I’ve wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would sit at my family’s typewriter and write stories, illustrating them and binding them myself. Occasionally I sent them in to writing contests, but never won. I was published for the first time when I was 17, and haven’t tried to be published again since.
I don’t know what caused the itch to write so much & so young, but my first few years of life were spent relatively voiceless due to a lisp that caused me to be unintelligible when I spoke (I still have problems with S and Z). I began speech therapy when I was 3, but in the timeline of my life, I remember writing first, being audibly understood second. Due to my lisp and the bullying that accompanied it, I didn’t speak very much until I was 16 and got a job working with the public, finally coaxing me out of my shell. Despite what people would say, I never considered myself shy – I was simply apprehensive, as the world taught me to be so. As an adult, I am often reserved – perhaps who I am naturally, or perhaps from growing up fearful and feeling like an outsider in the world of speaking. From before I could speak in a way that was understood, writing has always been the way I communicate myself – who I am, the experiences I have, the things I want to put out in the world.
(As a total & complete aside: Last year, Humans of New York featured this little boy in a Batman hoodie who has a speech delay. I wept after I read what his mom had to say about him, and I think back to that face often. My experience was so similar, and I am so fearful for this little boy that the world will treat him the same way as it did me.)
To this end, and as I’ve written before, I believe very strongly in the healing power of storytelling, as well as its ability to unify and lift up love and inclusion. It was my dose of humanity and understanding in a world that, as a child, so often told me that I was wrong to speak. And storytelling continues to be my outlet to honouring my true self.
I tell stories on my blog – non-fictional narratives about my life. I write fictional stories for myself – usually in old notebooks. I keep a series of handwritten journals that are kept only to myself – my deepest stories…the stories that cannot be told.
I imagine that we all have stories that we cannot tell – or rather, that have not been told, because we have never known how to tell them. I have stories that I would like to tell fictionally (and publish), but don’t know how to. I have stories that I know I cannot tell non-fictionally, because of backlash. These stories often inhabit my journals but even then, that’s not telling a story. When no one hears it, is it really a story?
I always imagined myself finding that person who can share all my stories. Yes – I have had best friends who I have held on to for years, who know me better than sometimes I think I know myself. But even so, these friends don’t know all of my stories. They may know bits and pieces of my stories. Perhaps they knew my stories when they were still fresh and confused.
My ex and I were faithful storytellers. At night, when I was falling asleep & just wanted to keep hearing his voice, I’d ask him to tell me a story. Sometimes I had a topic for him, sometimes I’d just listen to whatever story came to mind. He was creative in his storytelling, and sometimes his stories were troubling or touching and other times they were amusing and silly. He would flip it on me and I would tell him stories, a similar mix of things that few know and the anecdotes that have been told time and time again. One time when I was deliriously tired, I told him an inspired story about people living in Antarctica that began with me dreamily saying, “I wonder how they’re all doing down there”.
For most of the time we dated, I suffered from crippling anxiety due to the environment I was in. We only dated for about half a year before he began using drugs again. As a result, he didn’t know most of the stories that I cannot tell.
Back in April I began dating a guy who felt right once again. I had confidence that this was someone who I could share stories with, even the ones that I have not told. But, he’s no longer mine, and my stories still are known only to me.
I hope that one day I’ll find that person who I can share these stories with – and that they can share theirs with me. Am I alone in the perception that this is what we look for in partners? That person who we can share every page of our book with – who knows what reads in the various & many chapters of our lives.
I feel a little silly saying this. The feminist in me says, “No you don’t need a man (or partner) to tell your stories!” but the true me is saying, “Yes – you want that security, you want that person, you don’t have that right now and it is not in any way bad to have that person. That doesn’t make you less of a strong, independent person.”
Our stories make us who we are, even the ones that seem impossible to tell. We seek security where we need to – often in the hands of another person – because sometimes our burdens seem too much to hold alone. There is nothing wrong in seeking a partner who can share in those with us.
In the meantime, I continue to hold on to the stories that I cannot tell. I grasp them and struggle with them every day, trying to find a way to tell them. As I said, I believe that we all have these stories that we cannot tell. What do you do with yours?