Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Not the Only One: IWSG

I grew up in a very small town. I grew up in the kind of small town where everyone was just certain of my path and my destiny.

“Oh, that Rena. She’s going to be an amazing veterinarian when she grows up.”
“Rena you’ll be such a great teacher.”
“You know, Rena, you can make real money raising sheep. If you do your herd right, you’ll be able to go to college in the winter and work lambing on spring break.”
“You need to study hard if you’re going to save the environment.”

Yup, my whole life was planned, signed and delivered by the time I was 11. About then someone asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to be an astronaut. Reader, I broke hearts with that simple proclamation.

But it’s an old small town and they knew the true path to getting their way, patience, solidarity, and a steadfast denial of all words actually issuing from my lips. I played a pretty convincing part, raising sheep, showing horses, training llamas, you name it, I did it. But I also memorized all the features on the near side of the moon. I studied the stars, I took extra physics classes when I could. I sang in the choir. I was in the band, and drama, and soccer and swim team. I wanted to play football, but that path was closed to me. Small towns can only allow so much.

In school, I read every book in the library with a horse on the binding. When I’d read all of those, someone recommended that I try the ones with the rockets: and I did. And it was amazing! The only problem was, none of those books were about kids like me. Not one. I grew up lonely and never seeing a girl from a small town who got to have a story other than grow up and fall in love. The story was always girl grows up and realizes horses are childish and falls in love with a boy.

First, I desperately didn’t want to think horses were childish (one of my first real jobs was as a horse back riding instructor). I loved horses (and had to sell mine to go to college), and well, let’s just say the guys weren’t exactly throwing themselves to date the girl who ran faster, got better grades, and could literally throw hay bales, so a love story wasn’t exactly going to cut it for me. I was lonely, and my life looked nothing like the books that should have been hand made for me.

So one day, I wrote a different kind of story where a girl rode her horse into outer space to go save the Starship Enterprise. Firstly because everyone should ride a horse to go save the world, and secondly because I’d never seen a girl like me, do anything the world seemed to think important. Surely saving the Enterprise would count as important.

That story was very important to me, and no, no one will ever read it. But it had everything that I loved and it spoke to me. 

Hooked, I wrote another story just for me. This one didn’t use nearly so much Intellectual Property not belonging to me. As with many of my works, I cajoled, bribed, and begged until someone else read it. And that time, that time I heard the timid voice whisper back, “I thought I was the only one.”

I thought I was the only one.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard that whispered back to me by people who were embarrassed by some deep truth so close to their hearts they’d never shared it with anyone until I showed them the scars on mine. People I didn't think I had anything in common with, people who didn't look like me, grew up under totally different circumstances saw something of themselves in my words.

And that’s why I write. I write because even in the world of over sharing social media, I still hear it. People read my stories and confess that they had always felt alone. They’d always thought they were the only one who felt it—the shame, the secret joy, the guilt, the pain, and the pure exhaustion that is life, or just how lonely it is to feel something you shouldn't feel because society tells you that you're supposed to have exactly one emotion (I'm looking at you motherhood).

In short, I write so people will know they are not the only one.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group, so hop on over to the Link, wave at The Ninja Captain, and say howdy to this month's cohosts:  J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!