Kelly Chashai – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


You are not what happened to you but what you choose to become.

At the age of 13, tragedy struck my world. The sun shone brightly at the ballpark, marking the last game of the season. Excitement filled the air as I eagerly scanned the stands, searching for the familiar faces of my parents. “Where are they?” I wondered. However, the game ended, and I found myself alone on the diamond, waiting. My optimism faded as a police car pulled up, forever altering the course of my life.

I was escorted to my aunt’s house without any clear explanation. Confusion and shock enveloped me during those early moments. Hours passed in a blur, and I suddenly found myself at my home, 13 miles from my aunt’s. The realization struck me as I noticed my pants were damp with cold urine – a physical manifestation of the overwhelming emotional turmoil within.

The funeral that followed was a grand affair, attended by both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Navigating through the sea of condolences was bewildering. Should I sit, stand, cry, run, scream, or laugh? My body and mind were out of sync, leaving me floating above the unfolding scenario. Every sympathetic gaze etched with pity intensified the pain; it was undoubtedly the darkest moment of my life.

People often say that time heals all wounds. In my case, time merely cloaked the wounds with a scab, allowing me to soldier on. The days that followed were a precarious dance with uncertainty. Where would I go? What would become of me? Who would be my family now?

Relocating to a new city, I found myself in the confines of a family not my own. The basement bedroom became my refuge, and periodic visits to the “upstairs family” revealed a world of strange rules, unwritten norms, and complex power dynamics. I documented the intricacies as an observer, eventually channeling my observations into a novel-like ledger. Each day, I crafted happy endings for myself, creating a parallel reality that provided solace and a tether to my identity.

My unconventional pre-13 life, with its nomadic undertones, served as my foundation for survival. The interactions and conversations I absorbed during those formative years prepared me for this life-altering moment. Even as an only child in an adult world, I embraced the nomadic lifestyle as it was my university.

Throughout the tumultuous journey, I held the belief that I only had myself. As a human being, I recognized the beauty in relying solely on our incredible selves to navigate this extraordinary life. In this solitude, I discovered resilience, strength, and the power to overcome even the darkest moments.

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