In third grade, I noticed for the first time that I had a talent for storytelling and a command of words and sentences that my peers didn’t have. In pairs we had to read a short story to each other, something we’d written in response to a prompt. It had to do with a canoe resting on the shore of a beach. My story was epic, elaborate, about a shipwrecked boy who survived something like the Titanic, only in the Pacific. No icebergs. Basically I had the storyboard for Castaway some 15 years before that movie was made. I used the words startled, determined and collapsed. My reading partner didn’t know what those meant.
Throughout elementary school I was often called a liar. This had to do with me being unable to stick to one version of a story. It makes sense to me now, why I was like this. I didn’t have a name until I was 14 months old. I lived in three different foster homes before I was placed with the people who eventually adopted me. No one explained these events to me. Instead I was terrified to be alone in the dark and I told and wrote stories about stolen children, kidnapped in the middle of the night while they slept. Lost children, who moved through the world without adults to help and guide them. I wrote to try to make sense of the story I was living, the one in which I was dropped off with my parents by a stork who couldn’t tell them where I came from or why I was brown.
When I moved on to junior high and high school, I stopped writing to tell stories. At my rigorous college prep school, all writing was in service of the divine 5 paragraph essay. Thesis-evidence-commentary. Pink, yellow, blue. If it couldn’t be highlighted in one of those colors, it didn’t belong in the essay. It wasn’t worth saying. I mastered this style of writing. I can write persuasively to prove any point. As an undergrad, I got an A on every single paper I wrote across literature, history and theology courses. In the process, I forgot how to tell stories. I never did figure out how to tell my own.
Until a year ago.
At the prompting of a gifted writing coach, as part of a profound healing retreat, I put my origin story into words, evolved the story to include drawings, removed the words, and found the primitive, caveman art version of my early life story. This is the story inscribed in indelible ink on the walls of my heart. It’s the story hardwired in my brain.
Lest you think that’s it, that’s my story—let me stop you there. It’s the beginning of my story, like how cave paintings are the beginning of the story of humankind. I had to excavate that story, had to discover it. Now, understanding how I started, I’m retracing the path I took to get here, to this moment. And from here I’m creating my story. The story in which I’m a priestess in my own temple and anything is possible.
I write to reflect on the journey. I write to persuade you I’m not a liar. I write to speak your language, and to help you understand mine.