Writing changed my life

People ask, “Why do you want to be a journalist? You make no money, and everyone hates you.” My answer: I love to write, and I want to make a difference. It didn’t always use to be a passion, but more of a hassle. I struggled to put my thoughts onto paper and frustration would come from a lack of knowledge forthe ridiculous rules in the English language. It wasn’t until college where I took one class that changed my life.

I was residing in Bozeman, MT at the time, attending Montana State University. I went to school with the idea that I was going to be a chef, but first I needed a business degree. I had the next four years planned in my head full of great accomplishments ending with a degree in my hand. At the end of my first semester, that dream was shattered by my best friend and worst enemy whose name is alcohol.

The very first night without my parents, my new-found friends and I went to our first frat party. When I walked through the doors of Pi Kappa Alpha and saw what college had to offer, I was hooked. However, it wasn’t the party scene that I was addicted to, it was the free booze that I got for just being a chick at a party. Most people blow off cases like mine as a freshman having fun, but it was truly an addiction. I quit attending class, missed exams, and became someone a person I did not want to be. I was drunk every minute of every day. At the age of 17, I was an alcoholic.

While on the outside I always looked like I was having fun and loved to party, living a happy life, it was all a facade to cover up the extreme depression and denial of any drinking problems that I might of had. I would lock myself in my room for days on end drinking and playing video games in the dark. I lied to myself for months that I was okay saying, “It’s college, I’m just having fun.”

That dream of becoming a chef and celebrated business woman had been burning down for a while at this point, but it all tumbled down to rubble one night with me trying to take my life. I had drunk myself into a coma, hoping to end all the struggle and pain. When I awoke the next morning, instead of accepting that I danced with the reaper and should have died, I continued to drink.

I finished that semester with a 1.4 GPA, meaning I failed every class. While I had not told my parents about the recent hobby I picked up, they saw my grades and were furious. My father gave me one more semester to get my act together or he would pull my tuition. With neither of my parents knowing about the drinking, I continued to hide it from everyone, but figured I could make drinking and school go together. I registered for the spring semester classes and ended up being in a junior level creative writing class.

As a freshman, I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was like any other class where it was a breeze through, or I just would quit going like all the other classes I was in. On the first day of class, the professor didn’t ask us to introduce ourselves or write something interesting like the typical first day of class. He opened a book and turned to a short poem called Tent. It was about a person, alone in the woods, with nothing but a tent and a candle. Off in the distance was yelling and loud bangs. The poem used incredible imagery and pulled me into the story as none had done before. When the story ended, he told us to write. Those were the instructions: write. I felt a moment of panic wash over me. Was he going to grade it? What if I don’t pick the right topic? After getting lost in a world of what-ifs, I finally started writing. I wrote about the flame and the freedoms it had and the beauty that exists even in the darkest of places. We wrote for the entire class.

When I walked out of the classroom, I was fascinated how a short poem inspired me to do something that I despised. The words that I wrote kept running through my mind as if it was something that I had rehearsed. The feeling of that creativity was such a release. Everything that I had hidden from people had come through what I had written. I made myself the flame that was in my writing. It triggered something in my brain that I had disabled before. Even though I was still heavily drinking and never went to my other classes, I went to that one every day.

My love for writing was only growing when the assignment that changed everything came along. We were to write a manifesto about something important in our lives. At this point, my drinking was still very steady, but my mind was traveling to dark places once again. Suicide was a common thought to run through my mind and was still in denial about the last time I tried. It wore me down, and I had hit my breaking point — something needed to change in my life. The manifesto became the way to break free. I wrote about the Buddhist lotus, the meaning behind it and how it applied to my life. There is a journey associated with the lotus called The Path to Enlightenment. While writing my manifesto, I went through my own spiritual journey.

After enforcing the ideals in my life, I gained enough motivation and inspiration to quit drinking. I suffered through five days of agonizing withdrawals. I couldn’t eat, drink, sleep, nothing. I had the sweats, uncontrollable shaking, and every part of my body hurt. I wanted nothing more than to drink the handle of rum that was in my mini-fridge, but kept looking at the lotus that I had drawn on the walls. The thought that hope was there, that there was a small chance that I could live a normal life again kept me going.

Eventually the withdrawls started to fade away, but the cravings did not. Everytime I would smell a drop of alcohol, see an ad on TV or walk past one of my party friends, I wanted to drink. Instead, I would write a piece of my manifesto and remind myself that there was hope. I finished the semester with a C average, but obtained an A on my manifesto and had an A in my creative writing course. In that one class, I found my passion and that passion gave me enough strength to get my life back.

After the end of that semester, I decided I needed to leave Montana State. I feared that if I stayed, I would fall back into my previous patterns and wouldn’t be able to come back from it a second time. I decided to go home and transferred to Colorado State University to start with a clean slate. to pursue journalism. I have been sober every since.

The words that I wrote in that class carried power among them. Words have incredible influence when written with passion. If writing changed my life so immensely, why can’t I use it to change other people’s lives too? So, when people ask, “Why a journalist?” it’s because I want to change the world.