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“Everything you write is sad.”
It’s what I hear more than anything else it seems—that I write with a sadness that seems to seep within the pages. It brings a certain melancholy to those who read it.
My mother told me recently that one of her friends read my writing and was worried for me—that she is hopeful I will find happiness one day. I responded with one of my favorite writing quotes by Natalie Goldberg:
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to split open.”
Yes, my writing lingers in some sort of sorrow that seems to envelop all of us. I don’t think of it as sadness though. I believe I write honestly. I write about the thoughts that keep all of us up at night, the scars that haunt us, and the fears that are tucked into the corners of all our minds, which we are afraid to whisper aloud.
I cannot be alone in knowing that without the rain there are no flowers. Without the wind, there would be no waves. I simply choose to dive headfirst into those feelings and feel them when they linger.
But, I write about magic too; you just don’t get to read it. Those words are written messily in black ink in moleskin notebooks, which I’ve been filling up since I was 20 years old. Wander into my apartment and among the stacks of books you’ll find 14, maybe 15 little black notebooks piled high—full of days I thought were worth writing down.
I’ve spent a day kissing a kind man in the middle of the mountains as the leaves turned my favorite color orange and my phone had no service. We hiked above the tree line, ate dinner just the two of us in a wooden bungalow, drinking red wine that I’d carried in my pack as the fire died in the wind.
One afternoon at my favorite local pub, I howled like a monkey so loud that I made a whole bar of grumpy old locals go silent; my best friends laughed so hard that they fell out of their chairs and onto the floor.
There have been nights with my brothers, the three of us lying together on a couch watching movies and talking of our childhood late into the night, all these years later, long after we’ve all grown.
Those were magic moments.
Until right now, they’ve always been just for me. There are pages, far too many to count, of words I do not share. Letters that I tuck into pockets with zippers, and sticky notes that I leave on steering wheels for people who make my heart warm. I scribble poems on the back of to-do lists, and I write these sorts of essays in my head as I drive home on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the window rolled down, the music loud, and my fingers dancing in the wind.
These words are for me to remember the simple joy that my life has been. So, when I’m old and my messy hair has turned completely gray, I can flip through the pages of my life, see how I’ve grown, where I’ve gone, who I’ve loved, and just how incredible the simple task of making pancakes for dinner can be when you’re sharing them with someone.
But I don’t just write for myself. I write for you, for them, and for perhaps a stranger sitting on a bus on a rainy day in the future who stumbles upon my words as they head home to an empty kitchen. For there have been so many moments where someone else’s words have given me the strength to carry on. In my darkest moments, I’ve always looked for words to be a compass, to show me that I am not alone. That when my heart is splitting open into a million pieces, which I cannot begin to pick up, that someone before me has felt this too and survived.
Isn’t that what art is for?
The world can be harsh. We all feel it, let’s be honest. We all carry scars, some of them visible, scratched against the softness of our skin—a reminder that we are not invincible, that nothing lasts forever, and we cannot outrun pain. Many of us too, carry deeper scars that are hidden to the naked eye and from all but those we share them with—our deepest fears, our biggest heartaches, and the memories that we push so far down they haunt our dreams.
So, I write to set my soul on fire, to remember it all, to understand all that I feel.
But, I also write to hopefully remind all the other soft, beautiful, and somewhat fragile ones out there, that they are not alone.