I’m not really sure why I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. I’ve always loved to write. I’ve always been swayed by the power of the written word, always thought about words and their different meanings and origins. My mom taught me to read when I was 3 and I devoured all kinds of books when I was little, dreamed of writing my own. Pippi Longstocking and Nancy Drew were childhood Gods. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to be an orphan detective with red hair. I have spent far far too many of the last 21 years fantasizing about being Carrie Bradshaw. But it hasn’t all been fantasy over the years: I have written a poem for every man I’ve ever loved (and one that I really really didn’t like). I have written secret articles for Sports Illustrated and Runner’s World that I’ve never submitted anywhere to anyone. I have written chapters to different books that no one has ever read. I have turned to this creative part of my heart/brain during the most painful times in my life to express the deep thoughts that bounce around in my noisy head. At times of deep inner reflection, writing is the only thing that helps me express true emotion.
My mom died this summer. She was a remarkable woman. As part of her legacy, she kept every little thing for each of us kids. Mine are in a big blue box – all the articles of my life that my mom decided were important enough to save. (Hint:it’s every damn thing). The box came home with me – in the backseat of my super cool Mazda – last June. Sifting through these rare precious memories has convinced me of one thing:
I am a writer.
In the box was a poem I wrote when I was 9 about how boys break girls’ hearts (1975 me was clearly a visionary). I also wrote a poem to my Dad when I was 5 about what a big fish he caught. I wrote a poem for my best friend when I was 8 rhyming “zoo” with “blue” (I mean – c’mon – it was adorable). I read a letter from my 8th grade english teacher – a letter I had never seen before – written to my mother praising my ability, talent and intelligence. Who takes the time to write home to a mother and tell her what a great student her awkward 13 year old daughter is? Junior Charlton, that’s who (may he RIP). I re-read every article I wrote for the Ogden Standard Examiner as their news correspondent my senior year of high school. My heart ached as I remembered sitting in the kitchen of my childhood home, hunched over the old manual typewriter – yes, I’m exactly that old – agonizing about every word – slightly high from the smell of liquid paper. I’ve re-read my college essays. I’ve re-read the story I submitted for that stupid Fiction Writing course when I was a freshman in college. A story of revenge and fantasy that had 2 things scrawled on the cover page: an A+ and my Fiction Writing professor’s slanted loopy writing that simply said: “I’m impressed with this story. This could definitely be turned into a novel”.
I’ve been thinking about that bold, blue scraggly handwriting for 32 years.
I think that means I’m a writer. But I guess here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what I “am” or not. It doesn’t even matter what you think I am. It matters who I know I am and how I feel and I’m feeling like I have some stuff to say. Even if no one is reading or listening. What do writers do? They write. I have been hiding my writing, hoarding it on my hard drive under some imaginary file marked “One of these Days”. And every time I stick a tiny toe in the water, the universe responds with several messages that I need to stick in more than my toe. I wrote blog posts about health and fitness as a way to market my health coaching business. That writing had a purpose, backed by science. I could defend that if anyone disagreed with me. It was easy. Writing your own thoughts and ideas about pain and joy and the human condition is much more terrifying. What if you all don’t like or care what I have to say? What if you don’t or can’t believe what I’m telling you? And WORST OF ALL – what if you judge me? What if you laugh at me behind my back? What if I tell you a deep dark secret and you no longer have the same feelings about me? But even WORSE THAN ALL OF THAT – what if I’m no good? What if I really suck?
So here’s the other thing: I don’t care. I really don’t. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I used to care. An awful lot. An awful awful lot. I used to base my joy and happiness and my entire self worth on a lot of external bullshit. The one thing I’ve truly learned is at the end of the day, when I lay my head down on my silk pillow covered with cat hair, the only person I have to be OK with is me. And I have a hard enough time with THAT.
I am entirely – almost without exception – exactly the opposite of the woman I was told I had to be from a very young age. I didn’t push for that full time role as a news correspondent – or any other obvious next step in pursuing a writing career – because that really wasn’t in line with what I thought I had to be – what everyone told me I had to be – what was inevitable. And I have some thoughts about that. I have some thoughts about what brings joy and happiness after a lifetime of wondering what that really was and oh by the way did I really deserve it? I have some thoughts about creating the person you WANT to be rather than the person you BELIEVE you HAVE to be. I also have MANY thoughts about second chances and third chances and the idea that you can come back from anything. You can find your way back from anywhere – no matter how dark and hidden you think anywhere is. The arc of my story of self discovery is a wild, exhilarating, incredibly painful story and one that resonates with many. And one that I’m scared to death to tell (see 2 paragraphs above). But the heart demands what the heart demands and it’s time I found my voice. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about how to start and what to say and oh no the blog’s theme doesn’t “resonate” and it won’t make sense and I don’t have a good word program and what in the hell, I am way too old for any of this shit and again – how arrogant am I to think I even have a voice? Enough. How do writers find their voice? They start. “Someday” is today. So, I write this blog now because I have some stuff to say and I hope it resonates and maybe it will make you laugh and maybe it will make you think and maybe it will make you feel a little less alone in this world but really, in the end, what you think about it and me is irrelevant and none of my business. I have no idea where this writing chapter (ha ha – see what I did there?) of my life is going or how this is going to turn out. And that’s OK. I am writing because that’s what writers do. They write.
I am a writer.