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You Must

I was on the cusp of turning five years old when I first recall experiencing something truly other worldly. I was sitting at the breakfast table located in the kitchen of this small sky rise commission apartment that had been allocated to my family to live in as a temporary measure while awaiting a more permanent residence to be assigned. My parents who were immigrants from the former Yugoslavia had arrived the year that I was born in 1970 and were for the most part beginning to acclimatize to their new life.

My mom was in the kitchen holding a conversation with my brother. I don’t recall my sister or dad being present. There was a spoon in my hand with a bowl of milk soaked cornflakes in front of me. Without a glitch my surroundings changed to that of a staircase with an opening to a door filled with bright light. I wanted to walk up the stairs toward the inviting glow and could feel myself fighting to rise but I was held back. Shaking my head I screamed, “You don’t understand, this was a mistake. I’m not supposed to be there. You have to let me in. I don’t want to be there. It’s a mistake. Don’t send me back. I don’t belong.”

All I heard were the words, “You must.”

My brothers voice called me to a conscious state as he told me to hold my spoon correctly. I looked at the spoon and then at him. He watched me shift the position of the utensil in my hand. Satisfied, he continued his discussion with our mom. All I wanted to do was cry because I secretly knew I didn’t belong.


Although I could never give you an explanation of what happened in that kitchen that day, I can say that something did happen and more so this one event managed to change my life in a pivotal way. Firstly, I recognized that there was a deep seated desire within me not to be here and secondly the reason for this was the feeling that I held no place that made sense.

Four decades later I can still appreciate the little me who clambered to be released from an existence that doesn’t feel in many ways right. I’ve met and spoken with countless people who hold this same feeling of disconnect, referencing themselves as aliens or weirdo’s because there is no space they feel that caters to accepting them for who they are.

In late 2012 I was faced with having to fight for my life. There, in my hospital bed I posed the question to myself; Do I wish to fight to live or accept and die? Through my answer I realized the thoughts I had carried with me from my adolescence were no longer valid.  Who I was at this new cross road was a person that felt the need to be present, not because I held a sense of belonging, rather it was my need to contribute. My life story had chapters left to write and I was by no means ready to leave things incomplete.