Disclaimer: I don't own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or any of its characters.

It's Not Hard To Be

It's Not Hard To Be Happy.

Me? I'm always happy. And I should be. Just look at the comics, the pizza, the video games, the skateboards, the music, the action figures, the television shows, and the other awesome stuff here. What's there not to love about life (besides the Shredhead)?

Everyone else wished I would just grow up. To stop being a kid and goofing off all the time. But what they don't realize is the implications of growing up. It means losing the innocence you took for granted when you were a child, when life is like an adventure and a playpen for you. It means being exposed to certain issues that you wouldn't have understood, such as when you had to bury your pet mouse or when you realized that there was a pretty big difference between turtles and humans. It means discarding your dreams of becoming the first turtle firefighter or the first turtle astronaut or the first turtle superhero because you know it's impossible to achieve those dreams anyways. But for my brothers, growing up means forgetting how to laugh.

However, I wasn't going to let that happen. I said jokes, did pranks, all that was necessary to bring my brothers out of their shells. I prodded the others with my smirks until they cracked a smile as well. I nudged them, tickling them so fiercely so that they are begging me to stop, weak with giggles. I winked, breaking the last resistance as my brothers began howling in laughter, collapsing in the floor.

There were times they do get annoyed and fed-up with my happy-go-lucky attitude. They groaned and rolled their eyes, wondering where I get all this energy and how I can possibly be so happy all the time.

But if I'm not happy, who else will be?

It's Not Hard To Be Smart.

I suppose you could say I am naturally gifted.

At age three, I single-handedly fixed a heater that Master Splinter had discovered, enabling it to heat our home from biting winter nights. Not too long after that, I took apart a broken television found in a junkyard and rebuilt it into the one we still currently use today. As I grew older, my fascination and interest for machines has expanded and broadened. Anything mechanical, technological or scientific, I grab, examine, study, dismantle, fix, rebuild, remodel and create.

If it wasn't for my intelligence, we would have dead a thousand times over. The Battle Shell, the Shell cycles, the Sewer Sliders, the Shell sub, the gliders and Shell Cells are all means of transportation and communication. My hacking skills have helped us on more than one occasion, including breaking into the Shredder's Headquarters and Bishop's base. Though I am an engineer first, my knowledge in medicine has been required, saving my family's lives many, many times. Everyone just assumes that I have everything under control and that I can solve and fix anything with the uttermost confidence.

What they don't know is that sometimes, I fear my own intellect. What if I miscalculate something and my inventions fail? What if I make a mistake and it costs my brothers and father their lives? Or if I diagnose any injury wrong and my patient only suffers more? It would be all my fault. I catch myself double checking each invention I have made or each medical analysis on my patient several times, wondering if it really works or if it was right, though I already know that it does work and it is right. And I am forced to live another day in doubt.

It's not that I wanted to be smart.

I am needed to be smart.

It's Not Hard To Be Angry.

Really. It isn't.

How hard can it be? Just look around. Night after night, seeing crime flood the streets of the city. I can hear kids crying as their parents lash out at them and women scream as they are assaulted by thieves and muggers. Decent people become bad in order to survive in this world. Teenagers, who should be going to school, steal and break in just to "fit in". Even the strongest men can crumble as they beg to their abductors not to hurt their families and loved ones.

I hate it. I hate how their tormentors laugh, how the victims grovel on the ground, abandoning their pride and dignity, how the news repeatedly shows it on the air, how bystanders will walk right by a crime and not do anything, how everyone knows about it and yet they don't anything about it. I hate it because it seems I'm the only person who does care.

Anger has become my obsession, my drug, my passion. I despise it but I need it. It is interwoven into me, merging and becoming part of who I am. It is a fire, burning within my chest, not dwindling nor fading. It can blind me but help me see clearer. Destroy me or strengthen me. I know I am a ninja, a warrior, and I shouldn't allow emotions to control me. But I cannot help feeling hate against those who hurt my family, the one thing that keeps my anger at bay.

I remember the time that Leo was defeated by the Shredder and trapped in a place where we cannot go. I remember the helplessness we felt when we lost Master Splinter, overwhelmed and sickened with worry and guilt. I remember the trembling fear in Mikey's eyes as Bishop walked towards him, his dissecting knife whirling hungrily. I remember Donnie, mutated into a mindless monster by Bishop's virus, unable to recognize us.

So why don't you tell me. How can I not be angry when I see these things in my life?

It's Not Hard To Be Strong.

One day, Master Splinter set me aside and told me, " Leonardo, my son, you are the oldest of your brothers. It will be your job to protect them and watch over them."

I obeyed not only out of obligation and respect for my father, but out of my own will. I love my brothers, even when Raph is being stubbornly rebellious, when Mikey is being an idiot, when Don is being overly complicated and confusing. I am willing to do anything to keep my family safe, even die for them or make a deal with the devil.

I train physically to fight any enemy that comes our way, to overcome and be victorious. I train mentally to deal with the responsibilities that requires me to be resolute in any situation, even if I don't want to. I mediate, a momentary release from the strain of leadership. I am the first to caution and the last to trust. I lead, organize, plan strategies, make the decisions, give out the orders and is mature when my brothers are not or will not. I am their leader, confident, attentive and unfaltering. I am their brother, thoughtful, serene and "perfect".

My brothers constantly tease me for being so serious and honing my ninja skills all the time. Raph christened me "Fearless Leader" and "Splinter Junior" time after time. Even Don and Mikey joke and kid about my stiffness and inflexibility. But they don't know of that overwhelming weight of being held accountable for my brothers. Or that crushing guilt when I had given the orders that left them injured. Or the humiliating defeat I felt when I had unwittingly led my family into a trap. They don't know how much I fear failure.

And I hope that they never will.

It's Not Hard To Be Protective.

Since my beloved Master Yoshi's death in the hands of the Shredder and his minions, I was washed away in agony, despair and hatred. They burned against my breast, robbing me of other thoughts, deeply calling for retribution. But what can I, a mere tiny rodent, do against such great forces?

One fateful day, while I was scavenging for morsels of food, I found four green creatures covered in a strange ooze, desperately trying to shake it off. One creature wiggled on his back, while another was attempting to stand, slipping and sliding on the ooze. I pitied them. I feared that these helpless, frail turtles might not live another day in these horrid conditions of a sewer.

So I took them in. They were young, so very young. They relied heavily on me, dependent on me for sustenance, warmth and protection. The smallest two of the four needed to be carried sometimes, their energy easily spent. The elder two bounded away, requiring my constant supervision for their curiosity would often get the better of them.

I became their father and they my sons.

It was my joy and delight to watch them grow up. To hear their first words and see their first steps. To experience the opening of Christmas presents. To eat a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. To receive clumsy-made but love-filled cards during Father's Day. To hide a smile as they crawled under the couch and beds, searching for hidden Easter eggs. To undergo a surprise party on my birthday. To present them with their appropriate bandannas the day they came of age to become true ninjas. To train with them, perfecting their skill and mastery of their choice of weapons. To see them sleep peacefully, blankets tangled around their legs, pillows flung everywhere. I have come to treasure these moments and the many future ones to come.

As the years passed, I cherished and delighted in the little wonders my sons possess. Such as Michelangelo's wide, cheerful smile. Donatello's bright inquisitiveness and empathy. Raphael's unyielding, stubborn determination. Leonardo's honour-bound spirit and pure heart.

It was these things that I want to protect most of all.