I’ve been thinking about the number eleven a lot the last few days. One through ten, those are common numbers; safe numbers. I don’t know a lot of Spanish or German or French, but I can sure count to ten in those languages. These are the base numbers for a lot of things, but then we get into the weird numbers: eleven, twelve, thirteen… these are strange because they don’t follow a simple rule like four + teen or twenty + six, they’re a little different. Then think of these numbers in years. It too has a strange effect. Ten, for example, is a very important year. It marks a decade, which a pretty big thing, but then there’s eleven. It is only one years difference from ten yet it lacks any importance at first sight. But for me, my eleventh year has been just as influential as the last ten, maybe even more.

Eleven years ago, my world was turned upside down. My body felt an earthquake and my brain was caught in a tornado while my heart stood ice cold. The world moved around me but I was still. Eleven years and one day ago I was seven; eleven years ago I grew up.

Part of me feels like it was yesterday. The irrational confusion hits me like lightening on a sunny day. Sometimes I’m paralyzed with pain and frantically searching for an answer to a silent question. I can’t move for fear that the slightest breath will make the facade of life come tumbling down. This fear controls me, but only for a moment. Just as soon as the lightning hits, the rain starts to fall. The wisdom of the last eleven years is dispersed into each rain drop that helps wash away the burn. Every memory from lessons I’ve learned, challenges I’ve overcome, and tears I’ve wiped away, come flooding into my mind. I remember the strength and support that have helped me conquer the pains of yesterday. I see their faces flash before my eyes and the encouragement helps harden my armor.

Though rigorous and trying, the last eleven years have taught me many things. I have had to face harsh realities and (temporarily) crushed dreams. I have been shone the faces of those who what to see me fail and fall on my face, as well as those who lift me back up. They don’t necessarily say ‘it will be alright,’ but rather ‘you will get through this.’ Because for the last eleven years I have done just that. I’ve gotten through things that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. And because of that, I have achieved so much! I am in a place that I didn’t even think possible eleven years ago. I am doing things I had believed I would never be good enough to do.

I have been stereotyped and pitied, but no more. No longer should people see me as a sorry little girl who lost so much. Now, when they see me, they will see the strongĀ  young woman who has worked for the last eleven years to accomplish the dreams she never knew she had. And the best part, is that I’ve only just begun. The next eleven years are bound to bring troubles and complications, but if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that I can handle it. With the help of the people who have lifted me up thus far, I can face anything. Let the earthquakes come and the tornadoes blow, let the winter chill try and the lightning strike because there I will stand, ready to face whatever tries to challenge me next.