"...5! 4! 3! 2! 1! Happy New Year!" the whole crowd of New York shouts inside my tv. The ball drops and I turn off my tv. Every year starts the same and ends the same. Nothing ever changes. It’s just all a big disappointment. My phone rings and I pick it up. "Hey, Carter. Happy New Year!" "Hey, mom." "I was thinking, honey. Maybe it's time for a change. Maybe you can..." Here we go again. My mom always butting into everything I do in life. Always trying to help in some way. Always telling me I should get a job, start a family, always telling me to move back in with her and her new husband, Stephen. I shut her out, this time, and hang up the phone. My phone starts dinging. It's my mom blowing up my phone with text messages. This lady can never leave me alone. I look at the texts. Mom: "Carter, I know it's been a hard couple of years. Especially with the whole...you know, but I'm not gonna make it worse. Honey, please listen. I think you should go to a new therapist or another group". As many times I dropped out of these therapy groups you would think she’d quit trying to look for another to put me into. Another text pops up. "I already made you an appointment. Just go, please. If you don't like this one, then you don't have to keep going, promise. I attached the address below and the number of the group. ~Love, Mom". The next day, I walk up to a tall brick building. Then there I am sitting in a circle full of crazy looking people. We all wait for the instructor to walk in. "Good morning everyone. Oh, I see we have a new face in the group. What's your name young man?" "Carter...Carter Stelling". "Nice to meet you, Carter. I'm the group's advisor/counselor, Dr. Thomas Grunger, but you may call me Thomas. I would like everyone to introduce themselves to Carter. Starting with you, Rosemary." Rosemary nods her head, breathes in hesitantly, and starts. "Hi, I'm Rosemary Porter and I'm here because I aggressively assaulted my boyfriend for trying to dump me". Dr. Grunger instructs the others to go in a circle. Mark Meneley attempted robbery at a bank, Sara Stark committed arson on her boss's lawn because he fired her, Oikawa Jo was a bystander in vehicular manslaughter, and Patricia and Trey Smith were involved in involuntary manslaughter when their step-father was abusing their mother and they killed him unintentionally. We all have one thing in common. We're all here now because we got a second chance, instead of going to actual prison because we’re "good" kids who did something bad because we need a healthy environment to learn and talk about what happened. "And you Carter? Would you like to share why you're here today?" "My mom said I should come. She probably thinks this group is gonna finally help me. Finally going to make a change in my terrible life. All of you are the same. You guys are supposed to help and make us better but are only here to listen to our problems and get paid at the end.” No one says anything, so I keep talking. “ I was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. I was shooting at targets, in my backyard, and my stupid brother got in the way and I shot him. I rushed to him and held him in my arms. I had blood all over me. I called the cops and by the time they came...it was too late. I killed my brother. I killed my only brother. My 10-year-old brother.” Tears run down my eyes. I bend forward bawling my eyes into the palms of my hands. Thomas stands next to me, rubbing my back. “You know what, Carter? What happened to your brother was not your fault. You might hear that a lot, but I’m going to clarify that. If you could have saved him you would. You did what you had to do by calling the cops and that’s all you could’ve done, kiddo.” I sit up in my chair and Patricia walks over and hands me tissues. “Okay, everyone stand up and grab a piece of paper and a writing utensil. Go back to your seat and write why you're here, how you might be feeling today, or how you felt about the crimes you all committed.” We all get paper and writing utensils and go back to our seats. How is this going to help me? How is remembering my past going to help me get over it? I write down how I killed my brother, how I hate being in these groups, how I miss my brother, and how I wish it was me. I miss Daniel. He always had bigger plans than I did. He didn’t deserve to die. I hate thinking of his death and how his sad, innocent face looked up to me and said “I love you big bro. Everything is going to be fine. I promise.” I promised he’ll be fine. I told him he’ll be okay. I let him down. After we were done Thomas tells us to crumble our papers. “I want you guys to remember what you wrote and throw it into this bin. Remembering your past can indicate how you proceed to the future.” He grabs a bin and places it in the middle of the circle of chairs. We all toss the crumpled balls of paper into the bin. Thomas pours some liquid inside and lights it all up. Is that even legal? “I want you guys to let everything you guys wrote on the piece of paper to leave you. Let it sink and burn into this bin. Let go of what happened that day of that crime. This is your second chance, take advantage, and hold on to the present.” That sinks in deep. I think of my paper and all my feelings burning in that small bin. I let it simmer into nothingness. Maybe this year will be different. 6 months later… Today would mark the milestone I took 6 months ago. Listening to my mom and actually being willing to stay in this group. I’ve never been in a group for so long. I’m proud of myself for taking this final step and trying to make everything different. “So, what's new today doc?” Trey asks in an amusing voice. “Well Trey, glad you asked. Today is all yours. I want us all to celebrate this day. To know that you’re all incredible and worked so extremely hard to do what you’ve been doing throughout this whole experience. I want you guys to all go around, stand up, and say what you changed in your lives to be where you are today. I would like Carter to start off.” Thomas gives me a pat on the back and sits down across from me. I stand up and speak. “Well for starters I listened to my mom and came to this group. I opened up to what happened and I let it go. I finally let the guilt and heartbreak that was tearing me up inside go. I owe it all to you guys. For supporting me and helping me change who I thought I was… a monster… to what I believe I am now… a recover. Thank you.” Everyone claps and I sit down and listen to everyone’s accomplishments. I can't help but smile and applaud the other members of this peer group. I think of Daniel and how he also helped me in this process. He kept nudging me to forget what happened, but most importantly not to forget him in the middle of it all.