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On Resilience: Aaron Kurtis Mikkelsen

By Aaron Kurtis Mikkelsen | January 25, 2022

As 2021 — another challenging year, especially for the incarcerated community—  came to a close, we invited students to reflect on the idea of resilience. The below essay was written as part of that series, which was shared as part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign.

You Can Too

by Aaron Kurtis Mikkelsen

I am asked to talk about resilience and what that means to me, but that is almost like describing a color when you haven’t seen it before. Resilience is “to withstand” by definition, but it doesn’t tell the entirety of what it means to “be” resilient. In my lifetime I have experienced many struggles. I may fit the description of the definition of resilience, but from where I stand under lock and key with my past of pain, if I did “withstand” my struggles, why did I continue this legacy of trauma? If resilience is just living scared under your bed sheets, if living is just on the whims of the monster in the closet, did I ever truly live? How does dust withstand under the mortar and pestle, crushed and ground further to be groomed fine powder?

After all I’ve suffered, resilience to me was not bowing my head to live, but now years later to speak out when specters of the past rear their ugly heads.

Now, I am resilient, to withstand those specters when they resurface.

Now, I am resilient, to look those specters in the eye and tell them no.

Now, I am resilient, because I know who I am and I can love me for me.

And you can too.