My Courage Always Rises


Artwork by Nastya Dulhïer

By Kamila Izquierdo

June 9th, 2022 at 9:00 P.M. EST.  


        Pounding, excessive thunderous pounding inside my veins. As I drag myself to the front, my heart travels upward my throat, making me choke. When I arrive, I look up, and the turbulent sound piercing my ears goes to static silence. I don’t hear anything, not even my breath. When I look down at my hands, the sweat and the blue ink have mixed, leaving me and the paper with blue stains. My mind goes blank. I remember my inner voice shouting to me, “Despierta! Vámos! DESPIERTA!” I wanted to respond to myself and ask what was happening, but I couldn’t make sense of the moment. For that instance, I couldn’t understand either English or my native Spanish. I felt lost in comprehending anything. At that second, I sank into a blank.

         I grew up moving from country to country, city to city; by seventh grade, I had attended six different schools. I never feared the alteration in the classes’ content, but the social anxiety that changing schools in the middle of the semester brought me. Once I had found my way into my new school, we would have to move again. Still, I consistently exceed in academics. 

          I was first introduced to English in second grade when I arrived in Spain. Back in Cuba, I had never heard of the language before. In Spain, when the kids were in first grade, they were taught the colors and numbers in English. However, arriving later, I learned the pronouns and basic verbs, but I didn’t learn the colors and numbers until ninth grade when I arrived in the United States. 

            In my second week of high school, I had one law-related class in which the teacher would show criminal videos, and we were supposed to take notes, write an essay about it, and then he would call up someone to the front of the class, and we would have to read what we wrote. I was in level one of the E.S.O.L (English to Speakers of Other Languages) program. It was easier for me in the other classes because most teachers were bilingual, but Mr. Garcia didn’t speak Spanish. He called me to the front. 

            Standing there, I tried to read whatever I had written. My nerves blinded me. It was one of those terrifying moments when the mind is so concentrated on surviving, that it fails to save a memory of the instant. All that I remember is that it was awful. I didn’t know how to pronounce the words, and what I had written probably didn’t even make sense. When I think back to that day, all that I see is a blurred picture of blue stains on my hands and a suffocating tornado inside my chest.

             Fast-forward to senior year, I hadn’t just come out of E.S.O.L., but I had been assigned dual enrollment ENC1101. I couldn’t believe it. When the teacher gave us the college books, everyone complained about carrying a book every day, while I was magnified with the text in front of me. I looked at that book every day with immense happiness in my heart. After that, I fell in love with reading and even switched to writing my journal entries in English.

           I remember when I first read this passage from Jane Austen: “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” I’ve never felt other words so deeply in my heart, and that’s fascinating to me. It’s an amazing thing, how words can touch people and make a home inside their minds, where they would be immortal. 

        Because I have learned this language through vulnerable experiences, English is so dear to me. I want to write because writing is moving, healing, and rewarding.

         Every time I read something in English it feels like a pat on my back, especially when I read classic literature. Writing in English feels like an embrace because I have found my voice in a language that once made me tremble. 

        At first, the blue ink was overwhelming; it was a showcase of the terror I was experiencing, but now I have control over it. I used to feel claustrophobic with words, but now I am ready to master them.

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