Deborah
Deborah

“Art is going to make a difference in your life. It’ll save you emotionally, and it may save you physically. I know that because I almost died and I was in a wheelchair and I just sketched and sketched and sketched. If I wasn’t in the car accident, I never would have went to Emmanuel, I never would have become an art teacher. It was my path, and it looked really bad, but I held on. Because there’s a reason. I say that now, because of the situation I’m in right now. When Jack was first diagnosed with dementia, all I thought about was the fact that we weren’t going to retire together and travel. And then I realized, so what? Gotta make lemonade, honey. It’s been a longer process than I thought it would be, but I did it before and I can do it again. That’s what I think about life, and I think I am so incredibly lucky. My mother said we were piss-poor growing up, but I didn’t even realize it. Just because we were fighting over the one pork chop? Once my brother stabbed me with a fork because he wanted the pork chop, and that wasn’t the special needs brother! My mother made giant pans of chicken soup. She put the whole chicken in the pan, and she’d cook it for hours and get all the flavor from the chicken. There wasn’t a lot of chicken in there, but it was yummy, I didn’t know that was a poor person’s chicken soup, I just knew it tasted good. I think life is funny, life is funny. There’s a reason for everything that happens."

Tim
Tim

My daughter Katie studied French and linguistics in school, she’s just graduated. But that’s the surface-level story. Underneath that is both joy and sadness. I’m so happy to have been involved in raising this kid and watching her grow into a wonderful young woman I love being around. But it makes me sad to realize that those moments are so fleeting, and I can’t go back and relive the past. Now that I’m sixty, I’m starting to wonder what the next twenty years of my life will be like, if I even have that much time. It’s happy and sad; that’s the countervailing nature of the human experience. Sometimes I just have to realize that I can only do the best I can with what I have. People move on and have their own lives. I’m missing her, but I’m happy that she’s off being her own person. The thing I love most about humans is our capacity for empathy.”

Alexis
Alexis

“Now that I’m older, I think about the extent to how much my voice matters. I don’t want to be arrested. I’m not interested in marching the streets and being tear-gassed. I honestly think the most revolutionary thing in the world would be for me to feel the freedom to be myself. Without having to think of all these things, to express myself, and do the kinds of things I see the straight white guys around me doing with impunity.

In terms of how messages and images impact people, I struggle with understanding the full extent of how I’ve been affected by them. And how others in society have been affected; how stereotypes ghoul their perceptions of other people, their perceptions of themselves. It’s scary how much social messages can affect our treatment of each other and ourselves.”

Thomas
Thomas

When I look back on my life, one of my happiest memories was when my father married my step-mother Eunice. My mother passed when I was five years old, and my father wanted me to have a mother. Eunice told me, I’m not your mother, and I’m not going to take anything away from your mother, but I love you and I’m going to take care of you. And she did. I got married and left her at home, and I wish I’d done more for her before she passed. The other happiest thing is my wife. She’s…well, she’s an amazing lady. She’s been working at the same job for forty years, and every morning she wakes up at four o’clock. She had three kids, five granddaughters, and she’s got me. She’s an amazing person. I also like to have time to myself, to hear myself. I listen to music a lot, I really love music. My favorite group is The Temptations. They took me through a lot of times, like being an only child. I got picked on a lot, I got jumped on a lot, and that’s why I left school. At that time, my uncles and my father had gone through WWII and they were tough guys, manly men. I couldn’t explain what was going on to anybody. When they asked my why I didn’t go to school, I would just say I don’t know, I just didn’t go.”

Jhanara
Jhanara

It came like an epiphany, an instant thing. I don’t know when or where I was. I was at my lowest, and then I just jumped out the fucking hole. I guess sometimes, like they say, a person can’t really stand on their own two feet until they know how to fall. I feel like I’m in a better place now, but I want to try and go back to college. I don’t know what I want to do anymore, because I want a career, I want to be set in life, but I can’t be happy if that takes me away from my daughter. I’ll work as a clerk at Stop & Shop my whole life to make sure she’s fine, and then hopefully she won’t have to live like how I’m living. I’ve gotta make her better than I am. I just love her. People will always ask, what’s it like, being a mom? I don’t even feel like a mom. She’s just my soul mate. That is me, walking outside of my body. I don’t know how else to explain it. I’m not the perfect mom, but I just don’t want her to get her heart broken. I hope that she is stronger than I was and doesn’t believe anybody. I want her to be one of those girls that are so focused on school, sports and hobbies that she doesn’t have time for people trying to take advantage of her.”

Matthew
Matthew

Now, I celebrate a year and three weeks sober. I’m still doing good, still thinking positive, I’m doing so many things I never thought I would do. My mind was stuck in the streets. I’m also working with the Coalition for the Homeless, working with recovery centers, I’m training to be a recovery coach, I’m trying to do everything I can to help people. When I was out there, I needed the help, and people reached out to me. So it’s only right that I do the same, give back. I want to become a recovery coach and go into the ER, giving people direction, showing them where they can go. I want to be a counselor, I want to be a licensed chemical dependency professional. My ultimate goal is having my own office, having plaques on the wall, having my kid’s pictures, wearing office attire, and have people come to me when they need help. That’s my ultimate goal. So everything I’m doing now is a stepping stone to me accomplishing those goals.”

Marc
Marc

I went to prison for young people, a juvenile detention center, until I was seventeen years old. After that, my parents came to see me in this office with security guards and everything. And my father told me then that he was not my real father. He was crying, my mom was crying, I was trying to act like I didn’t care. I was emotionally fucked up back then, I wasn’t expressing my emotions. So I blocked the tears and said it was okay, it was fine. Then on my eighteenth birthday, my parents told me that they wouldn’t take me back in their house. So I was on the street the day I turned eighteen, with my bags. I was full of rage, how do you say this in English, angry all the time? In French, we say ressentiment. It feels like you’re always mad. I was full of fear, I was full of shame, bad thoughts and negativity. So I went back to therapy a third time. I started Alcoholics Anonymous. I became more spiritual. All my life, I was just thinking about myself, I was egotistical. Now I care about others, and that’s what helped me. I had been so affected by the trauma I experienced that my mind was diseased and I was so selfish. I accepted that one day. It took ten years for me to tell someone that I was raped. Ten years. Which was six months ago, I was sitting in therapy and I finally said it out loud. I’m thirty years old. After that, I forgave everyone. And I forgave myself. I love talking to people and helping people. I became a counselor three months ago. I’ve helped six people so far in the program. It cures me of my selfishness to talk to others. After I have conversations with these people, I float. I’m so happy. It makes me feel good. I feel good about myself now—I don’t drink, I don’t smoke weed, I don’t do drugs. I’m vegan. I go to raves and concerts sober, and I have more fun. It doesn’t bother me if someone smokes weed in front of me, because I make the conscious choice not to. I’ve found strength within myself and I’m at peace with who I’ve been and who I am.”

Cory
Cory

“Every human and animal and plant deserves to have the life and respect that it needs. Every day I say the same thing. I have to keep remembering these truths because society wants us to forget. They want to distract us, keep us unhappy, keep us working to live and to buy things to make us happier. We all suffer from neglect in some way or another, because that’s what keeps this system running. In order to be a part of the game, you have to forget about certain things that humans need. Compassion, understanding, appreciation, equality. You get caught up, anxious, you have to keep busy. We’re taught to neglect love and loved ones and the people who truly make life worth living. Mentors, leaders, family, cast them aside to chase fame and “individuality” at any cost. Neglect began when we started attaching value to things. Instead of just appreciating everything, we started putting different costs and labels on them. Classifying things as better and worse. Classifying people as better and worse. All humans need to be given attention and appreciation and love because we are all valuable.”

Andrea
Andrea

I love literature because it makes me recognize parts of myself that I don’t know yet, that I’m not fully familiar with. I read about these times that happened before me in places I’ve never been but they resonate with me, I can relate to them. It makes me feel as though I’ve lived for a really long time. It’s incredible that these writers lived 200 years ago, all around the world, yet what they say is exactly what I’m feeling. That’s what literature does, it goes beyond time and space and brings you into the mind and soul of another human being. If you’re the kind of person who has always felt a little like an outsider, it’s such an amazing feeling. It affirms how you feel, it’s like you’re being understood by a person whose life couldn’t be more different than yours. Life is great but it’s so much better with love. I have all these great experiences now but no one to share them with. There’s pressure in society to not give a shit. But I don’t know anyone who doesn’t give a shit. Everybody wants to be loved, to have love.”

Reda
Reda

“I am Muslim, I have faith. After 9/11, Islam was suddenly viewed as a bad religion. People just don’t know what Islam really is. For me, what really matters is not following all the rules of the religion. I don’t believe women should wear certain things or that homosexuality is bad. People should be able to do what they want, people are just born the way they are! The rules I follow are don’t steal, don’t lie to people, don’t kill people, that sort of thing. I need faith. If I lose my parents, I need something to help me believe I will see them again someday. And I need something to remind me all the time that I can be as great as I want to be, but I will always be nothing compared to the entire universe. I believe there’s something greater. I believe that the big bang occurred, but I think something caused it, this is how I perceive things. For me, there’s no way all this came from nothing. I believe there’s something or someone, and it is far greater than me and what I know. When I do something really great that I’m proud of, I’m happy with myself but I acknowledge that other people and other factors helped me achieve it.”

Kathy
Kathy

The think that the reason I like rugby so much is because it challenges societal expectations of women, and I like not fitting into whatever mold you think I should fit into. As a child, I had sexual abuse in my background. That’s one of the things that drove me to find my power, and wanting to help young women find their power. I’d like to work with young women who have been abused in that way and introduce them to rugby. Because they’re angry. And I know because I was angry and I used sports as my outlet, because what am I gonna do, punch a wall? I turned out to be an okay person. So I’m living proof that you can be okay, you can come through it, you can use part of it to fuel yourself, to get forward, to help yourself get stronger or to help others. Or you can constantly be at the expense of it. And I decided that I was not going to be at the expense of my memories my whole life. Obviously people get care and everything but sports is something that’s so transforming for me. Even just having a little bit of success with throwing a ball if you’ve never thrown a ball in your life. A lot of abuse victims experience the feeling that they’re stupid. I want to help someone get through that. I want to show you that you can be more than what you are and what you think of yourself and what you’ve been told about yourself, you can be way more than that. I want to be a person that can show you that.”

Christine
Christine

“My daughter had moved down to North Carolina with her boyfriend, and I hadn’t seen her for seven months so my other daughters and I drove down to visit her for Thanksgiving. We got there early Thursday morning and had a nice Thanksgiving Day. We went to the movies to see that movie with Denzel Washington that had just come out, Non-Stop or something like that. We saw that and had a happy time. We were so happy. That Saturday, we planned to drive to South Carolina to go to Myrtle Beach and some outlet stores. And my daughter says I can’t go, I have to pick up Keith from work. But we only live twenty minutes away, so I’ll stay home and pick him up and then we’ll meet you there. So I said okay, and we all got in the car to leave. She came to the car and hugged us and said I love you Mom, she told her two sisters that she loved them, and that was the last thing we ever heard from her. As she was going to pick up her boyfriend from work, they said she was speeding around a curb, and her car went out of control. She went across the highway into a cornfield and her car hit a gas line. Her seatbelt was broken so she didn’t even have a seatbelt on. She was ejected out of the car and broke her neck, she died instantly. But it was a blessing in a sense because they told me if she had stayed in that car, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize her. All twisted and bent. That’s the thing that helped me through it. It was a blessing that we got to spend that time with her before she died. We’ve all got a time to go.”

Anonymous
Anonymous

"The woman I aided for four years, I cried when she died. By the end of her life I was working as a buyer for the company full-time, but I told her I would come every Saturday for nothing, I’ll come and give you a whole bath and I’ll do your hair. So every Saturday I would see her. I loved her, you know, like a mother. And one Friday the son called me and told me she had died. By the end she was pretty bad and I knew she was dying, because she had lung cancer, but she didn’t want to go to the hospital. I loved her.

My family knows about the sexual abuse. But unless you lived with the experience, you don’t know the impact it has on a person. That’s why I was fortunate for my first boyfriend. He always had a good thing to say about everyone, no matter who they were or how old. He was a good person. Everybody loved him. A rare good guy and he was only fifteen. He was talking about becoming a doctor, delivering our baby into the world on a sailboat someday. I was fortunate to have him in my life. That’s one thing I would like to tell him today. I’m so fortunate. I want to write him a letter and let him know that this quality, I hope he still has it, it was so beautiful. All the little things he would do just to cheer somebody up…he would think of me before he would think of himself. And he was taking care of everybody. I want to tell him that. Because I don’t think anyone ever has.”

Javier
Javier

“We ended up living in a shelter in North Carolina for a couple years. That was a cool experience; I really liked it. It was a shelter but it was nice. The room was small, my mom and my brother and me all fit in one room the size of a single dorm room. That was kinda rough, but it was fun because the shelter had events and there were different kinds of people living there. For Thanksgiving we had jambalaya because one lady was from New Orleans and she made it, and my mom made tacos. There was all this food on the table in the huge dining room area for everyone. We didn’t have any turkey, but we had some Indian food I don’t know how to pronounce. In the shelter, we had these chores we had to do. It was fifteen hours a week of chores. My mom would do it for me in addition to her own work so that I could focus on school. She would have to do her fifteen hours, she’d have to do my fifteen hours, and she also had to work at Food Lion. So she’d come back from her job and she had thirty hours a week of chores. She would lie and say I did them, but we both knew she did them for me so I could work on school. I had this huge pressure on me—more appreciation, really. I had to do well, I had to. It was good that I had that experience.”

Liat
Liat

I’m open about mental health. I think most of society is not healthy, most people are not balanced. Including myself. I think people are disconnected from a lot of things. We’ve constructed these ideas and values for people to go after, but they’re not necessarily what they need. There’s a difference between what you want and what you need, and I think we’ve created unhealthy expectations. There’s a nice saying, “the hardest thing is to live; most people simply exist.” I think it’s true. People should make sure they like what they do. I think a lot of people are doing things they don’t enjoy. We’re programmed to do things to get the money, you’ve got the money okay now buy this car, buy this house. Yes, people choose to do that. Nobody holds a gun to their head and tells them they have to buy a certain car. But people do feel pressured, even if they’re not fully aware of it. I check in, I have a therapist. It’s not for everyone but it’s my way of helping myself realize who I am and what I need. It helps me get to a purer state, along with kickboxing. It’s different for everyone, whether you’re a dancer or an artist or a writer or whatever, we all use a medium to help us recenter. Reflecting and questioning is important, even if I never come up with the answers. I try to figure out what I need, which is hard."

Lisa
Lisa

I don’t like to follow the norm. It’s nice to live in a multicultural area and not have the stress of pushing your kids at what you think that they should do. I don’t conform to different preconceived ideas of raising a family. I raise my family in a healthy was but I give them a lot of freedom to do what they want. Because I felt like I didn’t do a lot when I was younger, outside of art school and going on a few trips with my parents. I feel like I’m making up for lost time now. I just don’t like to have people advising or judging or telling me what to do. I don’t feel like I can carry on with people’s idea of the type of person they think I am.

You can’t play it safe all the time. There are disadvantages to that. Everyone is always going to have a criticism or judgement of me, even people that care and love me. I’ve always tried to please other people. I was that way earlier in my life and it was just terrible, because I don’t want to live with regrets or miss opportunities. You have to go for what you want to do, even when it’s against the norm. Even when it’s against what everyone else says you should be doing.”

Raees
Raees

I feel like I’m no longer on the path I grew up following. My family is very conservative. I was raised a Muslim and I am still a Muslim and I pray every day and I believe there’s someone up there, but I think at times I feel that other religions also speak the truth. Which one has more truth, I don’t know, but I’m quite happy being open to studying other religions. I respect you, and I respect everybody else. I absolutely love Buddhism. So I would say I’m a Muslim Buddhist. I don’t know if there is such a thing, but that’s what I am. I just wish more people traveled, I just wish people from different religions and different backgrounds sat together and talked to each other because deep down we all want the same thing. But for some reason people are segregated and they stay that way because they never interact. For the past twelve years, Muslims have been looked at as if all of them are terrorists. Yes, there are some stupid idiots, but I’ve never met a Muslim who thinks violence is the right thing. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all say similar things; you have to love our brothers and sisters, you have to take care of your neighbors…And if you’re taking care of your neighbors, well, your neighbors could be anybody. They could be Muslim or Christian, doesn’t matter. So we’re all the same, we all have to take care of each other. We’re all brothers and sisters, I think. I travel because I know wherever I go there will always be nice people. And I always end up meeting nice people because I’m expecting that. If you look for good things, you’ll get good things.”

Achut (& Aaron)
Achut (& Aaron)

“I’m in seventh grade. When I graduate I want to go to a charter school. I want to go back to Nepal after I finish my education. I will take my family back. My mom doesn’t have a job here, only my father works. He works in a laundromat. He works long hours. He leaves at 1pm and comes back at 1am or 2am. He was driving a truck in India when we were in the refugee camp. He couldn’t live with us because he had to find a job and make money, but my mom lived in the camp with us. The Nepalese refugees in the camps couldn’t work, the Nepalese government prohibits them.

When I grow up I want to be a doctor because I care about other people and I want to help other people. I miss my friends in Nepal. We played outside, we went to the river to swim. The river was very cold. I only hang out with my friends in school here, we don’t play outside of school. We have ten minutes for recess.”

Erica
Erica

Instead of trying to change the world, I’ve decided that changing myself is a big job, and I’m sticking to that one. The ripple effect is big. When I heal myself I can see how it affects the people around me. It’s all about choices. I guess all I really want to say that if you’re hurting, if you’re in a bad place, if it just doesn’t feel right, do something about it. We live in a society with so much information available for us to heal, whether it’s emotional, psychological, spiritual health, I feel like we’re in an abundant world of healing now. We just have to take that first step and experiment with different methods. I think we’re all wounded. What I’ve really realized in the past couple of years, especially because I have a history in political activism, everyone has a responsibility to heal themselves. We all just need to stop projecting our hurt, our pain, our suffering onto everyone else. Conflicts, wars, divorces...there’s so much internal suffering that we don’t express in a constructive way. We end up walking around bitter, projecting fear and mistrust and whatever it is that destroyed us from the beginning. I only have one life, and I’ve just grabbed onto it, and I’m going to enjoy it until the very end.”

Jemima
Jemima

"When I came to Canada, I was thirteen. Growing up in Haiti…let’s just say that it’s a part of my life that I could never and would never change. I think it’s great to learn about what poor countries are really like, because the media doesn’t accurately portray how people live there. It’s important to witness and experience how people in these countries live. I consider myself a blessed girl, because I always saw people who could not go to school, could not even eat, and I could do those things. In Haiti, I learned to never take anything for granted. I write songs and poems, and I perform them both. I love art, and everything I do I try to put passion into it. It’s important for me to put my heart into everything. Everybody can write, you know? I think that putting your heart fully into whatever it is you do is the best thing you can do for yourself. When I was introduced to slam poetry, I decided to write, really write about what I saw around me and noticed about the world I live in. I write about problems in society, poor countries, residential segregation, things that people might see but don’t really notice or think about. A lot of problems are seen as the natural order of things, but they’re not natural. When I write slam poetry, I don’t really write about anything specifically. I just think of how people around the world in different situations feel. I put myself in their skin and write, imagining what their story is and what they feel. When I write, I try to think beyond myself and use writing as a way to understand other people from different backgrounds and experiences. It helps me see the bigger picture.”

Robert
Robert

Eighteen years old, fresh out of high school, I was at the top of my physical form and I thought I was extremely healthy. No one expected me to get sick, my family and friends were all just so happy I was going to college. I was very excited to be at Brown—I bought a bike, I got into the Jabberwocks accapella group, I did all those things a new college student does. I was ready to start my life. I started having really bad back pain, and I had no idea why. I thought I had sprained my back or something. So after suffering through that for about four days, I finally ended up in the hospital. By that time I was screaming in pain, so they put me in the emergency room. After three days of blood tests and painkillers, the doctors told me that my blood levels were off, and that they thought I had leukemia. At this point I didn’t really hear what they said; I thought I had misheard them. All these things you take for granted start being stripped from you. Things like being able to taste, being able walk on your own, being able to stay awake throughout the day, being in a good mood, even being able to smile. I learned so much from my experience, all positive lessons. I know now that every single day is a gift. The size of the gift is influenced by what you make of your day, if that makes sense. You can wake up and think I have so much work to do today, it’ll be awful, I’m going to lay in bed as long as I can, or you can tell yourself that each day is a great opportunity to learn something. The past year helped me truly understand the situations of others and taught me how I can help them using the knowledge of my own experience.”

Dennis
Dennis

I think I came to realize that the self you’re trying to create can be anything. Am I goth, am I emo, am I whatever label I wouldn’t even know because I’m old…who you choose to be is not who you ultimately spiritually and fundamentally are, it’s just what you’re being. So the real question is, what script are you reading from? And realize that no matter how long you read from that script, you always have the option at any given moment to put the script down and pick up a new one. So as far as the question you asked about defining myself, I think that fundamentally whatever the sentient being is that I am, I was at the moment of conception and I will be at the moment of my death. Who I present myself as, as a man walking around in the world, it’s really a combination of things. It’s how willing I am to submit to the path that I am fundamentally on, and/or what script I choose to read from in my daily existence. And that is compounded by the fact that I have a three-year-old son who was born with dwarfism, who is going to be a little man in a world full of men. It’s imperative for me to be a good dad and show my son how to be a real man, which means humility—which is hard. And it means that I don’t have the luxury of continuing to be an idiot for the rest of my life. I am in a position where I have to man up, which in my case doesn’t mean being super macho, it means the opposite. It means being willing to be wrong, being willing to be sensitive, and walking a respectable path.”

Dolapo
Dolapo

Music is therapy to me. There’s some kind of biological reaction when humans listen to music. When I started writing, I was able to get things off my chest and onto the paper. But music alone, just instrumentals, soothes everything. I wake up to music. I’ll go shower and play music in the shower, I’ll go back to my room and listen to music while I get dressed, do some work with music playing…I read books and listen to music. I’ll go outside and I like walking if I can listen to music. Then I’ll come back to my room, do more work while listening to music. I go to sleep with it. So I don’t know what it would be like to not have music. It would be like not being able to walk. To me, music is the strongest vessel for knowledge, especially for the most important group of people in the world—the youth. We’re our future. And we listen to music every single day. Music has an incredible amount of power, and that’s what you realize when you’re performing and every single person knows your lyrics. All those people…they pressed play and that song will be in their head forever now. If the song is powerful enough, it will be there forever. That’s the power of music, and the power of words.”

Piero
Piero

My dad is a musician, and my mom was an art dealer. They were trying to tell us kids to go into non-creative jobs, but my sister ended up graduating with a degree in Fashion Design, I want to be an artist and my brother wants to be a musician. My father traveled a lot when he was younger. He traveled for work and for fun he has so many stories that after hearing a bunch of them, you start to feel like you've been there or even lived some of it. I've always had the love to travel, and I've made myself a promise to travel the world before I’m 25 with my friends who also want to go. One friend said he wants to travel because you get to learn all the different ways people live their lives. After I heard that, I wanted to travel even more.”

Mike
Mike

“Besides teaching kids how to work with each other, how to depend on each other, I think the way a team sport builds interconnectedness is why sports are important to me. How people can develop great relationships because they played a sport together…concentrating on the team rather than just yourself, doing your part. If you do your part, and everyone else does their part, then everyone succeeds. You don’t elevate one person over another. You win together and you lose together. And that’s missing from society, there’s too much emphasis on individuals. I think in some cases, people forsake what they should do for self-preservation. If you look at that world, you can see how people are just out for themselves, and it’s sad. People don’t know how to give themselves, how to love…they don’t know what it means to sacrifice. To give something up to help someone else. If you put yourself off on an island, you never experience that, and that’s why sports are so important to me. What makes life worth living? Having the love and respect of my sons and my wife, being able to do the things I want to do and not be a burden to anybody, being able to go where I want to go and do what I want to do, and just not get in anybody’s way. ”

Anneliese
Anneliese

“I went to Toronto and I got into the journalism program of my dreams. It was so unbelievable. But then I started modeling, and I got really vain. When I went into the industry, people claimed that there were no eating disorders, no cocaine, none of that, but it’s such bullshit. Completely. I remember the first time I went to a shoot, they actually rescheduled the shoot and told me that the next time I had to show up with a twenty-four inch waist. The industry was so bad for me, so superficial, and I became extremely dependent on drugs and other people. I had a boyfriend at the time, he was a DJ, and he was really into drugs too. I had lots of money from my family, and then he had lots of money from DJing, and I was also getting money by modeling…so it was this vicious cycle. I wasn’t healing myself, drugs were only a band-aid solution. So I went through a horrible period of my life for a year and a half, I was this person that I’m so happy I’m not anymore.”

Yahya
Yahya

In 2003, because of the war, we went to Jordan for three months because we knew something big was going to happen. We watched it all live on T.V. Our home was across the river from the Green Zone, where the bombs were targeted, so it was too dangerous for us to live there. We were happy and sad at the same time that we moved to Jordan, because we escaped torture and war and the government, but we were sad because it was our country. When I went back, it was disgusting, messy and dirty. Even the mentality of the people had changed. I don’t care about money, if I have money or not. Knowledge is far more important and powerful. You never get bored of knowledge. People say that it’s hard to gain money, but I disagree. It’s hard to spend money. It’s hard to decide what to place monetary value on. We are spending money on things we don’t need for the rest of our lives. It’s hard to know where to spend it or how to spend it. Knowledge, you continue to gain, it takes you higher and higher. You make money to spend it, and then you have to make more. I believe in God. Knowledge is the most important thing given from God. We have to know things, not just pretend that we know. People pretend that they know everything, which is why they keep arguing and refuse to learn anything from each other or admit that they could learn something new.

Hassan
Hassan

If I were to truly define who I am, it wouldn’t be a definition. Once you find out the true nature of who you are, you can’t call yourself any one particular thing because that’s bottling up a force that you can’t bottle up into one single definition. It’s something that’s so vast and powerful that you can’t call it one specific thing. But as far as a title for myself, I would just say: spirit. In physical form. And that would be it. A spirit has no limitations on what it wants to do. I don’t think of the future as years away, the future can be ten seconds from now. I just have to live now, understand what it is I’m focusing on, which is being my true self. I used to say stuff like I wanna be this, I wanna be that…I want to be more than that. I am more than one thing. Because once you know who you are, you know not what you want but what you’re supposed to be. Its not about wanting things, it’s about being things. We’re human beings.”