Saule Bukauskas, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s1d2

When I was 5 years old, I sailed out to sea on a boogie board. As I sat down on my ship, I was ready to take over the world. Plastic bat in hand I rowed around the beach gleefully, feeling the sea bucking beneath me and the wind running through my salty, wild hair. But soon after, I turned around and I realized how far I’d gotten. The shore was rapidly receding and the strong currents had caught me. Filled with panic I jumped ship and swam back to shore frantically. My first adventure, but definitely not the last.

I was born on an island in Maine, spending eight blissful years on the beach, running through the forest and building fairy houses in the backyard surrounded by chickens and weeds. I skinned knees and played werewolf, danced ballet and demanded I be taught at the same level as the older girls. When I turned eight, my parents had divorced and my mother took my brothers and I to Lithuania. A place where I barely knew the language and spent four years moving from apartment to apartment in a daze. I was enrolled at a music school after singing at an audition, and spent my days memorizing theory and playing the piano. Once a week I got to sing with a private teacher, the thirty minutes I yearned for. The school and culture was extremely strict, and I was critiqued harshly from the moment I arrived there. It was stressed to be quiet, obedient, and hardworking. Children as young as seven years old often left classes in tears from the discipline of their teachers. Unable to communicate as comfortably in a foreign language, I grew reserved and withdrawn. My classmates started to bully me, but the teachers turned a blind eye. This was the culture, ruthlessness. My mother’s mental health began to deteriorate rapidly, and she began to emotionally and verbally abuse my brothers and I. She manipulated and aimed to have as much control over us as possible, particularly me because I was the youngest and only girl. For years I tried to please her however I could, constantly terrified of the slightest wrong word or glance that would set her off screaming and throwing herself against a locked door as I sobbed behind it. Every day I silently prayed for a new mother and a way out of my life.

At 12 years old, I finally returned to Maine. I had been waiting to be back in my home on the island, and I found myself writing songs and making close friends easily. Instead of my mother, this time my brother and I were living with my father. In my eyes he was a hero that could save me from my mother’s terror. But quickly things went bad. My father worked nights and usually wouldn’t even come home, leaving my sixteen year old brother and I alone on the island. At first he would stop by during the day and regularly leave groceries and supplies, but as the year wore on the food started to dry up. Quickly the gas bill went unpaid, leaving my brother and I to shiver in winter coats next to a woodstove and bathe with boiled water from the stove. Our cell phones were shut off, and even the electricity. As I sat in the dark next to a candle, I wept in pure frustration that my own father wouldn’t provide me with basic necessities. But my tears didn’t last long, a plan started to take form.

After two years of living this way, I found myself a way out: the Laguardia School of the Arts in New York City. My plan was to go audition there, get accepted and move to New York to live with my aunt and attend the prestigious school. It was my ticket out. I put every ounce of hope and heart into that dream. I auditioned and didn’t get in. I couldn’t go back to my father, so I moved to New Jersey to live with my grandmother instead. Although I enjoyed the comfort provided to me there, the dull suburbia of New Jersey grated me. I had no one I was very close with and found myself often shut down or shut away in my room.
But something crazy happened. My father and his new wife somehow convinced me to come back. I can’t say exactly how, maybe because I was so desperate for a parental figure and I missed Maine with all my heart. Maybe somehow I believed my father could change, maybe I had hope. So I leapt into complete blindness, trusted the world to take care of me, and consciously knew I was making a mistake. But I wanted to make it. I wanted to make it to show my controlling family that I was going to do what I wanted. That I could make my own life-altering decisions.

And of course it was a mistake. My father and his wife kicked me out in less than six months, and left me on the street. Fortunately I was very close with a family that took me in and adopted me as their “bonus” daughter. I quickly emancipated myself from my parents and stood in court to tell the judge why I was doing it. And in that moment I freed myself forever. I’ll never regret the moment I disobeyed everything, because every disobedience empowered me and nurtured me towards adventure and drive. Now I plan to attend a wonderful college in Spain, study musical theater, and live my dream. Every obstacle I’ve had to face since becoming independent has been extremely challenging, but not quite challenging enough to break me. I’m continuing to learn and grow and disobey every word my toxic parents told me about how I’m not good enough or worthwhile. Because I know I am, and I know I’m going to do great things.
Shared publiclyView activity