Life Gets Better
Or No, It Doesn’t
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
There’s this song by Booth and the Bad Angel called Life Gets Better. It goes something like this, “Made it at school in the middle class. Something to show for all my parents’ money. What have you left to say? Life’s too good. Don’t talk that way. I tell you life’s not fair. Ah, but life gets better. Life gets bitter. Life gets better. Life gets bitter…”
I graduated Monroe-Woodbury in 1996. I barely remembered my senior year. I was gone, destroyed by the turmoil of my life. There was no peace for me, and the bullies ate me alive. My parents and I waged war. My grandmother was the only one that cared, and she knew that I was dying, broken. She saved my life, but that would not come for at least, another year. I wished I was dead because I was far from alive.
I couldn’t care less if I graduated. I failed Gym the year before, and my father threatened to ground me forever, if I did not take two Gym classes in my senior year, which I did. There were days, where I did not ride the bus, spared from the onslaught that slayed me for years. The turmoil continued, and a sea of students shoved me out of the way, angered that I had still survived. But I didn’t.
The only sanctuary for me during this time was my bedroom. I would slam the door closed, lock it, and throw open my notebook. I would bury my soul in the darkest of poetry. I would dive deep into the heart of my imagination. I would curl up in bed and escape into a Stephen King book. This was the only peace that I knew, and when I spoke of the future, of writing as a career, those dreams were torn down.
My father did not see a future for me. There was no talk of going to a four-year college, not with my grades. There was no mention of going to community college. No, the best future for me was to marry Dave and become his housewife. My mother agreed. Don’t I get a say? What if I said, “This was bullshit?” They didn’t care.
On graduation day, I stood with my peers, my fellow students. My hat refused to stay on my head. I fumbled with it all through the service as my peers, my students snickered. I would not miss them, and they would not miss me. Toward the end, I just gave up, holding my hat in hand. At least, I didn’t trip on the stage when I got my diploma, and I got an apology from one of my tormentors, a manager at the fast food restaurant I was forced to work at during my senior year. Still, it meant nothing. I didn’t care. I just wanted to disappear. I should have gone with my grandmother then, but I made the wrong decision to stay, a decision that I will always regret. There was no place for me home.
They say that life gets better. My life did not get better until the end of 1997. My grandmother’s dying wish brought me to Seaford to live with my grandfather, and I got a second chance. I just would make the same mistakes, let the wrong people back into my life, and fall apart all over again. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t break, and I was too blind to see the error of my ways. And it was a downward spiral straight through 2001.
I returned home for good in 2004. My relationship with my parents was better, stronger. My oldest brother was not the bully that I remembered. I had friends, friends that lived out on Long Island, which I would often visit. I was writing again, and nobody could take those dreams away from me. I lost myself because I allowed those dreams to be taken away, I believed what my father had said, and he said, “Writing was not realistic.” I listened, and in listening, I became nothing more than a black hole. But I know who I am now. I am a writer, a poet, a dreamer, a human being, and all those tormentors from my school years may have succeeded in annihilating my spirit. But my soul is so much stronger now, and I know who I am. So, does life get better, or does life get bitter? Life gets better, but it’s not easy. You have to fight for it, overcome the challenges that will fall in your way, making you detour onto another path, and you have to accept change. The one thing that I have learned? If you want life to get better, to stay better, then make the right decisions, and don’t let the monsters tear you down.