I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how far I’ve come from the child I once was, and – at the time time – how I’m revisiting her more than ever in my actions, intent, goals, and personality. This is a mini-memoir about that journey.
When I was little, I would draw for hours – illustrations of exotic, mythical mermaid warriors with flowing white hair and sinewy limbs: sketches of fairies lounging on branches ripe with leaves and fruit: portraits of girls who looked like me, with deep, dark brown eyes and caramel skin. I would also write about the figures I drew – I would imagine the adventures they would go on, the underwater worlds they traveled, the magic spells they casted, the mysteries they solved. If you asked me then what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would either be “an artist” or “a writer” or some combination of both.
Then, adolescence crept up on me; as did the expectations of my father. “You have to start thinking about the future,” he would say, “It pays to get A’s. Remember that.” I found myself steered toward other aspirations – mainly, performing exceptionally in school and striving toward a career that was, as my father put it, “practical – not some underwater basket-weaving bullshit.” For me, he envisioned a career in the health sciences, where I could earn good money and achieve a level of social standing that he, as a lawyer with a doctor for a brother, always envied.
As college dawned, my time drawing was replaced by rigorous hours of studying and creating flashcards; the stories I used to start were subsumed into writing academic essays and research reports. That little girl who dreamed of mermaids and underwater worlds backed shyly into a corner and fell silent.
It has taken years of suppressed loneliness, multiple anxiety attacks, and ultimately a drastic pivot in my career path for me to re-realize the passions I once nurtured in youth. I am reading again, more than ever, about extraterrestrial worlds and fantastical heroines. I am writing – journal entries, poems, personal accounts. Slowly but surely, I feel her breathing freely again; coming back into that light – that child who was so exuberant with her imagination. I am learning to nourish her after years of neglect.
There are times I can’t help but grieve at the years that passed: What could have been? Where would we be now if I hadn’t abandoned her? I see artists and writers who seem lightyears ahead because they never stopped nurturing that child within. They have blogs that are internationally popular. They have published books and short stories. They tweet one line and thousands react. I can’t help but feel jealous, unintentionally stunted.
Still, I am learning to be patient and to take my time. Even though it’s hard, I recognize now how vulnerable that little girl was – and still is. That’s exactly what makes her so electric, a conduit for words, for ideas, for creation. I need her to trust me again, to feel like she can open up – and that will take some patience. Now, I know to be tender: to listen when I hear her speaking, to explore when she is feeling playful; to feed her when she is hungry for stories and wayward thoughts.
I am willing to wait for this girl – after all, she has waited for me all these years; she didn’t run away; she is still here. I’m amazed by her tenacity – despite years of being shunned and swept aside, she stuck around. Against all odds, she saw something in me; and I owe her everything for that. Everyday, we find new ways to commune together – whether its reading graphic novels, experimenting with watercolors, stitching things from fabric, or writing poetry. She opens up my laughter, reassures me that messy is OK, and helps me see beauty in the mundane.
Through her, I feel younger, freer; through me, she is maturing her voice and sense of agency. Together, we are learning to coexist.