I have always been a writer.
When I was young, some of my earliest work was simply retelling some of my favorite stories with Crayola markers and printer paper. My version of Thumbelina and Beauty and The Beast were a hit with my mother, sometimes I would even tell them to her in Spanish. Yes, she still has them.
I would write stories with talking animals, I would create characters and draw their families. I would have elaborate plots with my Barbie dolls, they were all connected somehow. (Weddings happened once a week. Yes, there were designated wedding planners, what kind of monster do you think I am? That’s a lot of weddings, they all had jobs.) And last but not least, all my stuffed animals were friends in their own Hundred Acre Wood. They all had a story–everything I touched had a story.
In the summers when school was out, I would be thrilled to go to the public library. I would run to the non-fiction section and get a bunch of books on different countries. I would write book reports about amazing places, their cultures, and why we should go visit them. (For. Fun. This was fun to me.) After I finished, I’d present them to my mother, my stuffed animals, and sometimes our family dog. They were all really great listeners.
When we would return to the library, my mother would encourage me to perhaps get a picture book this time, but I was interested in biographies on Houdini and Anastasia. I wanted to read about people, I wanted to know their stories.
I discovered other creative interests.
I started taking piano lessons, making up songs with new melodies. I kept a journal and wrote songs, I would sing them in the shower. I picked up a lot of instruments and told stories through their tune. I picked up a camera and would make scrapbooks; I started putting real-life moments with my words. Taking pictures of people, giving them nicknames, then carefully positioning them on themed pages. I recollected chapters in my life and preformed magic tricks by freezing those moments in time.
I got to high school and took a journalism class. I finally found my groove for a while. I loved the idea of getting to interview people about their experiences and writing features on them, so people could know their stories too. I was editor-in-chief of my school newspaper when I found my voice. My senior year, I had a column once a month where I talked about the things I had learned in life…go figure. My voice was not mature yet, but it turns out I learned a lot about homecoming and deciding not to go my senior year, because my sister was turning 5.
I even submitted some of my poems and photographs to our literary magazine and had forgotten how many actually got published. Looking back, I found a short story there too. Holy crap! Did I really write that? Oblivious to acknowledging my work was being published and distributed, I just kept writing because it felt right.
I was busy in high school, involved in everything I could get my hands on creatively. I was there for the requirement, to be honest, my electives were the reason I got up and went to school. I remember one day my senior year, running on 4 hours of sleep, with 10 seconds to spare before the tardy bell, I sat down out of breath, and got my notebook out.
My government teacher was reading my school newspaper before class. As he closed it, he called my name out. My eyes got bigger than my sockets. “Great work Monica, I really liked your column this month. I can’t wait to see your byline in the New York Times.” I thanked him in shock, then thought: New York Times? Yeah, right.
More people started commenting on my writing. I slowly and humbly started to realize–people were actually reading what I wrote, and some of them were actually liking it. What I had once done for my pleasure and sanity, was being recognized as good work–it was entertaining people and I was somehow helping them. I felt both proud and vulnerable.
But, for a while, I didn’t want my voice.
Writing has always been one of the loveliest things about me. But, I lost my voice for a while–I left my marbles in Neverland. Over time I hid from writing under my invisibility cloak. So much so, that I had forgotten how much life writing brought me. For the longest time, I didn’t want to write–I didn’t want to bother the feelings I had so comfortably pushed down inside a rabbit hole. I would hurt my creative soul by saying things like: I’m focusing on other things right now, I’m trying to be an adult. I knew where the feelings and ideas were, and when I needed them, I could go down there and get them–when I wanted to. But I would hurt myself by saying, “Right now, right this moment, is not the time.”
“No, I don’t want to build a story. Go away,” I would say.
And like a sad child with her favorite stuffed animal in hand, she would reply, “Okay, bye,” then walk back into the overcrowded rabbit hole.
But it had been seven years without my marbles. I had lost a huge part of who I was meant to be. And, my rabbit hole started to overflow. There was too much snow, not enough snowmen. All the things I hadn’t written about, all the stories I told to go away… the joke was on me and my timing because they started floating up into my mind.
Slowly like a lava lamp at first, then fast like a blowout in a well. Some days, unresolved and untold, they kind of started opening the stream of bad thoughts. And other days I would wake up in the middle of the night with a scene I had to get up and write out. Oh, wait…I think I know why I’m out of storage on my phone. The ideas and feelings started floating up faster, sometimes so fast I couldn’t control them. They wanted their stories to be told.
The writer says yes to writing again.
Over the years my writing had taken a few different voices. In college, I found my academic voice and the voice of organizations I would write for. I started managing a blog for an organization I was passionate about, so I at least had a passion for writing again.
But, during my first job out of college, when I found my pitch voice, I hated the idea of telling people to write about something I wouldn’t even write about. What was the point? Anytime I tried to put some personality in it, it would get shut down and reworked so much that it didn’t sound like me at all, but I still had to put my name on it. My voice started getting taken away slowly, and it felt as if this writing thing would never take off again. I felt defeated.
I’m thankful for all those voices I tapped into, they helped me grow professionally and help others, but oftentimes it felt awkward and uncomfortable—I never felt the peace and warmth it had given me before. It had been a while since I was able to answer to my own voice. I started flirting with it again, unafraid of sharing it with the world, and I began to feel alive. That’s kind of how Find A Lovely Life happened. I was ready to reconnect with my voice again and share it with others, to help me give my voice life again. And, so I could hopefully help others, help themselves.
Find A Lovely Life Writing
I hope that my writing awakens you to reconnect with the thing that makes you come alive. It lives inside of you, it always has and always will. That voice will keep calling you back to the water until you decide to go beyond the reef and feel free. You just have to unveil your eyes and look at the signs that keep leading you back to it. And, if you haven’t discovered what that thing is yet, start with a list. Write down the things you’re passionate about, that should lead you somewhere familiar. Start there.
One of my favorite quotes ever is from Howard Thurman:
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
What makes you come alive? Go find it. Go bring yourself back to life already. Breathe life into what’s been missing. Surrender to the voice inside, calling you back. Because I miss you, you miss you, the world needs you alive–now, more than ever.