I ran away that night. I honestly don’t know how long it took them to realize I’d left; they were in my room for a couple of hours. I got a few miles away to Reese’s Variety store and I called Donna; she and her mother came and picked me up and took me home. (Where else was I going to go?) Dad was there, and he took me to his house; I spent most of the night talking to his girlfriend, and then him the next morning.
The past few years for me have been quite a rollercoaster; and just when I thought the dust was beginning to settle—WHAM! another vertical loop. Throughout all of it, one…thought/idea/thing/perception has managed to take hold and grow:
I am a writer.
This may not seem important to you, but it is to me. I am finally taking myself seriously. This is HUGE…empowering (even though I hate that word).
I used to write a lot when I was younger. I was always creating something, designing something, writing lyrics, changing song lyrics, choreographing, singing, dancing…for me they were (and are) all tied together; they are all a part of the artist I am. I have boxes of notebooks and papers of years of thoughts and ideas. No matter how much I ‘downsize’ for a move, I will never get rid of those.
I stopped writing when I was 13. Not totally, but enough so that not many people would see as much anymore, or even be aware that it was a part of me.
Adults talk about children being ‘real’ and ‘open’ and true to themselves. We mourn the death of that carefree enjoyment and innocence. Some people are allowed to hang onto it, others aren’t. The people that knew me up until that point knew me at my most authentic.
I got caught for smoking. Earlier that week, I spent time with my cousins who smoked. They had no cigarettes and I had money and I bought a pack. I had one and they smoked most of them, but I’d be damned if I was going to give up the pack that I boughtto them. (Hey, I was thirteen!) Yes, I was paranoid carrying them around, but I bought them. This particular day, I went to the movies with a couple of girlfriends, and three cute boys sat next to us. They asked if we had any cigarettes; I was too happy to give them a few, because I was paranoid and because…well, they were cute boys. Anyway, I had two left at the end of the day. I got home and my stepfather—
–a little backstory: My stepfather was an alcoholic. The marriage wasn’t fun; the family wasn’t fun…I don’t even know what set him off that day–
–had my two sisters lined up on the couch and was lecturing them. When I walked in, he calls me over to sit down next to them saying, “This applies to you, too.” He proceeded to tell us how immature we were, and how we shouldn’t be allowed any ‘adult’ privileges—including the right to wear makeup. Right then and there he decided to take all of our makeup away. He took us each in our rooms with the trash can and has us remove all of it from the tops of our bureaus, then decided to check our purses. It took him three passes through my purse to find the cigarette pack, but he did find it. Because there were two left he called me a ‘chain smoker’ and ended with ‘God knows what else she is doing.’ He then got my mother, and locked me out of my room while he went through all of it, including my calendars and journals.
Did I mention that I used to write? I wrote about EVERYTHING. Everything.
Like the first time I tried smoking pot with Donna…
He came out of my room long enough to call me a drug addict before going back in again.
(To Dad: You know I have many complaints about our relationship, but how you ‘handled’ me that weekend was perfect.)
That was when I stopped writing. It was never encouraged, anyway, and it was a struggle towards the end to believe in myself and believe I had any talent. After my stepfather read everything I felt violated, and that was the tipping point. Later, when I would talk about my writing, it was only to those that I considered close to me, and even then as if it were a secret. I would write a little, and only in code (I took shorthand and Latin in high school; for a while some of my stuff would be half written in shorthand and Latin. Too bad I can’t read shorthand anymore…)
Over the next few years I would occasionally rebel against everything and write. That was exactly what it felt like; a rebellion. I like to write, dammit! Yet even at my most defiant I could never call myself a writer. All I knew was that when I was writing, I was happy. When I was creating something, I was happy. I realized that no matter what job I had, I had to be creative in some way. If I didn’t write or make something for any length of time I would get antsy and restless, feeling like I needed to jump out of my skin. (At least I noticed that much.) If I surprised someone with something I made or wrote or said, I would always say, “I’m SO fucking creative!” That was the only acknowledgment I gave myself; yet even as I said it there was always a mocking tone to it.
When I turned 39 something started bothering me, and I didn’t know what it was. I noticed that I was getting more and more…off the closer I got to my 40th birthday. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew there was no way that I, a self-proclaimed “Birthday Fairy,” was having a problem with getting older, but it did have something to do with turning 40. Then it dawned on me…
I had set a deadline.
I set a deadline, unconsciously. In an effort to appease/console myself for the fact that I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, to be who I wanted to be—and to excuse my ‘not doing anything with my writing’ to friends who would question me about it occasionally—I prepared an excuse: “It’s hard to make money writing, so instead of struggling as an artist, I will get a career, make money first and live a life—because you can only write about what you know, right? I don’t know enough now. I’ll know more later and be published when I’m 40.”
(When I started using that excuse, 40 was old.)
That was my story and I stuck to it. And I would write in secret. I hid it as if it were my shame. Only my really close friends new about it.
And then my 40th birthday was coming up. I can’t begin to describe how I felt. I was angry that I allowed myself to not follow who I was. I didn’t blame anyone else; all along I knew that my only block was myself (head up ass is a constant position of mine). All of a sudden, I had to get published. I was in a real panic. It was bad enough that I denied myself the real me, but if I didn’t publish anything before my next birthday I felt that I would hate myself forever. Thank God for the Internet! I found a few websites that allowed people to submit articles and get paid based on reader ‘liking.’ I think I made 39 cents—but that was enough to make it official.
Then I made the commitment to “try” to be truer to myself.
Fast forward to four years ago when I joined a Haiku writing group on Facebook. All of a sudden I was in my element. I could write whatever I wanted—and I did. I was even a little outrageous, and it was ok. And I was regularly conversing with these other writers—real writers, who made me feel like I was one of them. They are my family (they know who they are).
(Thank you Mark and all of you at The Haiku Wednesday Fiasco.)
And I started writing more. And I began to be happy, and be excited about it. I felt like the world was finally opening up to me. I started this blog (third time’s a charm). Things started falling into place. I’d begun ‘doodling’ as a type of grief therapy when a friend passed—and people saw them and started asking for them. I was being recognized as a writer and an artist.
Eleven months ago I was offered a job as a copywriter. I’ll never forget when I got the call from one member of that Haiku family, one who I considered a mentor, offering me the job. She had said, “I was looking for another writer and then I realized, Sue’s a writer!” I will never forget how I felt when I heard those words: “Sue’s a writer!” Those words that I replayed many times in my head since then. My head, my heart, all of me reacted: YES!
(Thank you, Judy.)
I got a job writing! I’m now a ‘paid writer’! Other things started happening, too. A friend of mine sent some of my writings in to a publisher friend of hers in New York and she contacted me about putting a book together! And I got paid for some of my ‘doodles!’ I changed my job title on my Facebook status to ‘writer’ (that felt good).
And, yet, I still couldn’t fully call myself a writer—and I was being paid for it! Even my ‘doodles’ were still just ‘doodles’ and not art of any kind.
I still felt like a fraud. Like I was pretending. Like a child playing dress-up, waiting for my mother to come in and tell me to wash that paint off my face, take off that outfit and stop being ridiculous.
What the fuck was wrong with me?
Last month, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a number of years (we’ve been in touch on Facebook) and I met her father for the first time. She introduced me to him as a writer. And it blew me away.
(Thank you, Kerri.)
During this last barrel-roll of my life-rollercoaster, I’ve been writing more, feeling more, being more and exposing more. I have had moments of fear before hitting the ‘publish’ button. I began to realize that whatever I had the hardest time publishing was what I had to get out the most. And it finally began to sink in:
I’m a writer.
(Maybe later I can thank one more person…when I no longer feel the effects of the ride…maybe.)
I am a writer.
I still consider myself a beginner, but I know I’m going somewhere with it.
I am a writer.
I know it now.