Isolation
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Hello person on the bus…
I see you every day.
I’m not sure where you are going,
My stop is before yours.
But, every day, we spend ten minutes,
Sitting right across from each other.
The odd thing is we’ve never spoken at all.
Did both our mothers tell us not to talk to strangers?

Hello fellow student.
I sit by you in class.
You take your notes so neatly, I can’t help but doodle.
But every day, we spend 70 minutes,
sitting right beside each other.
It is only strange to me that we’ve never spoken at all?
Are we afraid that others won’t like us?

I want to talk to you…
I don’t mind what about.
The nature of the universe
why my shoes don’t match…
Whether or not you like cheese. I do.
Isolation is a disease.

-Anonymous

The DoorwayComment
Get a Job! Somewhere Else.
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We all know the struggle of looking for a new job. We create a phenomenal resume that highlights all the knowledge we’ve gained, all of our best skills and abilities, all of our accomplishments and the people we know who will back us up on them. We hit the internet confidently searching for the postings that we’re certain were made for us. We find a few that catch our eye. We click for more details, certain we meet all of the criteria they’re looking for and then some. And then we see it:

“Current Police Security and Child Intervention Record Checks with satisfactory results”

Or, worded in an even more anxiety-provoking way:

“Clear Criminal Record Check with Vulnerable Sector search and Intervention Record Check”

This doesn’t bother you? Oh, you don’t have anything on your record? Phew. What a relief. Chances are you’ll apply, get an interview, and blow them away with all that you can contribute to their organization. Congrats! Now get out of my face because I kind of want to throw something at you.

I also have a post-secondary degree, valuable experience in different fields, a great work ethic, desire to learn, and a pretty likeable personality to boot (“toot toot” she says as she pulls on her imaginary horn). But you see, I also have a criminal record. Most of the time I forget about it, it hasn’t stopped me from doing great things and it certainly hasn’t stopped me from being the best I can be at whatever I choose to do. It does however cause me to pause when I’m applying for jobs because even though I know I have the potential to be a valuable asset in an organization, employers sometimes struggle to look past the criminal record and see the person standing before them.

I’ve made it through numerous interviews (with flying colours I might add) and then, at the very end where they’ve basically told me I’ve got the job, they follow up with “of course, we’ll just need you to provide us with a criminal record and vulnerable sector check but I’m sure that’s no issue” (as they wave their hand at me and make the face that says ‘obviously because you seem like such a nice, competent, law-abiding citizen who surely doesn’t make mistakes’).

Pause.

“Well, actually I do have a record…”

Pause again as I watch them try and figure out how to respond to this piece of information that they were clearly not prepared for.

“We really appreciate your honesty. We have a few more interviews to conduct over the next day or two and then we’ll be calling to let you know our decision. It’s been SOOOOO nice to meet you. Thank you for meeting with us!” (Awkward hand shake).

And then I’m ghosted. I never hear from them again and see the job posting again two weeks later. It’s like the job version of a Tinder date gone wrong. RUDE.

Now, my record (which I will not get into) consists of one charge from years ago. I was not incarcerated, I wasn’t even put on probation. I made a mistake, I paid a fine, and now I have less than 20 words typed onto a fancy piece of paper. All of the positive things I have written on paper signed by other important people don’t matter as much as those 20 words. SIDENOTE: If I want a copy of these 20 words outlining my own mistake, I also get to pay the local authorities to give it to me complete with their autograph and everything – isn’t that nice of them?

Individuals who make a mistake and pay the consequences – through fines, probation, incarceration, community service, etc. – or individuals who have made many mistakes and have tried without success to break the cycle for themselves, are constantly having the whole “get a job, contribute to society” lecture crammed down their throats. Sometimes they’re given supports to try and do this, and they actually make significant progress! Maybe they’ve distanced themselves from toxic people in their lives, maybe they’ve attended treatment and put an end to their substance use, maybe they’ve even taken steps to gain education and training to prepare them to enter into the workforce. Whatever progress they’ve made, they know they need to find meaningful work to spend the time that they were otherwise spending on other less-productive things, and they know they need to earn an honest income in order to continue with the positive changes they’ve outlined for themselves (and that are outlined by societal expectations).

The time comes and they find themselves standing in front of potential employers, feeling more confident in their ability to be a part of main stream society than they can ever remember feeling in the past. They’ve created a phenomenal resume, they meet the requirements of the job, they’ve made it through the interview with flying colours, and then they must respond to the request of getting their criminal record check completed and handed in to the employer.

Now, sometimes this is enough to make a person trying to make changes in their life run far and run fast. It might make them weary of applying for another job. It might make them feel like they’ll never be able to escape their past and the only choice going forward is to do what they know how to do to get them through each day. Whether that be stealing, drugs, prostitution, fraud, whatever it was is less scary to them then having to lay every mistake they’ve ever made out on the table for someone to look at and judge whether they are worthy of being given a chance to prove their capabilities to a complete stranger who they hope will pay them for their efforts.

Sometimes though, a person in this situation who is determined to overcome the barriers they knew they may face in their journey will make the choice to be brave and vulnerable. They will choose to be honest and they will lay their mistakes out on the table knowing that this person may use this information to judge whether they are worthy of being given a chance. They will disclose the necessary details and they will explain the steps they have taken to make changes and the steps they plan to continue to take to keep these changes moving in the right direction in hopes that the employer will decide that they are, in fact worthy.

In either situation, what seems to be happening more often than not is that potential employers are unable to see past the mistakes a person has made in the past in order to see the person standing in front of them in that moment, vulnerable, scared, and making an effort and to reach out and ask for a chance.

To my mainstream counterparts, especially those in the position to give chances in the area of employment, I have some suggestions.

1. Why not give a person a chance during the interview process to disclose their past legal involvement and what they’ve done to move forward in their lives. Let’s be honest, the people who have made mistakes and are standing there laying them all out in front of you are the tough ones. These people are the brave ones. These people are the ones who have had to learn the hard way that when mistakes are made it’s how you deal with these mistakes afterward that matter. Instead of turning them down for the job simply because they made a crappy decision in the past and dealt with the consequences, try showing more of an interest in how they handled themselves after making the mistake – that’s often a much better indicator of who a person is than the mistake itself.

2. When asking for references, maybe a person doesn’t have any “legitimate” references to give you. Would you like this person to put down their previous drug dealer so you can ask them about their customer service skills? What about their parole officer so you can ask them about their communication skills? Leave the references for the interview, and have an honest conversation with the potential employee about whether or not they even have the references to give to you at this time in their life. If they’re able to be honest and forthcoming with you about this, maybe you could give them a chance and even be their very first legitimate reference. Talk about giving someone a hand up instead of a hand out, am I right?

3. We as a collective group need to stop telling people that they need to be applying at places like McDonald’s and graciously accepting a position if they’re offered one because “at least you were given a job”. (Seriously no shade being thrown at anyone who is employed at McDonald’s – I know people who love being there and have had many opportunities to move up the corporate ladder and if that’s your thing then you do you my friend!). We tell our 16 year old kids to apply for college when they probably don’t even know what they want for supper let alone what they want career wise. Then we turn to a 43 year old male who has managed to work his way off the streets and out of addiction who, regardless of how or why, has likely lived through and survived experiences we probably can’t ever imagine ourselves having and without a second thought we tell them to settle for working at a fast food restaurant or other minimum wage position and be grateful for the opportunity to do so. Why aren’t we encouraging them to further their education? Why aren’t we supporting them in working towards what they actually want to be doing? Have we even bothered to ask them what they want to be doing? Why aren’t we encouraging each other to be the best we can be and refusing to let each other settle for less than that?

-C.R

The DoorwayComment
My hope in 3 months
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I’d like to share where I think I’ll be in 3 months..  
This last year for me has been an intense year of growth for me.   
December I feel quite heavy.   
I’m not sure why or where it has come from but that simply accumulated from stress of life.   
This month I feel heavy & not sure where my path takes me.   
I know I have to really understand to love myself right now.   
I feel it’s very important.   
I also am dealing with an anxiety that seems to be taking over my life.   
My thoughts for this is, I hope somewhere 
I find the strength to overcome this heaviness  
& if I must sit with it, that I do so somewhere restful & safe.   
I see two outcomes right now…  
Both can be. It’s not that life is so hard for me  
It’s that my mind, thoughts take  
Over my life even in times I think  
I’m strong.  
Feels depressing to see a pattern.  
My hope in 3 months is simply  
I continue in a small or big way  
To grow & that heaviness is  

Maybe just a little less  
Painful, powerful.  
I believe.  

 -T.L. 

The DoorwayComment
Choices
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I have indeed changed. I am not as naive as I used to be, I am more cautious and mellow, and possess a better sense of understanding. I have captured the respect of a majority of people from friends to enemies, just through treating them all fair. I have tried to not let too many things stand in my way through the course of my journeys. I have tried to help as many people out as I can even when others try to ruin it for everybody. I feel like I am an asset to this world. No matter how hard the world or the people try to get me down, I will get back up. Just because I may not pay as much tax as others or perhaps make as much money as most does not mean I am not part of society.

- JK

The DoorwayComment
Reality Gone Bad
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Only through our eyes
Could we understand our cries?
Why we die so young?
Curses on our tongues
No one listens
No one cares
No feelings towards us all despair

Look away, look away
Violence and rage, censored
Too much we frown
World come crashing down
What’s at stake?
For our children’s sake

Can’t someone release me?
I’m getting tired of living so dangerously
I need to be relieved
From the person that I must be
I want to be myself
Not somebody else
Can’t you see where I come from?
What I call home
I can’t keep running
Looking back at my tracks
Watching friend’s die of crack

The snow
How it blows
Up his nose

My best friend john, he’s gone
Had a brush with the reaper
He didn’t see her
In a car that went too far
Coming fast as lightning
I think it’s frightening
Just how fast we can go

Now look at me
And how I need
To look at reality
In a way that you don’t see.

-Anonymous

The DoorwayComment
I See the Better Day
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I See the Better Day

Sitting in the hospital day by day
Wondering how I let myself go astray
Lonely days pass
I go unnoticed
I can’t help the anger
I can’t stay focused
Simply this is the hardest thing I’ve done
Besides thinking of myself as Number One
If I cared for myself I wouldn’t have gotten this way
I learned from this
That’s important to say
Don’t give up so easy
So unbearable
I hate being this way
It’s so unfair ya know
Stringing tears they come in floods
When I think of my family and my “Buds”
I try to read
I try to forget
I try to live without regret
The fear inside me will go away
I will not go away
I’m here to stay
No longer confused
I know my path
Tomorrow is happy and I’ll laugh
I have a pleasant disposition second to none
I will live free and fear no one
Things are brighter and better tomorrow
The thing is I learned
That’s the marrow

- Kim B, 2006

Waiting for the Light
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Depression is sometimes hard to mask, it can take over in so many ways. It affects us differently, it’s hard to wake up and get motivated. Thinking of all the negative things in life, trapped in darkness feeling lost within your sadness. Waiting for the light, waiting to be found, but knowing that only you can save yourself. Looking for the answers and trying to pull yourself back up from the pit of your anguish. The hurt doesn’t always go away, but looking for that light is hope that someday the pain will go away. And you will save yourself!

- Misguided Angel, 2008

The shadow that is there
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The Shadow that is there
With the mask that I did wear
came a man that needed to scare
Violence and hatred was all that was there.
It seemed that nobody cared.

Then came sadness and next to the pain
everything started seeming the same.
I know there was something better than the chains
that held me down from flying again.

Boom it happened, it drove me insane.
A small child smiled and asked em to play.

First there was a battle then a loud crack
that was the end of the stupid mask.
The sun came out and the animals did speak
everybody sang about peace.

- Anonymous, 1996

The mask that I wear is so perfect
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I sit here with a smile on my face, I smile as I breathe in deep, I smile as I close my eyes and I smile all day long; the sky is dark, as freezing winds sweep into my bones, I sit here smiling silently cold and empty; I wait here frozen in time, with my dreams torn apart, my heart encased in a tomb, I smile to mask my true emotions; smile is all I do day in and day out, the mask that I wear is so perfect, one needs to come a lot closer, to see the tears trickling down my eyes; the days are long, the nights longer still, I try to find the light, but find comfort only in the dark; emotions swell inside, walking on a broken path, I look up for the rainbow hoping that one day I will get off this broken path and onto a new one; emotions swell inside, walking on a broken path, I look up for the rainbow hoping that one day I will get off this broken path and onto a new one.

Lorne, 2011

We are the youth of the streets
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We are the youth of the streets
We run wild, we run free,
We wish this didn’t have to be; can’t you see
We walk the sidewalks paved with fear
Our eyes are full of anger and hate, sorrow and pain
We do this again and again
We are the forgotten youth of today
And the future of tomorrow
Please stop this sorrow
We are the lost and the confused
Our families don’t want us and the government doesn’t care
Is this fair- what is right, what is wrong?
Where the hell do we belong?
We are the children of the night
We won’t go down without a fight
No genie in a bottle, no magic carpet
No shoes on my feet, it’s funny that way
You can get used to the tears and the pain

- John S, 1992

January 7th
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Today I sit back and am grateful for where I am today. For me, my New Year starts today because January 7th marks my sobriety date. Today marks 4 years since I have left the haze and confusion that drugs and alcohol were leaving on my mind, body, and life. I like to reflect on where I am today because I made the choice to get and stay clean. I also reflect on where I would be if I hadn't made the choice to leave that life behind...

Living clean has given me the opportunity to succeed in my growing career, to be healthy, and to travel the world. I've accomplished things that never would have been more then a drunken conversation at a kitchen table at 5 AM; because I choose to live sober today. Ideas and ambitions are obtainable, and progress is more then just a dream or an insane thought while I spin in circles.

Addiction is an awful thing that affects not just the person who is trapped in its circular motion of living, but it impacts the people around you. Your loved ones get hurt just like you do, because they watch what you are going through and what you are putting yourself through. Once the addiction is triggered, many people aren't able to climb out of that hole or able to stop using. Stopping seems impossible, I know it did for me. When you want it, and I mean really want to climb out of the darkness, it is possible.

I want to say to any one who is struggling out there right now, it is possible to climb out. It's possible to turn your life around even if it feels like there's no way, I promise you I've been there. Feeling like there is no escape is lonely and terrifying. But you aren't alone, and if you want to reach out, I am here for you anytime.

S.B, 2019

The Doorway Comments
a promise to myself...
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A promise to myself…
I promise to love myself more than ever right now.
I promise to allow myself to feel in a HEALTHY way.
I promise myself I will control my anger.
I promise not to let myself fall back into the hole I just left.
I promise myself I will feel better tomorrow.
I promise myself I will not give up.

-Ashley

The DoorwayComment
What Happened To Christmas?
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How much money have you spent this month?
How about last month?
How much did you spend last December?
Anyone notice what I see?
No more money, it’s all gone.
Rent+food+Christmas=broke
Do you remember when you didn’t have to be rich to hang out with your
Family and stuff your face
And everyone expects presents, don’t they know what Christmas is?
It’s not about new toys or how big and shiny your tree is.
It’s about how much you love your mommy and how much turkey it takes to puke.

- Scrooge

The DoorwayComment
X-mas
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For X-mas I‘d like to see more respect for one another, less poverty, would it hurt for more giving than taking in life, especially at X-mas time. I see more people wanting more, taking more. I thought X-mas time was a time to appreciate loved ones, gather together and laughing, smiles, being grateful for life and family.

Unfortunately X-mas isn’t like that for everyone. Each X-mas time, less do I see families out and about skating, caroling etc. X-mas joy seems like it gets dimmer each year in some shape or form.  More people feel alone around this time of year, more depression within, more stress, the fact people worry about spending money, shopping for gifts, decorations, parking spaces, making everyone happy on that day under the tree.  Santa, it seems like people have forgot the true meaning of X-mas. X-mas is a time to give to others. I’m not talking about materialistic things. X-mas time is a time to stop stressing over jobs etc. It is realistic to make gifts from the heart. Anyone can buy gifts and mail them. If you truly can’t make it to family gatherings then give something from your heart. Take time out and phone on X-mas day and wish a merry X-mas verbally.

The best gifts of all are the smaller things in life. So Santa I’d like you to send this message.  The real true meaning of X-mas. Maybe people need a reminder that X-mas isn’t about the most expensive gift, or the most lights or decorations. It’s about love, peace, joy and most of all laughter. Everyone has at least one person that’s special that would make their X-mas a lot merrier.

Merry X-mas and a happy new year.

Remember the best gifts come from the heart not from your pockets.

-Rebecca

The DoorwayComment
When you Decide
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Time ticks slowly but surely,
 All you can think of
 Is how the tables are going to turn
 And are you on the right side
 This time around.
As you look at everyone around you
 In the same mind state
 And wondering who’s going to pull shady next
 It’s always a fight to watch your back
 N try to find those who got yours…
 Cause in the end
 Really all you can trust is yourself…
As that time ticks by
 You sit there and think
 What am I really doing with my life?
 I deserve better…
 As you see all the plots and schemes
 Going through everyone’s mind
 It’s a dog eat dog world
 You don’t want this…
It disgusts you
 To see your friends be like this
 And not have a care anymore
 And they won’t listen to you
 Because they don’t see what you see yet
 You can’t wait forever for them to realize you decide
So you pick yourself up
 And walk away from everyone and everything
 Looking back once to make sure
 You made the right decision
 And what you see is good people
 Wasting away
 Just a scene of total destruction
 And that’s when you decide
 I’m not going back…

-Anonymous

The DoorwayComment
Stranger
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Passing and lonely
Dark cold of night.
A window becomes the center
Of Stranger’s down casted sight.

This window, though frosted
Is warmed by something almost felt.
The scene that is captured
So warm it caused winter to melt.

Feet are now frozen
Stranger’s stiff and silent.
The colors of a life
Paint a portrait of how love is meant.

This precious moment holds
A stranger this night.
Caught by flames
Of fire and candle lite.

A moment enough to feel warmth 
Through the glass.
As a family shares their life
It seems as though time does not pass.

A fine feed of life
A meal is set.
Expressions of caring
Stranger’s eyes are now wet.

No special occasion
Just togetherness.
Tears now fill the eyes
Of a friend of loneliness.

Mother looks up
Seeing window no longer bare.
Other faces peer out
At the face frozen there.

Poor Stranger, feeling guilty
For intruding and such.
Tries to smile and nod
Hoping not to bother too much.

But a door opens up
Before escape can be made.
As a cloaked figure bids Stranger
Need not be afraid.

“Please come and warm up,
Have something to eat”
“Come inside, I insist,
Please have a seat.”

Hesitation is Stranger’s
Only response to this plea.
How could she be a part of
The scene that they see.

But insistence accompanied 
By the biting cold.
Stranger is speechless
But lo and behold.

Drawn to the fireside
Through the door.
As if destiny would not allow her
To be alone anymore.

So precious the world
When a family is yours.
And more precious a family
What makes a stranger part of theirs.

-Stranger

The Doorway Comment
The Cure for Love-Sickness
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It almost goes without saying that love is the theme we are confronted with more than any other these days. It’s rare to see a movie or hear a song that doesn’t include the theme of love. Romance novels sell by the millions. Television shows constantly portray love relationships. Commercials and ads give us the impression that if we use a certain product, then we, too, can be irresistible to that special person. All in all, the message that comes through the media is that if we are only loved, then we will be happy and life will be perfect. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

However, the real essence of love is very different. There is something more wonderful than being loved. It is loving. In 20th century life, where there is such an emphasis of getting…..getting the right car, getting the right shampoo, getting the right job, etc. We have come to regard love as just another thing to be obtained. However, strange as it may seem, there is even more satisfaction in loving, that is, giving your love to someone else. The essence of love is doing something for another person’s benefit – putting a priority on their welfare. So therefore, it doesn’t have to be romantic at all. To benefit from the act of loving, you do not have to be in love with the other person, you simply have to prize their happiness.

Of course, with something so valuable in life, there are bound to be counterfeits.

We often mistake sex for love, but sex alone cannot bring genuine satisfaction, nor can it hold a relationship together on its own. We occasionally mistake admiration for love, and think that if people would look up to us, then we would feel loved and worthwhile. But this, too, never lasts. Sometimes we try to fool others into believing that we love them only in the hope that they will do something for us. But this is not real love, it is manipulation.

The best way to keep a healthy outlook is to follow St. Valentin’s example: Be Loving. By so doing, you will enjoy others’ happiness and feel worthwhile for contributing to their life. It’s a terrific way to feel good about yourself too. If you don’t believe me, try it. See if it works. I’ll be you won’t be disappointed.

-1989

The DoorwayComment
Freedom
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Overcoming a life of crime has been one of my largest obstacles. Coming up as a problem child with apparent disorders had put me on a crash course at a young age. Between the teachers and doctors hindering my positive growth, it put a strain on my outlook and respect I had for authority. As an only child, I looked anywhere for approval and guidance. Unfortunately as uncontrollable as I was the only people who looked out for me and I looked up to weren’t upstanding law abiding citizens. I’ve paid my dues and done my time. I’m still getting used to functioning in society and I have troubles from time to time, but it’s been three years since I was last incarcerated and I don’t plan on going back for anyone. No amount of money will make me risk my freedom again.

-Harvey Danger

The DoorwayComment
Exhausted by Pain
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 Last year I thought I fell in love. I quit my job and moved away from Calgary to stay with him. The first month was so perfect, he was so charming and kind. It was fantastical, obviously too good to be true, but I fell for it, hard. Even after I found out about his coke addiction, I convinced myself things were still a fairy-tale. It doesn’t take long to pick up a drug habit if your significant other is using. I heard my mother’s voice escape from my memories, I knew what she’d say, and I knew what I should’ve done. When he told me I had to be more careful because the RCMP had an open investigation on him, I should’ve bolted…. But you must understand he had brainwashed me to worship him, lest I get beaten. I ignored every red flag I saw, and I used the drug to numb the pain I felt the first time he hit me. Of course it all comes down the hill here, with me stuck at the bottom curled up on the floor. I remember how his kick felt as it connected with the side of my stomach, and how I stared at the carpet fibers for an hour thinking about how similar we were at that moment. Stuck in one place and constantly stomped on. I really was trapped at this point. He was convinced I was talking to boys on my phone and meeting with them behind his back, so he took my phone. I was only allowed to use it to text my mother and he supervised me, making sure I’d say everything was fine. All my stuff was at his house, and without my own car I couldn’t just leave. Fortunately, my mom is an amazing detective and started hatching a plan with the RCMP. She came to town one day and he let me see her for an hour. She told me she knew about the drugs and suspected more. She gave me a safeword to use on the phone, and that word saved my life. In the last month of hell I discovered a green pill on his bedside table. I asked him about it and he freaked out, refusing to tell me what it was. I eventually found out it was fentanyl. Later that week, we had a huge fight which resulted in him slamming my head against the microwave, throwing me against the corner of the wall, and pushing me onto the couch. He saw the blood before I did, and started apologizing and crying, begging me not to go the hospital. He cleaned me up and gave me a line of fentanyl. That line was one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made. Since that day I constantly crave it, only avoiding it because of the terrible withdrawal I went through when I sent my mother the safeword three weeks later. I sent the safeword because he threw my stuff down the stairs, threatened me with a hammer and used it to destroy both my dressers, and finally threatened me with the shotgun he kept in his room. I ran outside with the phone hoping he wouldn’t shoot me on the street, and sent her the safe word. She had told me that if I texted her the safeword, she would call the cops and bring her truck and the neighbor’s truck to help move me out. Luckily the gun was an empty threat, he hadn’t loaded it. He was packing his valuables and trying to run. About 8 cop cars arrived to corner him in right as he started up his truck. Ever since him, I’ve struggled with my identity and I’ve found it difficult to care about myself. When I’m around people I feel isolated, because I don’t think they understand what I’m going through. I’m trying to act normal and feel confident but it is difficult when the truth is I am exhausted by pain. I will still keep moving, because I have to, and I hope this struggle helps me grow.

-Anonymous

The DoorwayComment
Past and Present
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When I was young
I was free, time was at a standstill.
Erratic behavior and immaturity surrounded me
Inspiration and energy were on my side.
Thoughts sprang to mouth,
Without a moment’s notice.
Others rarely listened.

I am older now.
My inspiration on a leash.
Energetic ideas still remain,
But my mouth now pauses in hesitation before speech,
As though others expect maturity.

I know no longer those carefree days,
The mindless hours spent daydreaming.
Time is now short, things have changed.

People now listen,
Only too closely!
Pressure and fear and failure
Are a constant threat.

Responsibility and decisions are now mine-
And mine alone.
Regrettably, I’m now an adult.

-Kevin, 1994

The DoorwayComment