by Sorita Heng, Age 16, Cambodia
Artwork by Katie King
The fiction prompt of the month for June was “freedom.”
I always pictured my moment of freedom at some place breathtaking—arms raised at the edge of a cliff somewhere, the sky the only thing I could see for miles, with forests and mountains laid out in small specks beneath me.
Turns out, my moment of freedom was instead relished in an ordinary, suburban kitchen where the most breathtaking thing there was to find was a batch of cookies that my mom would sometimes whip up. And the act that led to that surreal sense of freedom was saying one single word.
I remember my parents’ mouths just spluttering in response, like two fish out of water that had no idea air could be so unpleasant. But I said that one dynamite of a word, and I said it again.
“No. No. No. No. No.”
No. I will not go into marketing or do any of the things that you think I should do.
No. I will not conform myself to your expectation and live my life in a planned-out bubble that I had no say in.
No. I will not be afraid to go after what I want and live my dreams to the fullest even if you say they’re impossible.
No. I refuse to be dragged down and chained to a set of safe rules that society has demanded I follow. It is my life. My rules. My say in what I can or can’t do. It’s me in the driver’s seat and no one else.
No. I will have the courage to go after the things in my life the way I want to, not the way I should. I will seize the moments, filled with everything from stupidity to pain—literal pain, most likely—to sorrow, to lip-smacking hilarity, to gravity-resisting happiness. But never regret. Never with the “what if’s.”
I could have said all of that, but I didn’t. “No” was the only thing I needed to say. That one word was enough to break open the walls with which I was confined and set me free to embrace my life the way I wanted to.
Sorita Heng is a 16 year old writer from Cambodia. Sortia says, “I’m just a writer who’s trying to improve her craft and explore the thoughts and feelings in her head as best she can.”