Words We Hold Close


When I was little, I was very clumsy. I would trip on my untied laces, fall on the gravel outside, or burn myself trying to flip tortillas on the stove. To this day, I am still very clumsy. I still trip and fall, but I don’t burn myself flipping tortillas (as much). But growing up, there was a saying my parents would tell me that never failed to make me feel better. Its English translation goes something like this: “Heal, heal, tail of a frog. If it doesn’t get better today, it will get better tomorrow.” And like magic it was true. Everything suddenly felt better after my parents would say this.

I realize now that this phrase was just a silly little saying my parents would tell me to stop me from crying or freaking out. As silly as it was, it worked. I still hold onto those words and use that saying on myself—not because it magically fixes everything, but because it allows me to see the bright side of things.

Reminiscing on this saying allowed me to think about why I’ve held onto other phrases and words. It’s interesting to think how words alone can shape us as people and how much weight we give words depending on who they come from. A lot of words that I’ve taken with me from home have been for the better. They are phrases and words of encouragement that remind me of family and friends that allow me to feel closer to them despite being away. There are also certain phrases that I hear that I instantly associate with a specific person, most likely because it’s something I’ve heard them say often. With good words and phrases that make us think of people, there also come the bad.

Just because you are holding onto something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Some hurtful words that were said to me as a child still stuck with me. For the longest time, I believed those words and let them define me. It wasn’t until I left that I was able to let go and separate myself from all the people who tried using words to hurt me. Other times, I find myself having to stop listening to certain songs because they bring back memories that I don’t want to remember. Separating yourself from family, friends, or strangers who have nothing nice to say is completely okay. Letting go of certain things that were said to you as a child allows you to start anew and not let those memories have power over you.

Whether it’s a silly phrase that reminds you of friends or a saying that makes you think of your parents, hold onto those words that make you smile. Take back the words that hold power over you and redefine what they make you think of. And if there are words that still hurt you or phrases that are still hard to listen to remember this: If it doesn’t get better today, it will get better tomorrow.

Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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