Dear readers,

The Jubilee theme was inspired by the variety of events you encounter after surviving deep trauma; the kind of joyous occurrences that follow the hardships you did not think you could survive. At least for me, these moments of bliss make me reflect on how I survived that trauma, how I grew where I believed I was irrevocably fractured. These moments make me celebrate and embrace the process of arriving in that euphoric moment of celebration. Embrace the type of celebration that lives in your chest and makes you brave, makes you hungry to achieve your purpose on this earth. Overall, this is the type of journey I hoped the theme for this issue would highlight. The journey from pain to triumph and from oppression to liberation. 

I experienced my own journey from agony to joy that I believe encapsulates one interpretation of Jubilee. While I have not publicly discussed this journey before, I tell you now dear reader, because I hope this story can be cathartic for you. If you have lived a similar journey, I am here in solidarity with you. If you are grappling with similar struggles, may these words be a small lighthouse for you in the palpable grey that surrounds you. If you have never experienced such a journey, may these words open your heart and help you better support those in your life who have. The stone of grief and loss can be rolled away. You can stand on stage for your graduation, scream the lyrics of your favorite band at one of their shows, stand at the altar on your wedding day. You can accomplish the dreams you believe were lost in the haze of trauma and confusion. You can throw throw your hands in the air in triumph and feel unapologetically alive. 

First, you must overcome the trauma. When I was 19 years old, I was mentally and verbally abused by one of my closest mentors while I lived with him for three months. The subsequent trauma caused by his actions caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, I lived with debilitating triggers, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and night terrors. I failed classes at college. I lived in a constant state of fear and grief as I relived the events of those months. When I approached a college psychiatrist with my story and symptoms, she said that I could not possibly be living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because I never served in a combat zone. Because I believed my situation could not be remedied, I stopped getting help. Course work was interrupted by the symptoms; I stopped turning in assignments and I received failing grades. Then I failed whole classes. I disassociated from friends and teachers who loved me. I stopped going to work and eventually lost a scholarship opportunity. My symptoms and the side effects cause me to take a medical leave of absence from college after having debilitating suicidal ideations.

Then came the journey to the moment of Jubilee. Friends kept me safe when everything was a weapon. They stayed up late which me when I needed them most. My father found me a therapist who acknowledged my struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and knew the proper treatments. I went to appointments and took my meds. My girlfriend went urban exploring with me in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, which grounded me. My dark night of the soul ended when we ventured into those towns that masqueraded by the names of bigger cities. I found who I wanted to live for and write for in the ruins of blast furnaces and abandoned train bridges. 

Fast forward four years, past a ton more revelations and recovery methods, and I stood on a mountain top under a white arch, as my wife walked down the wedding aisle. When I saw her in her dress, my face flushed, tears fell down my cheeks. I saw the scenes of trauma before my eyes and the steps on the journey toward recovery. Having the opportunity to say our vows and exchange rings was my Jubilee moment. In that instant, I felt profoundly connected my wife,  all of our loved ones in attendance, all of our friends, all of whom helped save me life. Joy welled up in my chest, like a great torrent of water, joyously filling a valley after a long and bitter drought. 

Beloved readers, please take a moment and celebrate your journeys. Reflect on your moments of triumph against oppressive systems and unjust laws. Celebrate the communities who loved you, and showed you how to love yourself again when you felt undeserving of love. Celebrate the ways in which you survived, flourished and were redeemed. If you have not reached that moment yet, imagine the ways you will celebrate when you do. I believe in your wild and unstoppable heart. You are seen and loved. I believe in your personhood and the power of your stories. Beloved readers, welcome to our Jubilee issue. I hope these poems ignite your hope and bring you joy. 

Peace be with you always,

Christian Sammartino
Managing Editor & Poetry Editor
L'Éphémère Review