(Mis)Understood: Why I Write

People often ask me why I write. They wonder:

  1. Why I am so vulnerable in my writings.
  2. Why I write “Rays of Light”
  3. Why I spend 10-20 hours a week trying to tell stories and find meaning out of an assortment of observations, facts, and feelings
  4. Why I craft unique sentences that roll off the tongue and dance upon the page
  5. And then why I choose to then share these written creations once I have completed them

Undoubtedly, these questions could not be more legitimate. Heck, I ask myself these questions often: Why do I do the things I do? Why do I write? After all, writing isn’t often seen as the sexiest or most common past time, especially not for a 24-year-old. Alas, I have decided to share my thoughts on this simple yet important question: Why do I write? to explain why turning phrases and telling stories matters so much to me.

***

For starters, I haven’t always been a gifted storyteller. In fact, I didn’t I truly begin to find my voice until the summer of 2016, between my sophomore and junior years of college. As a child, I had a non-verbal learning disability and struggled to read through at least the fourth grade. But even when I did learn to read more proficiently, I often struggled to understand what I was reading, at least for a while. For these reasons, writing was also something I deeply struggled with earlier in life. Growing up, my mind may have been rich with knowledge of history and geography and concepts of science and math, but stories were abstract and elusive. I may have vaguely known what I wanted to express, how I felt, or how I thought I felt, but I lacked the nuanced words to describe complex emotions or ideas that are not so easily expressed in casual conversation. So, like many children or youth, I frustratingly fumbled around with words as I diligently tried to articulate myself, often with limited success. And because of it, I often felt misunderstood, stifled by the opaque barrier between my brain and my tongue.

Difficulty articulating myself only compounded an already pervasive feeling of being misunderstood and lonely. For more reasons than one, for much of my life, I have carried a sense of being unlike those around me. Of course, this mentality often isn’t the healthiest to maintain, so I try to keep it in check as much as possible. Still, deep down, in most fibers of my being, I feel different—one of a kind. Between having a slowly regressive, neuromuscular condition (CMT), having had a nonverbal learning disability, coping with depression and anxiety, having a bright and wandering mind, and growing up in a socially isolated home, I developed an internal sense of uniqueness and loneliness from any early age. To live in my shoes was—and if I’m being honest: sometimes still is—to live a world of my own mental creation, a world that allowed me to be uniquely me, even if the physical world around me did not.

If children didn’t want to play wiffleball with me because I couldn’t run as fast…well, damnit…but, fine!! I guess, I would go make up a game, spend time with my sister (i.e. my best friend), or create something with sticks, mud, and rudimentary tools. (I truly loved playing with mud, water, and fire as a child.) On the bright side, however, even if I wasn’t afforded the depth of quality social interactions I desired as a youth (between ages 5 and 13), no one could touch my mind. Even if I was hurt, frustrated, or misunderstood—or even if I wasn’t invited to a neighbor’s birthday party—I would stay busy: my mind would keep me company.

As I have matured, I have learned that my mind is not always my best friend; it encapsulates both my angels and my demons. As such, I have learned to challenge feelings of being lonely, unwanted, and different, because these feelings can lead to serious problems in my life and my relationships. To curb these feelings, I practice mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and as of the past week—meditation—each day, multiple times a day. Though these practices are by no means an antidote for depression, anxiety, or thought distortions [which, by the way, we all have], they help. Big time! They help me to slow my thinking and reach rational decisions, which are squared by emotions, actions, and logic. Psychologists call this therapeutic trifecta “Wise Mind,” but I like to think of it as a prescription for maintaining cognitive and emotional balance.

Big surprise—I also write to clear my mind and stay balanced. Quite often, writing feels like the only appropriate means of collecting my many thoughts, organizing them, and making sense of them in a way that can be immutably expressed to others. Put another way, it’s difficult to repeat the same words, in correct order, punctuated by appropriate cadence. However, once words are written, especially in a special notebook or an online blog, they remain indelibly. Writing thus affords me the opportunity to both speak my truth and, as I so deeply value, to express myself in granular ways. Putting my pen to paper or placing my fingers on a keyboard, more often than not, makes me feel empowered, at balance, heard, and perhaps most importantly: understood. My writing has also helped to tell others’ stories, too.

In March, I started writing my blog “Rays of Light” with hopes of telling other people’s stories, spreading positivity, and helping others feel more understood. Perhaps I am incorrect to assume that most people feel misunderstood, at least at times. But the benefits seem to far outweigh the drawbacks. Perhaps if we all understood each other better, then our world would not be filled with so much hate, violence, and tribalism? I’d like to think so at least.

***

All to say, it is important not to romanticize the life of writers, though it can be so easy and tempting to do. Even though I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be the next Jack Kerouac, Harper Lee, or David Foster Wallace, at my core, I know that these writers—along with many others wordsmiths—have fallen into the trope and trap of being a tortured artist. They have been unable to separate their craft from their happiness and the everyday rhythms of life. In effect, too many of them have lived to write, instead of living and then writing. And surely, this is not the life I strive for! After all, how will you tell powerful stories if you won’t let yourself breathe in fresh air and feel the sun kiss your skin, without worrying about when you be putting pen to paper next? The simple answer: you won’t.

I feel blessed to be able to express myself and tell powerful stories. Writing helps me feel empowered, understood, and alive. However, in my writing, I also know that I have the responsibility—both to myself and to others—to decide when it is wisest to use this gift, and when it is wisest to sit back and enjoy unfiltered experience, without feeling that there must be an overarching storyline or grander meaning at play.

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