Funny how the purpose of this topic is to remember; for me it all starts with forgetting.
I don’t know if there ever was a time I didn’t love reading- I can remember hiding from my mother during chores: crouched behind the couch with a book, wrapped up in another world. That’s really what I loved the most about books- their ability to take me away from my world, even for just a short time, to allow me to forget, to teach me to pretend- a skill I needed often, from a young age.
I quickly grew beyond books appropriate for my age, which became apparent when, in the second grade, I learned the ‘truth’ of Santa Claus as it was mentioned in passing in one of the titles I was reading. I very naturally took to the perspective of the adults narrating their stories; already burdened with weight too heavy for a child, it may have been a relief to inhabit the mind of someone more able to shoulder it for a time.
I didn’t especially know of any compositional talent until the fifth grade, when I was chosen for first place in all three of the categories for writing in the D.A.R.E program. I chose to read my poem in the assembly, and two other students were selected to read their submissions for the other categories. It is most ironic that this is my first memory of writing something particularly great; I was guilt-ridden throughout all my D.A.R.E activities, as it is the place I most inescapably had to lie about my parents’ recreational hobbies; and it is also when I became aware that I was, without a doubt, a liar.
Throughout adolescence I wrote more and more, branching out into different aspects to fulfill my increasing needs, utilizing writing as my escape from reality, and the only place I felt comfortable in my own skin. I wrote tons of poetry, then began writing short memoir pieces. I went on to edit the school newspaper, intern for a radio station- writing and recording sound bites- then being awarded a scholarship for being my school’s English Sterling Scholar. In all the inconsistency, writing was this constant source of comfort; familiar but challenging, comfortable but exciting. Through writing I went from being invisible, unnoticed, unimportant to extraordinary. Though not out loud, I was able to find my voice within the written word, which was more than I realized at the time.
In college I struggled; still uncomfortable within myself, and awkward with everyone else, I faded from the world to a frightening degree. I continued to write, now turning to fictional stories about the life my alternate-reality self was leading, living an exciting and fabulous college life with friends and boys and eye contact. I had one professor who seemed to notice me more than I was initially willing to allow, and with gentle persuasion from him I produced extraordinary writing, which he submitted to the school literary journal. He continued to encourage me to submit pieces to conferences, as I took his courses throughout my associates degree, taking numerous miscellaneous writing classes. I had two papers I planned to restructure and submit to conference, when I lost myself completely, and the writing stopped.
For two years, I wrote nothing; I felt nothing; I gave into the background’s insistence and was swallowed whole.
. Slowly, I fought my way out of the darkness, and the words poured out of me- this time, being used to provide poems for other people, occasionally editing a paper for someone, and halfheartedly writing papers for school.
Strangely, non-fiction inhabited quite a long stretch here, feeling safe with its logic and roots in word of academic scholars and praised literary classicists. Still, I was critiqued for the emotion behind factual statements, and marked down for linguistic artistry showing up unwelcome in assessments and appeals.
It is quite recent that I allowed myself to ask why, why have I denied myself the pleasure of writing for myself? Why do I run from what I naturally produce more readily than any other form of communication? What am I resisting so completely? I found that I was- and am- afraid. I am afraid to feel emotion to the heights writing takes me. I am afraid of the peaks, for they have a natural downside, and the depths for me are so low… I cannot remember if it’s worth the highs. There are descriptions inside me that once I put into words are real- so real they merit an equal and opposite reality- is it crazy to feel fear in moments of bliss, measuring the pleasure and imagining what the equal pain will feel like?
I do know that fear, in all its great and terrifying glory, is balanced by freedom; and my galvanized relationship with words frees me from the paralysis as I write my way around every obstacle life has ever offered up. Never am I more aware of the unique individual I am than when being swept up in a creation all my own. Just as in Existentialist fairy tales, the role of hero and/or villain in my story is not borne in an individual; actions earn the role, as well as lose the role. I write to remain aware of the role my actions are reaping, and to remain distinctive regarding where I want the story to go from here.