One of my goals coming to Rwanda was to rediscover myself. I wanted to lose myself in a place a had never been, with people I never knew and hopefully find out who I really am.
One of the things I hoped to regain was my writing. Since before I can remember I have been in love with words. My mom describes me a chubby toddler, barely walking chasing after people asking them to read to me. In my faintest recollections, I can almost hear Ben (the man who helped on our farm and was the target of my requests) with his booming voice tell me the story of the Farmer and the Rabbit for the hundredth time.
I don’t remember learning how to read. But I do remember clutching books and hiding in secluded areas and sinking into different worlds. I would live in these worlds long after the pages of the books closed and could sit for hours just existing in these worlds. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, the pure magic of using abstract symbols to construct breathable realities was a drug to my young and impressionable brain. I developed a habit I could not kick.
And a drug it was. Most parents beg their children to read more books but for me, my parents begged me to stop reading.
“Stop reading and do the dishes!” “Go outside and play” “Moses. Mooosees. MOSES!!!”
“Turn the light off and go to sleep. You have school in the morning”
I would sink so deeply into the stories, hidden in my reading nook in the basement that I would be deaf to the calls of my parents.
As I grew older the role books played in my life also changed. They became more than mysterious worlds for me to explore. They became friends. As a young boy in an accidentally nomadic family, I spent summers in the library with my friends. Falling in love. Hating. Accompanying. These characters became not only my friends but my teachers.
Art imitates reality. And even in a book about dragons and fairies, characters interact in human ways. From this, I learned how to socialize and interact with people. But this is a story for another time.
The point of my rambling is to say that I love words. Love so deeply and intensely that few relationships I have in real life measure up. I began as a reader. It will not surprise many of you to know that I soon picked up the pen and started to try my hand at crafting these magical words.
It started with the childish parroting of stories I knew. I was writing fan fiction before the term was coined. I created stories. Simplistic, childish stories. But stories nonetheless. I then quickly started creating my own unique worlds and characters. Breathing life into beauties like the assassin monkey and the superhero motorcycle gang. I still cry thinking of how much I lost when my younger brother erased the hard drive on the computer I had all my childish doodlings saved. Though my skills were rudimentary, my ideas were brilliant and whimsical in only a way a mind unfettered by the constraints of reality can be. I sigh thinking of what could have been if I had those ideas and the skills to execute them.
Then I went to school and was blessed by God to meet with teachers who taught me to harness my creativity and did not crush it. For the first time, I realized that my mysterious love could be understood. Her mystical charms could be dissected and that I could learn to speak her language. She was no less magical for it though. I fell in love with the exploration of her plot structures and dived deep into discussions about her themes. I spent many happy days like a mad scientist examining her from every angle.
In school was also when I first tasted the most dangerous drug; external validation from success in writing. I was reading at a “college level” in elementary/middle school and winning reading competitions by margins that could not be surpassed. My score has recently been broken which is amazing! (https://www.cantondailyledger.com/news/20180524/josie-harn-breaks-accelerated-reader-record?template=ampart) I won a poetry writing competition. Was able to defeat a teacher in a bet. Yes, I am tooting the horn of my childhood self but it serves a purpose.
I became driven by external validation. I would work hard and I would be rewarded by teachers fawning over me and students being flabbergasted. I loved it. Revelled in it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was moving away from my roots. It was no longer about the words, the characters, the magic. It became about me. The words were simply the means to an end, the end being my ego being pumped up. I look back and I realize some people tried to call my attention to it but I simply was too high on success to listen to their voices. This continued even until college. I published some poems in school magazines and won some competitions and thought I was unstoppable.
Then I stepped into the real world and everything changed. I failed. Not once. Not twice. But many times. I submitted poems and short stories to competitions and heard nothing back. I wrote and wrote but I was not getting the validation I so desperately craved. My friends still told me that my work was wonderful but now their words sounded like empty mockery. I had heard of the stories of writers writing and getting rejected but somehow in my mind, I said no, not me. I am special. I am talented. I mean wasn’t that what I had been hearing my whole life?
I was crushed. More than I think people close to me realized. I have had my heart broken before and I will honestly say that this was worse for me in terms of the effects. I stopped writing. I still wrote some few things but the passion was gone. The magic had petered out with my lack of motivation. I was no longer gripped in the throes of passion where if I didn’t write I would explode. I would go days without a pen in my pocket. I told myself I was fine. That I didn’t have a gaping hole in my life. I stopped dreaming of being the world youngest Pulitzer in Fiction winner. I gave up on the blog that had gotten me through said heartbreak (patheticwithpotential.wordpress.com) and decided that maybe writing isn’t for me. Maybe I am only meant to be an appreciator of the beauty but cannot play a role in the creation.
I gave up on dreams I had not even fully articulated at the time. Dreams of crafting writing for people that look like me. Dreams of travelling the world on the back of my poetry. Dreams of being one of those names you hear. You know the ones. The names that shaped an era solely on the power of their words. But the most painful dream to give up was one I had since before I can remember. The dream of creating a world and characters that children like me could live in and befriend. I wanted to give back something because I am the person I am because someone else gave back.
I honestly don’t know why I wrote all of this. I will not edit. I will not change anything. I will let this stand as it is.
I want to write again. I am scared because it has been so long and like any unused muscles mine have atrophied. I am afraid that I will suck. But I guess I am more afraid I will die before my story has been written.
I hope this will explain why my blog has been so empty. I hope this will be the start of something new. I hope you will join me on this journey. I hope you will be patient with me as I try to remember how to dance with my lover again.
I would apologize for the awkward stumbling that is to come but one of my teachers told me that as long as the work is yours and is true then never apologize.
Most people won’t get to this point so if you have thank you, I love and appreciate you. Also, I owe you a cookie. Message me and I will send you a gif of a cookie or meet me in real life at some point and I get you a real cookie.