This is my first open mic piece from a few months ago. It was a nervous, exhilarating, and humbling experience. Can’t wait to do more.My family told me to be brave. To know that it’s quite alright o step into the world looking for a beaten path and paving one instead. They told me to explore. Not in the sense of a juvenile scavenger hunt, but more like an aching, craving, “keep asking questions until you know what’s there” kind of way. They told me to go. But it’s not easy to follow your dreams. We are surrounded by drive-by shootings of haters who spit bullets of doubt through the fragile windows of confidence behind which we hold our dreams. And seeing that our security systems of self-belief disavowed us, we look into the mirror just to ask ourselves, “can we really succeed?” But I do not wait for the girl—who I don’t recognize as myself—to respond from this mirror of self-degradation. I have spent too many days in my room too depressed to get dressed and too tired to wake up so I could get down to business. When I was young it was easy to dream. I called it make believe. I would crawl under the table, past my mother’s feet and my father’s knees, patiently laying out my life for the next 30 years never questioning why I couldn’t be Barbie or wondering where was my Ken—Because in those days a good man was easy to find. I always had a house and a job and confidence because if I wanted it I could do it. Right? Now all I can think is why did I ever stop playing make believe? What caused me to think that I was wrong, people are unfair, love doesn’t exist, and tell me, when did the world get so big? Bigger than the dining room table I played under. Real. Realer than the fake money I would count from my cash register—which is what I once aspired to be, back when I was too young to know the difference between a machine and the Machine. One mechanical, one metaphorical. One printing receipts and taking cards, the other signing away life sentences and taking well-oiled dreams, stamping them denied, declined. Voided hope. You see, there is a difference between faith and doubt, and the more I try to separate the opposing sides the more I realize that they are neither enemies nor foes, but sparks. Sparks that cause the other to smolder inside my soul, tearing each half of my heart in different ways, validating my sense of humanity. It is because of doubt that we choose faith. It to rebel against faith that we choose to doubt. The absence of one is the absence of the other, the presence of this is the presence of that. We measure our faith by our friends’ doubts, but in the silence of our rooms we know what we really believe. We may be surrounded on all sides by the voice of doubt, that tireless machine that runs from dream to dream, through the shadows of night and the clouds of the day, letting the air out of the balloon of our hope until we find ourselves no longer high on the prospect of being great, but we can never forget those words that tell us to go. We can never forget that every bullet of doubt can be stopped by the shield of faith. We can never forget that doubt is just a shovel that digs our grave, waiting for the night when our dreams die and fear and time bury our futures goodbye. We can never forget that playing make believe was teaching us to believe in the future we make for ourselves. Sometimes we have to silence our doubt, and just go.