There aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s already 10 o’clock and I’ve spent my ENTIRE day recreating my homepage for the blog. Trying to learn how to do everything myself so that I don’t have to bug Ryan to fix my site or help me get it looking the way I want it is one of my biggest goals right now. I’m impatient to an extreme degree so being able to get stuff done myself keeps me sane.
I still have laundry to fold and some sciatica stretches to do since I’ve been feeling a slight twinge in the familiar places, but I’m still going to get this post published tonight if it’s the last thing I do. Feel free to tell me that these journal posts are too frequent and that you’d much rather have restaurant lists and travel tips. I’ve kind of been expecting that to happen. But until then, I’m going to continue to share what’s on my mind.
Did I ever tell you guys that I’ve always wanted to write a memoir? Probably not because I’ve kept the super personal stuff off my blog until recently. The whole reason I started these journal entry posts was to stop drawing a line in the sand between what was worthy of a blog post, and what I kept in a separate writing folder, hidden from everyone.
When I was younger, I used to spend hours writing everything from poetry, to short stories, to journaling and was never afraid to share it with anyone. I guess you can say as I got older and had more responsibilities, the less I made writing a priority. Because I was so out of practice, I started getting really self conscious about sharing my more personal stuff. But now I want to just put it all out there and start taking on the mix reviews I’m bound to get. So let’s talk a little about this terrifying idea I have that I’m going to someday write a memoir.
I know the idea of writing a book about my experiences sounds narcissistic and self involved and pretty ballsy. Some might even say that it’s extremely arrogant to think that I’ve accomplished something big enough or suffered through a great enough tragedy to fill a novel. Some people might be right, but some people also don’t know me that well.
After I read The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr for the first time, I realized that you don’t have to be a celebrity or cancer survivor or part of a public scandal to write a memoir. You can just be a writer who possibly needs to shuffle through some stuff and might have a story to share that a few people can relate to. Or maybe sometimes you just need to write the words out to make sense of what you’re going through, even if nobody ever reads it. Not that I think I’m anywhere near as good a writer as Mary Karr, but indulge me a little while I go down this rabbit hole.
If I had to say one thing about my childhood, it would be that it was short. Not in a ‘they grow up too fast’ kind of way, but in the actual tiny amount of space it takes up in my consciousness. Whenever I try to summon my past memories I have to rummage through small and incomplete snippets to try and cobble together a concrete image that I can put down on paper. So how could I begin something as concrete and massive as a memoir if my memories betray me and often leave me stuck in the middle of a page? Ya got me.
Reading memoirs has always filled me with inspiration. I’ve been inspired with the conviction that I have a story to tell. But I’m also aware that telling that story would mean I have to explore some of the deepest scars I carry around. I’m sort of frozen with the fear that I don’t have the information I need readily available. I’ll have to dig, scrape, and claw at relationships, hidden memories and everything short of time travel to find the words I need to fill the pages.
It’s like having an actual box of all the memories I have stored in my subconscious – a physical representation for every single thing I have been through in my entire life. Of course I’ve stored the really happy stuff right at the top of the box for easy access. But buried under all of the happy is my most traumatic memories – the things I try to forget about.
Sifting through that box is basically what I imagine writing a memoir is like. I imagine physically picking up those precious happy moments at the top of my box and moving them aside to get to the bottom. I imagine diving into the dark hole of uncertainty and then staying there to sift through it all, compartmentalize it, and finally organize or rearrange it to help me make sense of the whole picture. It’s why this one thing on my bucket list is the only item that terrifies me.
This probably goes without saying, but my box of memories is completely overflowing. I’ve closed the latch and put one of those tiny little child’s diary locks on it, which obviously isn’t going to hold forever. I know the clutter inside is spilling out but I’ve chosen to ignore it. I’ve run away from my past, both figuratively and literally. I have put and entire country between that box and me and left everything that I didn’t want to deal with in emotional storage.
Then I started a new box. I traveled, I moved to New York, I met a wonderful man who I love, I have a dog – I started a brand new life and left all that other stuff behind to collect dust. But nobody told me that there wasn’t going to be someone else there to check in on that old box and wipe the dust away – that nobody else was going to pay the storage fees for all that emotional baggage. I didn’t know I was going to have to eventually deal with all my old shit. The bad stuff comes with the territory. It’s sort of a package deal and it took moving to a new city to figure out that you can’t out run it.
In March it will be six years since I hopped on a train and let it take me as far away from my life as it could, choosing whatever direction it wanted to, distracting me by the scenic route. It was one of the most important decisions I made in my life and optimistically I strapped myself in and enjoyed the ride. But now here I am with my box of emotional baggage, the storage bill in my hands and it’s time to pay up.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever really get over the fear enough to ask the hard questions, to be open to the answers. I think I could write an okay memoir, but how the hell do I willingly dive into death, drug addiction, terminal illnesses, and prison sentences?
It doesn’t really matter if I want to confront these things because the box is here and it’s too heavy to send back. I know that if I don’t open it up and start to sort through it I’ll never be the person I want to be. All that my past has been trying to do to keep up with me. The hustling it must have done to stay on my trail and eventually find me in New York to say I’m here, where can I unpack?
I’m not sure why I’ve decided to tell you all of this. Maybe it’s because I hope by publishing this it will give me the guts to actually follow through. Maybe I’m hoping that there’s someone out there who is struggling with something similar and maybe it will help them to know they aren’t alone. Maybe I assume everyone has emotional baggage and can relate to not wanting to deal with it. Whatever the reason is, it’s too late to take it all back now.