This one has been a bit tough for all of us. When our contributors found out what August’s theme would be, most of them said they had to really do some research on the concept before working on it. I, myself, had to Google it several times before creating anything for this issue.
My biggest problem was not really getting much substance out of the definitions I found. It just seemed like a collection of words strung together by thin tape, not a mixture of ideas that married together to create an emotion that I could understand. Google’s definition—the action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil—was not what I was looking for. It was a superficial description; it didn’t make me feel anything. Then I went over to Merriam-Webster, where I found that redemption was the act of making something better or more acceptable. It was a little closer to what I wanted, but still not it. I concluded that if Merriam-Webster couldn’t hit the mark, maybe it wasn’t something to be found on the first page of a Google search.
Then I started thinking about why what I found hadn’t satisfied me. How could I not know what it meant but still know that what I’d found wasn’t right? Maybe redemption was one of those things that you’re born with, something that your heart is prepared for before you’re born so that you come into this world intuitively knowing what it looks like and how to handle it. But, at the same time, you have no clue how to approach it. Kind of like love.
Or, maybe it was that Cynthia proposed the theme of Redemption just a few weeks before I unexpectedly and abruptly came into contact with it. In fact, “contact” isn’t the right word—it felt more like a collision. A very brutal accident.
I can’t explain much about my experience. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want to, or because I don’t know how to, or because it happened only about two weeks ago, but I can’t. Maybe if Merriam-Webster can’t explain what redemption is, then there’s no hope that I’ll be able to.
But, I’m going to try to talk about it in the most concise and vague way I can manage. I love someone, and I hurt that someone. My own pain from the past caused me to bring pain to someone in my present, which made my own pain even more magnified. After I hurt the person I love, there was a three-day period where I held my breath. The someone needed space and time to figure out what to do with the pain I’d brought him, and I was left waiting to learn our fate. It was a completely new and unpleasant way to live, not speaking to him or having any communication with him for what felt more like three months than three days. But at the end, the someone I love realized that we could keep going, that this event was not enough to terminate what we’d built. That’s not the important part, though. What’s important is that, for the first time in my life, I had seriously hurt someone. I caused someone pain and discomfort and those emotions came right back onto me, probably tenfold. During the three days, I spent my time thinking of where I went wrong and what I would’ve done differently. I was desperate for another chance. I was desperate to get back to happier times and to make things better and to—there it is, now I get it—redeem myself.
And it happened. Afterward, I avoided doing things I would regret, making honesty my first priority, and considering all parties involved. Empathy became a virtue, even if I thought I was already a pretty considerate person before. I overcompensated in order to make things right. I didn’t have to, but I did. Redemption.
Those three days were some of the most emotional days of my life; I felt everything in every part of my body, every fiber of my being. It is ironic how you feel most alive at the times when you don’t want to be.
I know that this story may not mean anything to you, since unless you’ve experienced what I’m describing, it all just seems like a collection of words strung together by tape instead of a mixture of ideas married together to create an emotion that you can understand. Still, it’s relevant, because you will remember this letter from the editor when it’s your time to experience redemption.
I’m wondering when your time will come. I’m wondering when, or if, America will ever redeem itself for the thousands of people of color it has unjustly killed. I’m wondering when humans will redeem the act of destroying our environment. I’m wondering when the world will redeem racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and hate. I’m wondering if it will change at all. I don’t know, and it doesn’t seem likely, but if it happens, we will feel it. We will feel it more than we’ve ever felt anything before, just like I did in those three days.
That’s what Jaded’s August issue is trying to do through art, poetry, music, photos, and writing. We’re going to try to help you to feel. It probably won’t be like the real experience, but it will put things into perspective for you to prepare you for it.
At some point, you’ll remember this letter. But you won’t have to, because redemption is something your heart is prepared for before you’re born; you come into this world knowing intuitively what it looks like and how to handle it. Kind of like love.