I’m telling my story because small talk makes me want to throttle people. The “how are yous,” the inevitable catch-all “I’m great!,” the “gosh, this weather is weird,” the same conversation I will have for all the years in my life for as long as I live in Georgia, where the weather is always strange.

And it’s really best all around if I don’t throttle people, and instead get some real conversation started around how we are feeling really. I want to know what keeps you up at 3am and I want to know what makes you get up in the morning. On the outside, I seem very put-together–a 17-year-old in college, a budding journalist, someone who is always quiet and composed–so let me dispel those notions right away. I am just like you. And I can tell my story because I am tired of carrying the weight of what I imagine others want from me and expect for me. It’s my story and it’s real and it’s mine and I won’t let anyone take it away from me.

Once, after I spat a poem about a girl I met at the hospital, people bombarded me with “how are you?” (wink wink) and “are you good?” and “I’m here if you want to talk!” Seems innocent enough, but the way they looked at me infuriated me. Couldn’t they see that it was in sharing my story that I found power? That the poem was as much for them as it was for me? If you’re looking for a beautiful story, find a different blog, because this story isn’t beautiful or over, but it is a story that has changed me. I could not be prouder of all that I have survived.

Plus, it’s given me a lot to write about!