dear jelena,

you are as endless as the stars, and i would do anything to make you believe it.

a dead poet used to tell us that the stars in the sky were comprised of our own words, strung together like constellations. you wrote these quiet words on white balloons with Crayola markers, hoping to send them to the moon so that she might kiss the star into past existence. except, you refused to let go of the string bound between your fingers. your balloons hung uselessly in the air as fear held your hand and said, “this is you. you can’t be more than these words.” so you held onto your balloons, along with the hands of fear, who was friends with anxiety, who might have been related to regret. terrible friends. terrible family.

without any hands, you created nothing but words living and echoing in your head. these words grew into your hair: long, dark, three-foot strands of cursive letters that protected you from the fear of not being more than this until they didn’t. the letters were a tangled mess that held you back, hid you behind a wall when you demanded to be more. they weren’t enough. “you weren’t enough,” your balloons said, and so did fear, and anxiety, and regret, terrible friends, terrible family.

you slept on the rooftop every night talking to the moon until a comet came one windy autumn night. the comet poked at your balloons in curiosity before you threatened to kick the comet off the roof.

“have you heard of the literary term ‘kill your darlings’?” the comet asked. they went on, “it’s quite an unusual phenomenon, really. the art of letting go. the death of a lover. the rebirth of a poet.”

“the universe only has so many stars,” you said as fear wrapped another loop of string around your finger. “what if i’m not more than this one? what if it’s all i have?”

“all you have,” the comet mutters to themselves, laughing into the sky. “all you have is an entire, larger, more eccentric universe living inside of your mind, your hands, your heart, your veins, you, you! you exist now, in this single moment.” the comet pushed your hair away from your face at once, looking at you like they were trying to solve the mysteries of your universe.

“why are you afraid of yourself?” the comet asked.

“i’m not,” i decide.

you are as endless as the stars, and i would do anything to make you believe it.

except, i already have.

i exist in this moment, writing this letter to you in the late A.M. hours of a school night. my hair is cut short, happily loose on the headrest, my hands are aching loudly from shaping the ideas in my head into something tangibly unreal, my heart is too big for my chest. i thank my comet every time i look into the sky, every part of it, for filling my heart with an all-encompassing love. i am filled to the brim with flowers and soft, rosy kisses, and i will never be afraid of myself. in the depths of this colorful and odd universe, past all of the dear old books and poetry, past all of the lovely honey bees and environmental research journals, past all of the feminist agendas and DIY rainbow bernie pins, there is a particular endless light that never goes out. through we are endless, we exist in one moment. it is our will to fill that moment with this light, with all of our own stars, with an ever-changing universe. it is OK to let go of the things that hold you back. it is OK to cut your hair. it is OK to make new constellations. and with these stars, i am endlessly creating myself.

i exist i exist i exist,

—By Jelena B., 16, California