A long time ago, in a land not so far away, I lost my voice. This is for the people who helped me piece it back together from listening to its echo.
I found my voice.
No, I haven’t been mute for my entire twenty-one years on the planet. But, in a way, I sort of have been.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love grammar. I love editing, and am known to go on rants about the merits of the Oxford comma. I’m a writer. And an editor. The only thing is, somewhere along the way I stopped writing my story and started editing out all the parts of me that weren’t “perfect”. (So… all the parts of me). And in doing this, I lost my voice.
I think all of us know what it’s like to overthink sometimes. To overthink a bunch of things that you said “wrong”. But for me, overthinking isn’t a “sometimes” thing.
I’m professionally irrational.
As in, I have an illness that makes me spend hours struggling to breathe because I said ‘hi’ to you insecurely, like a question, and you might have thought it meant I was mad at you. As in, I say “sorry” instead of “thank you” and spend weeks trying to avoid having to talk to you because I’m afraid you’ll think I’m stupid. As in, I answer a question within the first thirty minutes of class and have to leave for the other hour because I’m afraid everyone is staring at me, judging me.
As I said, professionally irrational.
Let’s see if I can unfold this memory. Like splitting open a grapefruit, pulp and juice spraying everywhere, leaving your hands sticky long after you’ve discarded the pieces.
The abridged version, of course. We don’t want to be here for hours.
So, here it is. In black and white. The words that didn’t come easily until I let them.
The thing is, when Fear wrapped his cold fingers around my heart, I think he took my vocal cords too. And drained the ink from my pens. Okay, I know I’m typing this. But it’s a metaphor. Just go with it.
Whenever I messed up, it was okay. I’d control-alt-delete that shit. I’d pretend it didn’t happen. And, when Fear took over my brain, too, when that control-alt-delete was no longer an option, I silenced my own voice before he could get to it. Because at least if I stayed silent of my own accord, I was the one in control, not Fear. At least, that’s what I thought. As I smiled less and less, I wrote less and less. I laughed less. I spoke less, and prayed that I would take up less space. Fear told me that I had to be invisible. I listened.
You think this is a sad story, right? You think this is the story of the girl who ended up locked in her bedroom like Rapunzel, tragically romantic, beautiful, confusing. An Other.
You can’t touch her. Afraid to leave bruises on her skin or break her hollow bones. Afraid to make what’s left of her disappear.
Well, for starters, I’d say this story would be more like “girl sits in her locked tower, mascara running down her face, texting her friend ‘do you hate me’ or ‘remind me that my lungs are still working’ or ‘imsorryimsorryimsorryimsorry’”.
In any case, if this is the story you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the wrong corner of the internet. This was my Act I. But just wait til you get to the end.
Rapunzel sneaks out of her tower. Gingerly poking a toe out onto the creaking wooden floorboards, she tests her safe space. Her house’s very foundation. To make sure it can take her almost non-existent weight.
The other foot.
She smiles. Laughing, Rapunzel walks out the door and feels the sun on her face. This is a feeling she had forgotten, but now soaks in like oxygen filling her lungs after a particularly long dive.
Rapunzel picks up a pen that actually works. Remembers that she has stories pulsing through her veins. She learns that just because she speaks differently, or needs to use a microphone, or return to that tower every once in a while, doesn’t mean that she’s wrong.
She realizes she was always meant to.
This is the story of how I fell from my tower. And bruised. And broke. And wrote myself back together. This is the story of how I learned I can’t write my own fairy tale, because those kinds of stories are meant for dog-eared pages in libraries, not for life. I never needed a knight in shining armour to rescue me, because I’m not a damsel. I’m just someone who didn’t want to edit out the rest of her story.
Instead of rereading Act I over and over and over, I decided to write Act II.
It’s messy. There are lots of typos. And it’s beautiful.
I don’t know why I used a Rapunzel metaphor. Or why I’ve used a bunch of sentence fragments, citrus references, and told you my text messages. But I’ve learned that editing my entire existence just isn’t for me.
To the people who have taught me my worth: thank you. The people who offer me hummus as I’m literally hyperventilating on the floor – you’re so weird and I love you. To the people who showed me that I’m not wrong just because I’m different… I actually don’t have words, which is weird because clearly I’m not a concise person. To the mentors who helped me work through my fear of existing, who stopped me in my process of collapsing in on myself: thank you. Thank you for laughing at my poorly timed, panic-induced Peter Pan jokes. For sitting with me as I hyperventilate and curl into a ball in a corner even though that is totally not in your job description, thank you. To all of you, for teaching me what I deserve and helping me see what I am worth, I am forever grateful. Thank you to everyone who encourages me to share my writing when it feels like I’d be jumping off the edge of a cliff. You’re amazing.
Basically, I don’t care if your pen runs out of ink and your pages end up being all the colours of the rainbow. I don’t care if you drop your book in the bathtub, or spill coffee on it. Just write it. The world needs your words. We can both have ink-stained fingertips.