The Girl No One Saw

Growing up, I had what I will call, an alternative childhood. I loved books and one of my greatest unmet childhood desires was to be read to. My mom and step-dad worked crazy hours and there was rarely anyone around to guide me or nurture me let alone read to me. Without a present parent, the circumstances were far from ideal. I did not have sleepovers or even a best friend. How could a girl have a best friend when she had no clue how to even be a friend? Now, as an adult writer, it is my job to not only write about what happened to me but how it affected me and how I grew because of it. Most importantly, how I managed to get through to the other side.

I’ll be honest. I made it through by stumbling my way along, picking up experiences as I went. I learned life-lessons from sharp comments and public humiliation. I learned how to laugh because of social ostracization. I learned how to do things by watching others from the sidelines of life. The perpetual wallflower. The fly on the wall. The girl no one sees. Finding better ways to be ignored rather than to be abused or humiliated was my central goal during my early years. During this period, I tried to make myself small and insignificant– to which I succeeded for the most part but also hindering my growth.

Also, my alternative childhood left me too scared to try new things, a problem which has continued to plague my adult life. I was not taught that it was okay to make mistakes because that is how you learn; I wish I had been taught that one. Instead, I was taught that not only was making mistakes a bad horrible thing but that I was only good at making mistakes. That was my everlasting teenage state. I was always wrong. I was born wrong into a world that would always see me as wrong, a single weed in a valley full of beautiful flowers.

But in a way, these turned out to be good experiences. I learned to entertain myself. I learned to embrace my weirdness and used it to create laughter when I could. I was semi-cautious and managed to stay out of trouble for the most part. However, I’ve struggled as an adult to learn all the things I missed out on as a child. I’ve found that as a writer, I must observe everything around me in detail, and in doing so, I also am able to shine a light on my own flaws. “To succeed in life is to be able to transform.”

I think this is why I like writing so much. I can write to my heart’s content. I can let it all spill out on the page. I can use what I find within myself, deep below the surface. I can take what I learn about myself and transform my ideas both on paper and in my mind. I can choose what I focus on and how I focus on it. I can find my own alternatives and develop positive action.

When I share what I have written, I am always surprised to find others who feel how I feel, have had similar experiences, or who share my perspective. It reminds me that no matter how alone I feel, I’m not. There might not be many people like me in the world, but there are enough of us that I can finally open to the world around me. I cannot change it no matter how much I want to. All I can do is observe and adjust my own sails. I will always come up with solutions. Being resourceful is how I have made it to my alternative adulthood. Growing is how I made it to the other side.

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Personal Essay #52

It was about this same time last year I had made up my mind I was going to do it. I wasn’t sure if I could, I had never tried anything like this before. It was a whole new experience and a whole year of it as well. I was excited, I was nervous, I was hesitant even. But just like that, I made up my mind to do it, to write and post one personal essay a week for every week of the year. It was my writer friend Julia who suggested it. I admire Julia’s writing prowess and decided she put it in my path for a reason. The final result isn’t just this last essay but an experience that brought so much to my life. So, as we get ready to enter 2018, here is essay #52 for the project #52essays2017.

So, first off I would like to say a quick thanks to anyone and everyone who has followed me along this bumpy journey. There is so much about this I will miss. Second off, I would like to apologize for not following standard protocol regarding things like technicality and style or even expected structure for that matter. Technically my pieces are not “personal essay’s” as far as format goes. I have always written this way to figure my own thoughts out, never really thinking that structure was needed for things like sticky feelings. Well, this challenge has sent me into a heavy-handed era of learning in my writing life and I know that my pieces here haven’t met those expectations but I am okay with it. I stuck to my initial vision while I focused instead on learning more about the actual craft of writing. Thereby using this as almost a personal journal at times.

I also realize that it was highly uncreative of me to never actually name my pieces, even though the numbering seemed effective enough. I struggle with that and am working on it along with all my other weak spots. I also didn’t always write from the heart. Sometimes it was just about getting through it and getting it done. Out of all 52 pieces, there are probably only 15 that I truly love and am proud of. But I committed to this and I wanted to finish, no matter what. I learned how to be brave by sharing my words with the world. I am grateful that no one bashed me for following my own path and that some of you might have actually gotten something out of this too. I don’t think I’ve never grown more in one year as I have because of writing these.

This challenge had some unexpected results. I found my voice. I finally found it. It’s eluded me for decades and I am so happy to have stumbled over it as I was focusing on other things, like learning the actual craft of writing. My writing voice still needs work and I will continue to give it a daily workout even though I won’t be writing these anymore. I considered it but I have a long list of writing goals for this upcoming year. I will still be writing essays but now they will be fully developed and I will take my time with them until they shine. It sure was nice to color outside the lines though.

This year I’ve done so much more with writing than I ever have and more than I ever thought I could or would. This was the year I didn’t quit. Oh, there were points I wanted to. About half-way I think. I hit a wall and thought that I couldn’t go on. But I did. I pushed through that wall like the Kool-Aid man and I came out the other side the happier for it. I learned how to persevere. I learned how to follow through. I learned how to push myself even when I didn’t want to. I learned not to let life get in the way of my writing. I learned that I can always do more than I think I can if I just keep going. I learned not to give up. I am a better person and writer for it all.

I want to thank Vanessa Martir for creating this challenge and giving so many of us a chance to walk through this wordy jungle and add something unique to our writing lives. This was just the recipe I needed. I got something indescribable out of it. Something that changed me forever. Perhaps someone reading this will decide to give it a shot for a year and it will change their lives as well. I personally am walking into 2018 with a little more confidence, a lot more knowledge, experience, and my writer’s voice. I am ready for the next leg in this journey. Farewell, my friends.

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Personal Essay #40

There have been many times in my life when I have been undeniably drawn to writing. These are times when an unspoken force pulls me in and I find myself fully caught up in the throes of inspiration. Those moments are rare and fleeting much like young love or infatuation and burn out just as quickly as they arrive. Leaving behind only partially finished, disorganized thoughts randomly but beautifully strewn together across numerous pages.

With that being said, I have not fully submersed myself into my creativity and the writing process with my current novel. I know that when or if I do, I could lose control and everything else in my life will go by the wayside. I feel as though I can’t-do that just yet. I am afraid of what will happen if I do and what will happen if I don’t. I guess part of me is scared that I won’t be able to do it all: the novel, job, relationship, just life in general. So, I do just enough to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air and moving with as much precision and grace as I can muster.

At some point, I will have to let myself go deep into the story of my character. The key will be separating that creative process from the other parts of my life. I have to maintain the other aspects of my life and keep my responsibilities at the forefront even though it seems so limiting to me right now. Perhaps that is where my frustration is coming from, from feeling limited and hindered. (Although, ironically, that is also what my protagonist is feeling.) Maybe in some ways, I am deeper into the story than I realized. Perhaps I’m moving through my own frustrations the same way she has to while we both look for the right solutions.

My current overwhelming feeling is that I need to jump into the deep scary depths of my novel. Even though with this draft, I am crafting and creating more than I ever have before, I’m still allowing myself to take the time to learn what I can along the way. This entire experience exudes a special kind of magic, it feels like what I can only describe as love mixed with creation. It feels promising and hopeful like the sunshine after a hard rain. It feels long lasting like the mystical dog days of summer.

I am so grateful that the ideas and scenes are still flowing to me daily. I’m trying to piece them together— like one big puzzle. I started an idea book, in which I try to catch every idea as if they were elusive butterflies and I was a collector. Some of these ideas I know go into this first novel and some will fit in later on in the series. I’m enjoying the play of piecing them all together and matching up what fits. It is a fulfilling and taxing thing I am doing and I feel amateurish still. But I’m secretly hoping that feeling doesn’t go away anytime soon. Even though it is difficult to battle the doubts every single day, it is still such a beautiful thing to have a hope that’s filled with endless possibilities.

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Personal Essay #39

I loved flying alone as a child. Flying meant freedom. Flying meant independence. Flying meant to escape. Flying meant being welcomed by warm inviting faces. I am not sure exactly how old I was on my first plane ride, most likely under 3 though I don’t remember it. I do, however, remember the first time I flew somewhere all alone.

I was 5 or 6 and I am thinking I might have been in kindergarten or 1st grade because I still had my front teeth in pictures. Things were different at the airport in those days; security and rules were nothing like they are now. My mom escorted me onto the plane though she had no ticket. We met the pilot and they let me look around inside the cockpit. It was Delta Airlines and they gave me a pin to wear that looked just like the one the stewardess was wearing. My mom strapped me into my seat, wished me a safe flight and exited the plane.

The stewardess checked on me often, smiling with her perfectly made-up face and her Delta scarf wrapped around her neck, tied and pointed outward in the flamboyant style of the 1970’s. I can still remember the scent of her perfume over the thick smell of cigarettes. Throughout the flight, she loaded me up with gum, snacks, and a deck of playing cards. She was very nice and kept me from getting scared during the take-off and landing (which are still my least favorite parts).

I was traveling from South Florida to Atlanta, GA on an Easter trip to see my Grandma V (her name was Vivian). She was my dad’s mother and as in most divorce cases back then, I didn’t get to see my dad’s side of the family very often (years). So to me, this vacation was a nervous treat.

Both of my grandmothers couldn’t have been more different from each other. My mom’s mother was a down to earth woman and lavished me with love and learning. My dad’s mother was younger and more put together but always slightly reserved— but a bit distant. She was a talented singer and always had an air of performance around her. I don’t remember her voice anymore but I remember what it felt like. Her voice rang of hope and faith, no matter what she was singing.

I remember her being a shapely woman while I was a super gangly child. My legs and arms too long to fit right into clothes and my bony body still skinny and short. My features were huge and stood out on my smallish face as though someone had put me together haphazardly. My Grandma V, on the other hand, was graceful and wore stylish clothes with a figure that seemed unnatural for a grandmother to have. I don’t remember ever seeing her hair messy or her face without makeup. While she always seemed happy, I felt a sadness behind her eyes when she looked at me. Perhaps she could foresee how difficult my early years were going to be, knowing there was nothing she could do.

While visiting her, I remember things like feeding the ducks in the pond by her condo and getting my first bout of motion sickness in her husband’s car as we rolled through the Atlanta hills with the top down on the red Oldsmobile. I remember hunting for Easter eggs in my favorite dress that was now too short. I loved that dress mostly because it had strips of red velvet sewn onto the sleeves, waist, and trim. I remember loving the soothing feeling I got from rubbing my fingers against the pieces that dangled from perfect bows. The dress was considered a ‘special occasion dress’ and because of that I only wore it twice and the last time it had fit perfectly.

While I remember other flights by myself, that one sticks out because of the fear I overcame and the acceptance I felt. While many of my flights involved some measure of excitement and sometimes their own kind of fear (fleeing a hurricane), that particular one was my first step into myself. It was the first experience I had with learning about myself and with traveling alone. It was a good lesson to learn at an early age and while I hate being on a plane and all that comes with it, I love the experience of going somewhere new, on my own or with others. It still means escape, freedom, and independence even though I might take it for granted.

So, while I fight back the motion sickness with Dramamine and use breathing techniques during take-off and landing to calm my nerves, I am grateful that our society is able to cut travel time by defying gravity. It is still my least favorite form of travel. However, it reminds me that I myself can defy the things that scare me, that I am able to step out of my comfort zone despite fear and anxiety and that just because something seems hard, difficult, or impossible, doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes you have to hold onto hope and have a little faith.

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Personal Essay #38

This year has been populated with natural disasters the same way last year was crippled with celebrity deaths. Enormous hurricanes ripping across populated islands before flooding the coastal mainland. Wildfires destroying miles of forest. Excessive earthquakes bringing unexpected destruction and death. Some people will claim it’s the end of the world or even the effects of global warming— and perhaps either one of those is to blame in part or whole. However, I think it’s more likely to say that this planet is very much alive and is always growing, changing and evolving, all while we cling to her back— like fleas on a dog.

Perhaps we have simply irritated our host with all of our smoke, our pollution, our neglect, our mistreatment, our fracking, our nuclear weapons, or even just our very existence here. When a dog becomes infested with fleas, without proper treatment he’s miserable and is eaten alive over and over. He randomly attempts to put down his offenders only to end up scratch his wounds until they bleed and he starts to lose patches of fur in the process. Perhaps this is what is going on with our Mother Earth— we’ve annoyed her and she’s just trying to shake us off.

The most likely scenario of all is that this is all just part of the natural life cycle of the planet. Perhaps it’s similar to the cycles of the seasons, only longer and on a much grander scale. This cycle potentially holds more time than we will ever have in our own written history. Perhaps all of this is merely the natural course of the planet that has absolutely nothing to do with us at all. Perhaps this is the way things are and would be whether or not we were here to experience it. Perhaps nature is just taking her own course, whether we like it or not.

We may never know what the actual cause is. People will continue to blame those whose choices are only affected by lining their own pockets while they pollute the Earth. Other’s will blame the wrath of God. But in truth, we don’t know who is to blame for anything in particular. So, we continue to weather these storms and pick up the pieces after the destruction has stopped, as we always have. We do our best to help those we can and find ways to avoid such occurrences in the future. Destruction and death are part of this thing we call life. Our life here has its ups and downs, it’s good and it’s bad. We never really know what each day could bring us, so I believe we must remain grateful. We must play the cards we’ve been dealt, the best way we can and be grateful for every day we have on this amazing planet we call home.

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Personal Essay #29

As a beginner at anything in this life, you must celebrate all your successes, no matter how small they seem. As you get better, more comfortable and you improve with practice and dedication, you won’t be able to see your own progress right away. When you eventually look back, a year or two or ten, you will see clearly how your path has carried you along and only then will you see for yourself how far you have come.

Over the last year, I have written well over 250,000 words in my quest to become an author. To date, not a word has been profitable and few have been publishable. But when I compare my work in the beginning to now, I can see that my dedication has paid off. My quality has improved in ways I never expected. My learning path has come in leaps and bounds, allowing my writing to expand, to go deeper or to touch on hidden truths.

Writing is one of the few things in life within my control. It is not just a form of expression but a creative, artistic and humbling process. It is a way for me to soothe my own soul— to unburden it— even to nourish it. Writing is not just part of my essence but a lifeline, no an umbilical cord!

Writing is where I find my voice. It is the only safe place for me to break down what I am feeling and get to the real core of things. Writing is where my realizations happen and where the magic happens, enchanting me further down my path. It is the garden of my personal and private growth. Writing is a place, a space and a time for me. Writing is where “I” happen.

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Personal Essay #28

For the last two weeks, I have pretty much blown off the majority of my daily and weekly writing. I’ve still been writing my morning pages (on 750words.com) every day, but that’s it. I keep trying to sit down and write but within seconds or minutes, I find my way into a distraction, running off with some project or another, knowing I need to sit down and write. It doesn’t help any that it’s summertime and beautiful out. I am too easily distracted by the summer sun.

But today during my morning writing, I decided to explore why I wasn’t writing like I should be. Several things came up but the one that surprised me the most was the lingering effect of my last blog piece. This realization stopped me dead in my tracks. The topic of the piece was about my relationship with my mom and the negative ripples that it created throughout my life. It’s not an easy thing to accept that my mother hated me and how messed up her reasons were but I wrote the piece anyway. It was mostly healing for me but inadvertently hit a trigger. (A trigger here meaning something that brings buried feelings to the surface.)

In most situations, I can identify my triggers right away, and make corrections quite easily. This trigger wasn’t so painfully obvious, but its effect was just as strong. It was like a random bruise that just shows up out of nowhere. It wasn’t directly bothering me so I didn’t notice it right away. I just allowed the continuing distractions to keep from dealing with these feelings. It’s hard to accept that sometimes people often do terrible things for no reason at all.

The trigger ended up being directly related to the self-doubt and hopelessness that my mother instilled in me regarding my own creativity. She taught that creativity shouldn’t be indulged in, that it was a sign of mental instability, a whim, a fairy tale. There was no room for this kind of thinking in life. Creativity was considered a waste of time.

I wasn’t prepared for this and how it would throw a monkey wrench in my writing plans. But now, I am grateful for the lesson. It made me aware of some important things, such as taking care of myself by setting protective boundaries when working on sensitive personal issues. Another important thing I learned is the necessity of dealing with these issues that pop up from this kind of writing right away. If I am going to open the door I need to be prepared for whatever I let in. Once it’s in, it won’t be ignored. It won’t go away until I’ve done my part.

I am grateful to face this old misconception head-on. I do believe that living through my creativity is what is best for me and I have seen how it helps me to flourish personally. So, today I stand up and dust myself off from this misstep and promise myself to be aware and more cautious when stirring up my past.

Creative lesson learned.

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