Before I sat down to write this, I felt that writing a personal entry is a cop-out for today’s writing practice, not worth my time (or anyone else’s for that matter). Thankfully, I came across an article earlier this week that encourages new writers to get the autobiographical urge out of their system before ever attempting to write a novel. It made sense to me because as I sift through writing prompts, I find myself drawn to the safety of familiar topics or genres of writing. When I wrote the story “Funny Feet” I was put off by the silly concept of a man who laughs every time he sees feet but as I began to write, the story unfolded before me and is now my favorite short that I’ve written.
Writing the three short stories I have in the past few days has been a huge personal accomplishment. Prior to beginning the 500 Word Challenge in 31 Days, I hadn’t written anything creative besides a witty post it note. I spent my entire twenties in school where I earned two bachelor’s degrees – one in Women’s Studies and the other in Nursing. When I wasn’t in school or working, I was partying nonstop. Looking back, I can see that I was in search of community and I found it. I could go to most popular venues in the heart of Detroit and I’d always be greeted with open arms. These were the people I considered friends.As I approached my thirties, many of those friendships drifted away because they weren’t built on anything substantial. In addition, the nightclubs and bars didn’t hold the same appeal. I often found myself bored. Nonetheless, I continued to go out consistently because I didn’t know what else to do. Plus, I hated to be alone.
I had almost given up on my dream of doing anything creative. Over the year’s I developed a mindset that if something didn’t make money or bring instant gratification, it wasn’t worth my time. Well, that mindset has changed. As I was finishing my nursing degree in 2014, my mother’s health began to decline drastically. She eventually entered hospice and I was in charge of her medical care when the hospice nurses weren’t around. It was the one of the saddest and most beautiful moments in my life. She was so grateful for my care and the love between us was palpable.
I continued caring for her, juggling school, watching over my cognitively impaired uncle, and courting a new relationship all at once. My stress level was through the roof and I kept myself heavily medicated with a high dose of anti-anxiety tablets to make it through the day. Fast forward to May 25th of 2015, my mom passed away. Fast forward again to June 15th, I lost my first nursing job. The women I worked with did not like me and for the first time in my life I found myself trying to impress people. This was something I wasn’t used to because throughout my life, people have always been drawn to me. Also, I was in the midst of grieving my mother’s death and my mind was unable to focus on the job. After I was fired, I sunk into a deep depression.
My boyfriend and I took a trip to Germany that had been planned well before my mother’s death and while we were there, my mood dramatically shifted. The trip was exactly what I needed.While in Berlin, I sat on a window sill of a beautiful apartment in a neighborhood called Kreuzberg with my boyfriend as we drank wine and dreamed about what life would be like when he moved in. It was August and he was planning to end his lease in September. We talked about different art projects, a room we would dedicate to creating music (since he is a talented musician), and how we would redecorate to make the home ours. Writing came up passively. I was more interested in the idea of becoming an artist. In my youth I was constantly drawing and when I went to college the first time, I took a painting class and learned how to use different mediums. I was sure that when I returned home that I would begin putting pencil to paper and bring the images in my head to life.
When we returned home it did not take long for depression to find me again. Steve hadn’t moved in yet and I was all alone in the house for the first time. My uncle who had been living with me up to that point had flown to Tennessee to be with my sister and it was decided that he would stay there. It was the freedom that I always thought I wanted but when it happened, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I slept. I slept a lot. And I drank. A lot.To the point that it almost put an end to Steve moving in. He told me, “If this is how it’s going to be, then I don’t know if I can do this.” The thought of losing him made me clean up my act. I started seeing a therapist, slowed down with drinking, and tried to reach out to my friends. Everything seemed to be getting better until October 28th, 2015 when I was in a car accident that resulted in a broken tibia.
Recovery was complicated in the beginning. I ended up in the hospital twice because of infection. Also, I was instructed that I could not bear any weight on my right leg for 12 weeks. Steve had to take care of me hand and foot. He even hired my cousin to come take care of me while he was at work. One might think that this would result in a downward spiral back into depression, but it did not. Sure, I was sad. There were days that I would feel immense amounts of self-pity. But something in me had changed. I felt my own mortality for the first time. I allowed myself to grieve my mother’s death. I had time to be grateful for what I did have and I dreamed of the future – a future I felt lucky to have. I also watched the man I love unselfishly do everything in his power to make me comfortable and ensure I was well taken care of. I’ve never felt more gratitude in my life.
Steve said to me one day that he was shocked at how positive my attitude was. I don’t know how or why but I was happy and the reason didn’t matter. My mental health was becoming…healthier. I did what some may call “soul searching” and truly gave thought to what it was I wanted to do besides being a nurse. Did I want to draw? Read? Write? So at first, I broke out a sketch book but was hindered by fear. Feeling discouraged, I decided to begin reading books. Books of fiction that I didn’t have the time for and didn’t make time to read while I was living out my twenties. Then online I came across a discount for three writing courses through Writer’s Digest. I got excited. In fact, I got so excited that I purchased the courses immediately and ordered the required textbooks. Next, I came across the 500 word challenge and made the decision to start. And I did. And this blog is my testament to the commitment I’ve made for myself.
It has been so long since I’ve felt this alive and consumed with writing. I hadn’t written a short story in over a decade. What surprised me even more was that I wasn’t afraid to write; in fact, I couldn’t wait to get started. I decided whatever came out would only get better with time. Now I have three pieces that I am actually proud of. To many, this may seem insubstantial, but to me, it is a monumental feat. I am no longer dreaming of doing something, I am doing something. I am inspired and motivated. The reason I did not write a short today is because I spent most of it reading short stories and about the craft of writing. If you could see me right now you’d think I’d had a very rough day. My eyes are bloodshot and I’m wearing leopard print pajama pants, a purple shirt, and pig slippers; however, today wasn’t bad at all. Quite the contrary. Today was full of pleasure, inspiration, and insight. I went on forums and read other’s writing and encouraged them to write. I even gave advice.
Dear words: I’ve found you again and I’m not going to let you go this time. Not without a fight.
Thank you for reading.