As the teacher called out our names, my jaws clenched as I braced myself.
I could already imagine her pummeling through a parade of Marias and Ellas as she made her way to me.
And like a curtain call, I loosened my lips into a well-practiced smile.
Those three letters became strings that tied me up like a mindless marionette.
"Laugh for us, Joy!"
I was to become the court jester that entertained the demanding damsels.
I'd look in the mirror, and see the painted smile that didn't match the dull, hollow eyes.
So I took it off, that cheap disguise.
They didn't recognize me without it.
Silence replaced the laughter.
But now that I didn't have to smile and laugh, I had more time to take a better look at them.
I once had thought that I was a sunflower seed
mistakenly planted in a bed of roses.
It was the silence that made me realize that we were all wildflowers, no matter what we were called.
We desperately held onto the ground, afraid of being uprooted by swift hands.
So I learned to think of my name as the sun,
and I let its light find me and fill me up.
There were days when I would somehow stand aimlessly like a common weed.
But my name would dawn on me,
and I bloomed like the sun had risen just for me.