Growing up, my emotions were compressed within myself in a voluminous jar, with a tight solid lid preventing any sort of sentiment from breathing out of me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t allowed to express myself publicly, no. Rather, I didn’t know how to express myself, and there was nothing to reinforce the idea of talking about the things that bothered me. Coming home from school, my family never asked, “How was your day?” or any sort of question that would open the opportunity for empathy. Instead, I was greeted with a candid question, “what did you learn today?” that I would respond with a candid answer, “nothing.” It wasn’t that my family didn’t care or were bad people. They have good morals, I can assure you, it centered on a ‘Ride or Die’ philosophy: If you mess with one of us then you mess with all of us. I knew they loved me, but had a funny way of showing it. Affection just isn’t a word in their vocabulary.
When I look back it now, it always surprised me that I turned out the way I did, the opposite of how I was raised, I turned into a romantic at the end of it; love was all I wanted, love was all I wanted to give. It was a feeling that I couldn’t live with and without, desperately seeking my next fix, even after being through a number of heartbreaks, it was they only thing, I felt, that defined me. But now… As I type this, I can see why I ended up a hopeless-romantic.
This wasn’t really an issue in my years as a teenager. I had not the desire or need to tell my parents about the complex emotions I felt after my first breakup. In fact, all I wanted them to do was to stay out of my teenage years, and they did with no protest. As a child, all I could remember was having a novel full of earnest questions that I silently knew I would never get the answers to.
Mom, why are we moving?
Dad, when are we going camping?
Why do you guys yell a lot?
Why are you getting a divorce?
Why won’t anyone talk to me?
This lack of communication didn’t climax till two years ago, when there was a death in the family. I’ve been surrounded by death before but none of them carried any meaning, they were just names with titles to me, uncle Frank, cousin Joe, aunt Lily. This death, however, was different. It was the death of my guardian, the only person to raise me after both parents abandoned me, after a rocky divorce, my great-grandmother. The details are still vivid to me, the day she died. The phone call. The drive. The ICU. The last breath she took before passing. The amount of tears that swelled from my eyes, drowning my vision in a rapid of anguish. It’s all still there. I remember the day after her death no one talked about it, and it killed me that no one was talking about it, because all I wanted to do was talk about it. Instead, I found myself tumbling down a hole of depression crying along the way in my room alone, there was no body there. Everybody else seemed to be handling it well, or maybe they found other ways of grieving, or maybe they were dying inside, as I, and had not the words to tell.
I didn’t know how to handle this shit-storm of emotions. It resulted in me pushing away my friends and girlfriend. None of them knew to handle the random fits I would throw. I didn’t understand it myself. I wanted to explain it to them but I didn’t know how to talk about it. I didn’t know how to talk about it in a way would justify my actions. There was no one to turn to. I knew a therapist would probably be best, but the idea made me feel a little insane, but it was insane to think I was insane for seeing one, I see that now. In the end all I wanted was for others to feel as I feel, see what I see, and think as I think.
I might have been deep in some dark thought, on the verge of suicide perhaps, when I grabbed a pen and notepad and started writing. It started off with words; adjectives that best descried the amount pain I felt. Then words formed into sentences, and sentences formed into paragraphs, and paragraphs formed into stories. Stories about nothing but small vignettes of brief emotions that would bust throughout my body, devouring it, changing it. It was the only way I knew how to communicate. It was the only way I knew to grieve. The only person willing to talk about it, the death of my great-grandmother, with me was me, on a blank page. I lost myself in my stories; I lost myself in the flow of writing. At the time, I didn’t care if it was good or not, all I cared about was articulating the words that would bring me equilibrium, and get me out of the state of mind I was in.
I decided to go public with my writing, that’s when I started caring if it was good or not, because as I look back at my past I see a kid, alone, scared, someone who wants to be heard, who wants to know they are not alone in the world. I wanted to share them in hopes of reaching someone and being able to have an impact on their lives, as the books that I read have done. I know that’s asking a lot, but a writer can dream.