My childhood memories have always seemed to me like random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, confusing and often contradictory subplots in the larger story of who I turned out to be. Only these scattered memories remain- there aren’t many photographs of me as a child. Up until my teens, we moved houses often, packing up every two or three years to a smaller apartment, each time leaving behind a little piece of my childhood. I sometimes think about my prized possessions- the heavy illustrated book of fairytales that I had to put both my tiny arms around to hold up properly, gifted to me by my loving aunt on my 8th birthday, the black notebook I filled with poems and stories over the summer holidays and my collection of academic merit certificates, one for every semester since first grade. It troubles me that I can’t seem to recollect what became of my books; a priceless treasure chest of classics and mystery novels.
Around the time I turned nine, I stopped being the cheerful girl who monkeyed around on the kitchen counter as her mother chopped tomatoes and laughed. Instead I spent many evenings sitting by her on a hospital bed, sharing her bowl of sugar-free custard and wondering how long it would take her to come home this time. With her being in and out of the hospital constantly over the years, it was never easy on my family- my father struggled with a dwindling business and growing hospital bills and my older sister gracefully stepped into her new role as my babysitter while still working part-time. Birthdays came and went and gifts and celebrations seemed like unnecessary luxuries. Compared to the normal happy lives of my classmates, my own life seemed too morose for me to be able to form close friendships. I was sad but I did not want anyone else to know it, as if that would make it more real than it already was.
And so I began to write. I bought notebook after notebook and filled them up with my emotions, thoughts, fantasies and dreams- things that I did not have anyone to share with. The confession of my first crush, the prayers I said for my mother, the pain of not being invited to the cool kids’ parties, the disappointment at not having a birthday cake to cut, the wild idea that someday I would be a famous novelist, the appreciation for my angel-like sister and stories of a witty female detective. I confided in, discussed with, and consoled myself. I wrote because it felt like the words flowed out of the pages and into the universe, as if someone was in fact listening and I wasn’t alone anymore. The simple act of creating something, whether or not it was good and would ever be seen by anyone else, filled the void with a surprising contentment.
I lost her shortly after I turned 18. She was my whole world, the single most influential person in my life and someone I loved as much as I won’t ever love anyone else. For a long time after, I wrote to her. I told her everything that I’d failed to tell her as an obnoxious teenaged girl- how grateful I was for every time I saw her kind face watching as I rushed through my dinner while texting my boyfriend and how I’d give anything to see her again. I believe it worked because she often came to see me in my dreams. After a few years, I stopped writing completely, falling into the routine of trying to prove myself in a new career.
More years went by and I added a Masters degree and a stellar if short-lived Finance job to my résumé before I found my way to writing again. After two years of working for the firm and being offered a handsome raise, I quit my job because it left me feeling largely unfulfilled. I bought a notebook and the words flowed again, this time inspired by the few travels that I had experienced in recent years. On the pages, I found stories that I hadn’t realized I’d held on to. Every time I wrote, it felt like I was doing the most honest thing I could do until it became clear that it was the only thing I could do. I like who I am when I write because my walls are down and I’m not afraid, neither of being judged nor of making mistakes.
I write because putting pen to paper feels like striking a match and watching a glorious flame come to life.