To be a writer, you must understand pain. It is not an easy thing to do, nor is it something you can create for yourself. To be a writer, or at least, to be a good one, means that you must have lived, that you must have an understanding of the essentials of humanity. Not just love and hate, but more complex "feelings," or emotions. The sting of bitter betrayal. The yearning in your heart for something unattainable. The drive and ambition it takes to become as cold as steel. The feeling you get when you see a loved one walking down the road one day alongside a person you do not like and meeting their eyes, just for a second, only to see their confusion at your pain. These are the things we feel that we cannot describe, that there are not deep enough words for. It is the writer's job to channel these complex human emotions and translate them into circumstances and plots and themes that are relatable to their readers.
But why pain, as opposed to more positive examples?
Pain grows you. Pain helps you understand where other people are coming from. Pain gives you empathy. It is an understanding of yourself and others that cuts deeper than a simple conversation. To understand one's pain is to look them in the eyes and share something beyond words. To be broken is to glue yourself back up again, stronger this time.
Happiness makes you numb. If that were not so, then there would be no divide between the rich and the poor, no lack of understanding between the refugee and the rescuer. I believe that if we truly understood pain, we would not act and live as naively as we do here in America. Despite our differences, we could see the real being behind the face or body. We don't have to agree with their political leaning or way of living, but we can understand! And we could see what lies there instead. In my opinion, happiness and contentment, for prolonged periods of time, is the prescription for mediocrity and apathy.
(Joy, however, is not like happiness. It is not like pain. Joy is something you are, not something you feel. It is one's choice to be joyous, to keep hope alive and burning. You can 'feel' pain and joy at the same time, they are not the other's antithesis.)
This is only a snippet of what writers must understand, to truly understand the human condition and breathe life into characters they create from the graphite of a pencil tip. Struggles, motivations, ways with handling situations, these are our characters, and at the same time, they are us.
The balance therein lies not in allowing our emotions, whatever they may be, to consume us. Our experiences are what can shape us, but they do not define us. We can choose who we will be despite our circumstances. And perhaps this is where we as writers differ from our characters. We may wield the pen, but we are not the product of it. We direct our characters' paths and feelings, drawing on our own lives to help them fully express themselves. They are, in a way, the image of us. But not us. And this is why we as writers must live and understand what it means to be a human being, so that in turn our characters will reflect this, too. Because we are not writing these characters only to bury them. We write them because maybe they, the reflections of ourselves, can influence the real world around us. We've all been touched by a certain scene in a movie, or conversation in a book, in many different ways. We call some of the best of these 'classics' because they stand against the test of time. We relate to them, because in a sense, they tell us things about ourselves. And this is what I strive to do as a writer, to influence readers, whoever they are, and teach them something about themselves.
That being said, when I am lonely, or when I feel pain, or when I am caught in the middle of a maelstrom and can hardly see in front of me, there is a certain kind of peace about it. That this is life, this is what everyone who has ever lived before me and is living now and will someday live, experiences. The situation can be resolved in whatever way it must, but the feeling, the bare bones of the stuff, that is what grows someone into a deeper understanding. Whether the interpretation is true or skewed is irrelevant. We all feel the same emotions, and the varied nature of them is what makes us human. Writers have always influenced their readers in different ways. I doubt Kurt Vonnegut understood humanity in the same way C.S. Lewis did. And yet, their writings both bring to light so many facets of what makes us, us.
To be a writer, you must understand pain. Understand pain, I said. Don't go jabbing yourself with a pencil, you crazy kid. Live.
The past is such an interesting thing. It’s a concept we’ve come up with to better recognize change; the changes in our lives, in what we look like, in where we go and what we achieve. We remember and honor that past in our memories, moments, glimpses of our lives hung like photographs to the wall in a gallery room.
So much of my wall is filled with pictures of you and the memories we both share. I imagine the room as very bright, very lived-in, with a high ceiling and high windows letting in a constant morning, sunlight on occasion highlighting our time joking in the kitchen at all hours, recording funny videos, making forts out of any and all blankets we could find, singing along to VeggieTales and Disney hits.
And though there is a section of that wall veiled in shadow – the hard times, the times we fought, the times we were both crying – I am so proud of the person in that wall and who you have become and every single moment we spent together.
My eyes drift from snapshot to snapshot, each one hung in a different frame and different place, taking up the entire space. I can imagine myself lifting a finger and running it along the base of one in particular. A random picture of us at Hillside, the cold creeping in through the baseboards and thin windows, but us asleep in our sleeping bags, together. Talking. Sharing. Imagining.
In another photograph, we’re on the couch, freaking out over the latest TV show, shouting in amazement like we’re at a football game, snacks spilling, hands in the air.
I turn my head, spinning in the room, feet scuffing the wooden floor. We’re riding our bikes, I skid, and you’re calling Mom frantically. You’re showing me makeup for the first time. We’re bickering in the bathroom. I sit with you can your friends at lunch. We had that awful time at Friendly’s after watching a movie. We’re at ballet class. We’re going Trick-or-Treating. We’re in the car with Dad on our way to Nova Scotia. We’re at Disney. We’re making up silly voices (like Moffat’s mom!). We’re having random dance parties. We’re having sleepovers in each other’s room. I hear a chuckle reverberate in the gallery, and realize it is mine. We’re now yelling at each other to get out, shoo, stop taking each other’s things!
Out of all of the people in my life, I think you have been the one to influence me the most. You always saw something bright in me. You kept me on track. You reined me in. And, even though our personalities are so very different (and I do so regret to have brought you so much strife), we are so similar. There is no one I would rather be as close to than you. And, I’m sorry for never really relating that to you well.
We went through a lot of crap in our lives, plain and simple. We both handled that differently. But we both came out of it. And there was so much more happiness and light than there was shadow.
When I am loud, you are quietly grasping my arm and forcing me down from my pedestal. Where I am lazy, you are determined. I am so excited to see who you become! You have so much potential – your effort and drive never fails to astound me, day after day. That will most certainly be an advantage in college and beyond.
As I turn around once more, I see that the colors streaming in through the windows have shifted, darkening to deep orange, pink, and a velvety purple. But if I crane my neck, I also see that there is so much more of that wall, waiting to be filled with even more memories.
You are my sister. Nothing is ever going to change that. Please know as you start this new chapter, new volume in your life, that I did, do, and will always love you. And I’ll be there, whenever you need me. I promise.
I have no doubt that your future will be bright; there are no limits to what you can do, if only you once realize that! Have faith in who you are, have faith in who God has created!
Try hard, work hard, think hard. But have fun! Realize that one moment in time can feel like it is everything, but know also that the one moment does not define your life. It is the whole book, prologue and back cover, that makes the story, not just a sentence. Your life is yours, and that in itself is something amazing. The world is waiting…
And I’ll be there when you call.
600 miles away, and the trees begin to lose their leaves, buds only just starting to sprout and flower. The air is cooler, drier, crisper. Once you hit Connecticut, suddenly everything makes sense. Everything looks so familiar as you drive in the sun's shadows and travel steadily northward. Pine trees litter the sides of the road, mixing with shrubbery and grass unmistakably native to New England.
Even the downtown areas off obscure highway exits keep to the same theme: coastal, preppy, white painted buildings and black street lamps and manicured lawns.
Perhaps it was this mix of odd familiarity after such a long winter of the south that combined into a "feeling," some kind of knowledge that this, this is home.
Perhaps it is the events, the memories that are tied to certain places, that cause us to be hit with waves of nostalgia at the streets, shops, and wooded roads that make up where we come from. To you, that hair salon might just be a name, but to me, that's the first place I applied for work, at the front desk, and didn't get it. That breakfast place across the street might seem quaint, but I remember going there when I was 8 with my great aunt and my parents after church. That Plaza Azteca used to be a Chili's—I remember all the booths I sat at. HomeGoods might fit your fancy, but to me, that's my summer job.
We grow attached to the places we've visited and experienced. It's the reason why we might run our hands down an iron stairwell rail, why we cannot stop ourselves from buying a familiar brand. Sometimes, we see ghosts of people we once knew in the aisle of a grocery store.
But all this pales to how we feel when we're truly home.
My spring semester at Liberty created so many memories.
It was a year of experience. It was year of learning that having fun is very nice thing indeed. It was a year of learning, of growing, and of blooming.
I wouldn't trade the people I met and befriended for anything.
Hanging out with my quadmates was just the best. We had so many hilarious moments, filling up an entire wall with quotes and sayings someone might say that out of context sound amazing! We had our fair share of dance parties, hiking trips, dinners out, random midnight Taco Bell runs, Wii Just Dance competitions, and more.
I grew closer with so many people, but especially with my good friend Elizabeth. She's a fantastic individual of good character that I absolutely adore. We get along surprisingly well, since I'm an extrovert (I prefer omnivert) and she's an introvert. I tend to lean more center-right/center-left, while she's a strong right. But I suppose that's one of those things about people. They can't truly be defined; what is true for one person isn't necessarily true for the other, however similar their Myers-Briggs says they are. In fact, she's going to be my roommate next semester! See what she wrote about the year here: goo.gl/EX1Cvg
This summer, I'll be going back to my part time job, but in the meantime, will be writing the many chapters of my new project, The Grand Adventures of Lady Saskia and Mr. Fredrick. I've got the basic outline finished, and have almost completed the first chapter. Be on the lookout for updates!