WHEN I WAS a kid I started writing short stories. I created a character named Michelle, which for some reason was the name I wanted to have when I was 8 years old. I wrote mostly dialogue stories between Michelle and her friends. I remember using the flippy kind of yellow paper to write out my stories. We didn’t have a computer. We soon got one, but I didn’t know how to type.
When I started submitting my stories for English class, they were about 10 pages over the assignment limit. Thankfully, none of my teachers penalized me for this. Other kids were struggling to write 4 pages long-hand, but I was writing 12 pages or more.
I continued to write these kinds of stories throughout primary school. In grade 5 when we finally got a computer, my mom would help me by typing the first few pages of the story. After a while, she got tired of doing this for me so she taught me to type so I could do the rest. So I learned how to type — probably before anyone else in my class did.
I wanted to tell my stories. So I learned.
In grade 4 I was reading a lot of Goosebumps books. I really liked one of the stories where the town becomes deserted. I could totally visualize a town in my mind — grey, dark, dust blowing around, cars parked, stores shut, nothing moving. Silence. This inspired me to write my own story about a girl in a town where everyone vanished. I won some kind of Breslau, Ontario (google that!) award and was published in the local newspaper. My picture was published too.
This was my first formal recognition as a writer.
And the whole time I felt so guilty. I thought I had stolen the Goosebumps story and people were going to find out and call me a fraud. I thought for sure people would read my version and recognize the other story and tell me that I was a copycat. This was mortifying to me at the time. Now, I can’t even find the exact title of the Goosebumps book that I seem to remember. It’s possible that all the creepy stories merged into one and I created my own. It was just my inspiration. I want to go back and tell my 9-year-old self that.
Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul was pretty much my Bible during these years (as was the Nancy Drew series), so I wrote a short story about my experience with bullying and submitted it. I had forgotten about it until I received a letter saying that they would like to publish my story in the upcoming publication. I was so excited I told all my friends and, ironically, the bully who the story was about shamed me and said her mom would get so mad at her if the story came out. I tried to explain that it was about how despite the previous bullying, we had moved past it and became friends. She was not having it. Completely terrified that I would receive social sabotage as a result of this story, I wrote to Chicken Soup and told them that they could not publish my piece.
I was keeping a journal throughout this whole period that I would write in almost every day or whenever something really important happened. I was using the smelly gel pen markers because those were super *hot* at the time. In grade 6 there was a thief in our class and the person was stealing all of our gel pen markers so when I say they were really cool, I mean, they were.
When I entered high school, I still kept my journal, but something began to die down.
I stopped writing short stories. I stopped creating characters like Michelle.
I don’t know what changed for me or when but after I left high school I stopped journaling.
I stopped writing — except for assignments. English turned into academic writing to prepare for university — my creative flares were turned into ‘statement of fact, supporting point, supporting point, supporting point, conclusion’ paragraphs.
I stopped reading novels.
I’m telling you all of this because I’ve only recently realized that I was someone else as a child, and that someone has been hidden under layers of academic work, pressure, expectation, pride, ego, and some other stuff for years.
I’m here because I want to tell you something about me and I need to say it publicly.
I want you to know that I am a writer.
And I am an artist.
It certainly hasn’t felt like I am a writer or an artist in the past 10+ years. I have not been writing for me for a long time. I don’t know why I stopped the things I used to do naturally. But I am here now.
Admitting to myself that I am an artist has been nagging at me for a while. Especially in the last year. I have been expanding back into things I used to do much more — like dance. I found dance again in 2016 after I had been sure I would never perform on stage in my life again.
The feelings started to return as soon as I let dance back into my life. Joy, happiness, bliss, uncertainty, judgment, hopelessness, despair. Because around these art forms that I love so much, I have a lot of confusion.
They bring up questions that I have pushed away for many years: Is this my life’s purpose? Should/could I do this full-time? Can I make it? Am I good enough? Will I have any money? Am I kidding myself?
Pushed aside by years of formal education, my success, my image for my life, uncertainty, and a desire to live abroad, I put all of these things in a box and locked it away.
Today, I am opening the box. And I wanted you to know.
This post was originally published on Medium.com.