Childhood is a wonderful time. It doesn’t matter whether you live in poverty or instability, you can be happy in your small world. Small things are enough.

I did not have many toys or good clothes during my childhood, but I was happy. Even the war and the sound of explosions did not make my colorful childhood sad. I collected bullet casings from my yard and used them in my games. I made toys from pieces of cotton and wood and played with them.

It never occurred to me that children in another part of the world were playing with modern toys and beautiful dolls. I loved my school and friends. I was a happy and cheerful girl and people could not imagine me without my smiling face.

It was the same until the Taliban occupied our country and my city. They ruled the country with cruelty and violence for many years. Like a thousand other Afghan girls, I lost the right to education. Taliban made me stay at home. I was locked in a home prison for years. I lost most of my close friends who left for other countries.

Slowly I realized that something was breaking and disappearing inside me and that it was my happiness and my smile. I was broken by the violence that had been done to innocent Afghan people. I was a teenager, but I felt that I had lived long enough.

I felt that I was like a flower put inside a closed glass jar and forced to grow. There was no space. Everything was black and white.

Many years passed like this.

No violence lasts forever. Every night has its day. Finally the Taliban’s cruel regime ended. I got back my freedom. I finished school and university.

But something still disturbs me. My cheerfulness did not return completely. I always feel something is empty inside, although I have a smiley face.

That smile that appears on my face is not real.

This is something that I want to try to overcome. I must break that glass jar and grow again.

By Farida

Photo by Diana Haskins