Grace Roloff, Contributing Writer

Some people who have really changed my life have been the Laws of Life people, and I can’t thank them enough for all the time I’ve spent in front of a computer, writing out some of my deepest childhood traumas. (It’s not even worth the idea that you could win money.) After I finish writing, I have to change the words to make the writing much less ugly and dark and sugar coat everything and make it all pretty and white and yellow and soft. To tell the truth, all of the things I’ve written for these contests after I finished middle school were dark and violent in the beginning, and then it was cleaned up and turned all white and snowy. You consider one of your laws of life to be honesty, but do you truly want it?

You want me to write about honesty? Fine then, I’ll write about honesty. This world isn’t sunshine and butterflies, but the raven dark crow with beady eyes and a shifty glare that hunts and eats the butterflies. This world isn’t people suddenly healing from a sickness; this world is the virus that prowls silently, and this world is the people who die from it. This world isn’t the hackneyed stories you play on repeat like a record. Yeah, I get it, you want to see the happy in the sad, but the truth is, you can’t have the happy without the sad. Now that’s honesty. Without the sad, we wouldn’t be able to have the happy because we wouldn’t appreciate it. But hey, if you enjoy the fake, saccharine world, then by all means, be my guest.

You can continue to worship the garish, chirpy drivel you enjoy, really, who am I to judge? You like the decadence and pass up the brilliant for the mediocre. The thing is, if y’all old people can’t deal with the truth, then don’t put honesty on your list. If you have the audacity to only choose the feel-good pieces to win, then the world around you is about to come crashing down, because I’m about to be honest with you. This world isn’t all “toothy grins” and “children who don’t have access to clean water getting water.” The world is violent and the world is dark; this world is children dying from hunger and dehydration, this world is the red of blood and the violence of knives. This world is dark, and this world is rough. This world isn’t the snowy white you pretend it is. I can remember sitting in front of my computer, last year, bawling my eyes out trying to put down on paper what I had been holding inside for years. I’m not sure if any of y’all even bothered to look at my essay, but I was the one who wrote about my sailing team and about being bullied– a lot. The ending that the essay had when I submitted it wasn’t the one I wanted it to have. The original ending doesn’t say that I ever got over that, the original ending is that I hadn’t even healed from anything yet, the scabs haven’t even begun to form. The ending that I turned in was covered in lies and poisoned honey, and I was the only one who found it sickening because nobody else knew. It had been prettied up and changed until it had become almost unrecognizable.

My point isn’t that I’m mad because I didn’t win, my point is that there have been so many awesome essays, all of them better than mine; all with words that flowed like a silver stream, but you chose the ones with the forced vocabulary, the ones that put the cliche in the spotlight. My point is that I lied, and so did many other people, and they all did it to please you. All of these stories with edges like broken glass turned into a stained glass window, a fractured piece of what it was, and you chose the song that’s been played many times before. I guess I’ll leave this essay off the way y’all want me to: they all were happy and everyone had a friend, and no one was lonely or crying alone at night, and everyone fit in perfectly. They all lived happily ever after.