My stepfather is the type of man who requires a ten-minute nap some time between noon and three to get through the day, which meant that he would often fall asleep in the middle of reading to me. The Chronicles of Narnia were a tedious affair, punctuated more by snores than witches and wardrobes. And so, in a fit of irritability, I taught myself to read when I was four. Ever since then, words have been my safe space. It sounds cliché. It probably is. But it’s true.
I was one of those intolerably shy little girls who loathed going out with my parents. When they took me to mingle at parties, I would hide in my mother’s skirt, nearly pulling it off in an attempt to be invisible. People terrified me. They were unpredictable: they fell in and out of love like it meant nothing, they lied behind smiles, they yelled when you couldn’t understand them, they cried without saying anything at all. Books never changed. I was so in love with the sense of constancy books gave me that I brought them everywhere with me. My mother actually had to ground me from reading in an attempt to force me to socialize (and to stop me from using a twisted ankle as my excuse for skipping swim practices to read).
I learned to write, and the world became a controllable place. Processing emotions through the voice of a character you are writing about makes you feel as if those emotions are not your own, as if they cannot hurt you. Writing makes you feel like you’re not alone; someone is listening. It’s a liberating thing, really. My high school experience was filled with poetry and short stories, hours behind a computer screen writing about the things I could not face.
College has been different. People are wonderful; they are living, breathing novels that I can interact with. I spend nearly all of my time with them. I talk with them; I dance with them; I cry with them; I love them. But they are still terrifying. I have learned everything and more from the people I have known and loved (and hated); I have felt the deepest joys and sorrows; I have realized that conversations with characters in the real world can be better than creating conversations with myself through characters in a story. But, I have also stopped writing.
This blog is an attempt to begin again (in the words of Taylor Swift, who I’m still trying to really decide upon). It’s been so long that I’m not sure if I’m good at it anymore, or if I was ever good at all (self-doubt is omnipresent in my life), but a very dear friend of mine told me I should give it a try.
I’ve been a thinking a lot about my parents while I’ve been in college. In many ways, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is a very true statement. I did not realize the unconditional love I have for them until I didn’t get to see them everyday. I truly feel the experiences I’ve had since I’ve left them (and home) have begun to solidify the person I was meant to be. But I wonder what experiences shaped them. My parents have led amazing lives: my father was a two-time National Champion and All-American for volleyball, he played professionally on the beach and in Europe, my mother ran away from home to join a punk rock band, was a governess in England, and sailed around the world, my stepfather was a semi-professional windsurfer, an Olympian in kayaking, my stepmother is an artist with one of the deepest hearts I have ever come across. I know the generalities of their fantastic lives, but they are more like the stories you read about in a newspaper than tangible things I can touch.
I do not want that for my children. I want them to know who I was, so they can better understand who I am. So this is it: this is for my parents, for my friends, for you, for me, for the strangers, for the dreamers, for the haters, but mostly, this is for my daughter.