Inherited Beliefs

by Erin Schallmoser


My dad couldn’t stand to wait at red lights.
I remember driving with him as a kid,
and he’d always take a right turn,
find a back road, an alternate route.
It didn’t matter if the trip ended up lasting longer,
as long as he could stay in perpetual motion.

My dad was in a cult when he was a teenager,
and the people in it made him believe
that he was nothing, that he was bad, that he had to
endlessly earn his spot on the universe,
but they also made him feel like he belonged.

He got out before I was born
but getting out doesn’t mean
you’ve changed what you’ve been taught to believe.

Forced stillness can bring on a terror like nothing else.

My dad didn’t like red lights
or sitting too long in restaurants,
or sitting too long anywhere really,
because they were all stillness,
they were all a chance for him to feel like nothing, again, to feel bad, again.

Right turns and
back roads and
going on walks were
freedom and progression,
a sweet change, a sparkling
chance to believe in his own worthiness:

he didn’t have to do anything to be good,
he didn’t have to do anything to be,
he didn’t have to do anything,
he didn’t have to do,
he didn’t have to.



Erin Schallmoser (she/her) lives in Bellingham, WA, works by day as a naturopathic clinic manager, and delights in moss, slugs, stones, wildflowers, small birds, and the moon, when she can see it. She’s also a poetry/prose editor and staff contributor at The Aurora Journal and is still figuring out Twitter @dialogofadream. You can read more at


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