When I was younger, my father gave me a lock and key.

My lock was small, no larger than the palm of my hand, and I would have protected it with my life. It's potential mesmerized me. Something so tiny could act as the bridge between the truth I accepted and the truth whose existence I failed to consider.

The lock and key espoused a life of its own, and I treated it as such. This lock would be my companion through school, my companion through work; it would lock away research and my curiosity, safe inside a laboratory of my own design. Of the two keys, one would be my own, hidden behind a painting, or perhaps inside a vase, while the other would belong to my future love. I maintained my idealism in romance and in education and carried it at the forefront of my thoughts. The lock now hangs alongside the keys of my lanyard.

When I was younger, my teacher gave me a book.

My book was thin, reaching the minimum page limit to be bound in hardback. I had written it, after the death of my best friend and cat, Sterling, after I had first been confronted with the brevity of life and the finality of death. These concepts were both alien and all-consuming, and I needed to alleviate the inundation of emotion that overwhelmed me. I wrote my thoughts down, transformed them into poems, and compiled them into a book. And when I told my teacher that I wanted to be an author, she found a program to publish it for me. My poems were awful; today, they are my favorite.

My teacher lost her life to disease years later. I wrote her a poem.

When I was younger, I wanted to be an author. And I wanted to be a scientist. And I wanted to be a spy.

I wanted to speak French and Russian, and I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to play my cello in a symphony orchestra and to be a lawyer. So I wrote. And I researched. And I learned how to pick a lock. And I took French and studied Russian and sang and practiced my cello and debated everything with my parents.

And I lost confidence in myself. Because my dad was transgender, and I lost my father. Because neither of my parents attended college, which somehow depreciated my worth. Because I did not believe I was pretty, or I could make valuable contributions to conversations. Because when I was interrupted by a boy, I abruptly muted my enthusiasm to listen.

But I stumbled upon my lock, my "published" book, my passion, and I remembered how my parents had cultivated my determination, and my teachers, and myself. And, in the words of Tim O'Brien, the thing about remembering is, you don't forget.

So when my mother left home and separated from my father, I remembered how much of my character had been defined by my family. When I entered the International Baccalaureate, I remembered the quality of what I had to say, the value of the perspective and the compassion I brought to discourse. When I read Le Petit Prince, I remembered I was once a child, and I will never truly be a grown up.

So I will use my lock to protect my laboratory, and I will hide my key behind a painting. I will speak in alien languages and travel to foreign countries and smile at people as I give them their change for an iced caramel macchiato, extra drizzle.

And I will write, and I will be published.

And I will love, and I will be loved.

I will speak,

and I will be listened to.