I’ve always enjoyed writing because it was encouraged to me by my father. I was an only child, which could be lonely and a bit boring so writing gave me something to do. It also allowed me to be creative, and satisfy my father’s high expectations. I enjoyed writing at night and was even given my parent’s old computer to write on in my room. I fondly remember enjoying the process of writing stories. The ritual of getting tea, sitting by the window, imagining new fantasies and bringing what I had come up with to my father via floppy disk gave me pure joy and also a dream; to go to Oxford and become a writer.
In school, I was awful at mathematics, which was the subject my father taught and adored. I became insecure and so anxious about numbers that I would entirely shut off in class or when attempting to my homework. Writing became my saving grace for my own intelligence and inner confidence.
As I grew up it became apparent I was a strong creative writer but my academic writing was weak. I had learned poetic devices that distracted me and held no practical merit when it came to expressing certain ideas clearly. ‘Less art, more matter’ was my remedy, and I was given many opportunities to work my practical writing muscle after my father passed away.
My father was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer when I was thirteen. No one told me that the illness was terminal until about 3 months before his death. Innately, I knew, but the hardest part was reconciling the reality that in the year of sickness my father shut me out of his life. It is hard to know how anyone would handle being faced with their own morality, given an expiration date and told to get their affairs in order. I cannot blame him, but I do recognize that my father was a scared man who did not die well.
That year was the loneliest of my life. I had a journal which I would write in each night to try and express my feelings. I would make lists of things I could do for my father but all attempts lead to no avail; no smile, no words, no hugs just the vast and empty sighs of depression.
Once my father died, my relationship with my mother, which had always been strained began to crack under the pressure of us being alone together. My fears of my mother and her mental illness continued to be substantiated by her behaviour and unresolved by her words. I left home to stay with family friends, intending for us to work on our relationship from an even playing field but instead was attacked by my mother and the community I lived in.
The next five years of my life involved writing affidavits, testifying on the stand, and countless interviews with counsellors, police sergeants, social workers and biological family that had become more foe than friend. Whenever I was given the opportunity to write it was either in attempts to justify my position, explain my circumstance or privately provide me some inner reflection on the goings-on. To be forced to live defensively means constant thought and analysis on how to approach every word and each action. Anyone who has been to family court will attest to the nearly impossible task of remaining calm as highly personal information is recited to an audience of well paid strangers.
I was already predisposed as an incredibly sensitive person. As a child I resented my sensitive nature because it alienated me from other children and exhausted me when dealing with my own parents and each of their mental issues. Now amongst the chaos of court, private investigators and attempted kidnappings my sensitivity and over-thinking nature was kicked into overdrive.
Especially as a teenager, separating what you have to present and what you truly feel can be next to impossible. I don’t mean lying or manipulating your emotions, what I refer to is finding a way to speak your truth, (however painful) in a way that an outsider will understand. Often emotions are misread and judged as weakness, confusion, and immaturity. Again, the written word saved me and helped me articulate what I could not always say.
Eventually, all this too did pass. I still rely on writing for strength, creativity and expression. Currently I am focusing on songwriting but my ultimate goal as a writer is to write a book. This is my childhood dream that became my adolescent reality. I am often told my ‘story’ would make an excellent book.