor will I be a statue
I will be
a sentient human being.

-Vanessa Hernandez

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