Every once in a while, I must pause to look around, breathe deep breaths, sigh a long sigh, fart a longer fart and smile. Even though I say so myself, I have come a long way. And because this journey has not been easy, because I have been lazy and busy and because there were always noisemakers I had to hush and ignore, I forgot to look back and congratulate myself.
I could have gotten here sooner. This place where writing still frightens the crap out of me, where the first sentence is always the hardest but at the end of four hours when I realize I didn’t notice how time went by, I feel a little well opening up in my chest and warmth gushing out. Even though I want to disown everything I’ve written, I still feel like Lara Craft on mission every morning. This place, where I am comfortable with silence and I let it decide what it wants of me, in the moment.
It’s like tugging at a small hole in time and locking myself in it for hours. I float, I writhe in embarrassment of myself, my words humiliate me but they also teach me and then there is the light plop of a water balloon and when I look around, I’m home like I never left.
Sometime in the middle of last year, I hit rock bottom from which I haven’t fully emerged yet. My writing was and still is tinged by anxiety, by revenge, and in search of a closure that isn’t there- that was never there, to begin with. But writing is all I have. Regardless of how much it hates me, I must tolerate it. It makes me vulnerable like nothing can, which is why it was attacked with such precision.
I thought I had to protect it – protecting it was a way of protecting myself. But I’ve learnt now that from the moment I began to write, there was no hiding. I feel stronger now. It feels like everything that they could say and do, they have said and done. What more, what now, what next? I don’t feel the need to protect it like I did before. It’s on its own now. We exist, as if on different planes. I own it until I finish it, and then it is not mine. It is theirs – whoever they are. They can do what they want with it. They can hold it up against the sky and mock it, hold it between the folds of their palms and crush it, hold it close to them and see their own reflections in it or they can completely ignore it. It is all I have but it is not mine anymore.
The girl I left behind is rooting for me quite strongly. I know this, I know her very well. She creeps up in my writing now and then, surprising me with a line that suddenly just appears, with a memory I didn’t know I had. If she knew I am here today, nowhere in particular but a place that she and I dreamed of, having stood through time and people, their smiles and hisses, she’d be happy for me and I, for her.
She turns up in various forms and sizes. A student who smiles from a corner and feels that she can relate to me, a student whose twinkling eyes from the first bench — her face, never leaving mine, holds my gaze steady, and tells me to ignore the bullies and just continue my work, a student whose emails tell me that I have helped her see a version of herself, a student whose voice is shaky and shivering but tries to reach out to me, and a student who never makes eye contact in class but is bursting with questions and comments. I see myself in all these people. In a world that thrives on destroying other people’s small joys, these students make it worth living in.
This doesn’t make me invincible. This just makes me see that my writing and I will always be vulnerable and this doesn’t scare me anymore. It is liberating in a very strange way, like I am letting go after holding on too tight. It has left wounds that will heal, but won’t be forgotten. I want to carry them proudly, like scars from a battle I didn’t know I was in.
Every morning is a struggle to write a new story, every evening is a sigh while I erase this story and write new ones and everything in between is a big yellow wall that I must paint a new color every day.