I’ve never kept an official diary. It’s strange for a writer not to journal, but I always felt guilty for not being disciplined enough to write on a regular basis. Though when I was younger and things did happen, I often wrote about the events in a third person narrative. It helped me sort things out, see them from a different view.
Participating in Invictus makes sense in that context. It’s the process of turning my memories into a story. And while everything I write about did happen, in Invictus, it’s all much more poetic. Epiphanies become exposition. Anecdotes become story arcs. Friends become characters.
It’s so hard to watch the people in your life become characters. It’s even harder to watch yourself become a character. All of your mile-markers, all of your shortcomings and emotions compressed into ink and paper.
I’ve been analyzing my past, which events make sense for the story and which ones should stay solely my own. As we writers comb through our lives, we are tasked to interpret ourselves. We sit and decipher the codes of our character. I look at the scenes that I’ve already written. I see this girl struggling so hard through adolescence. I want to help her. I want to tell her what I know now.
And I realize that her struggles are now the emotional baggage I carry around. When I look forward, I think about the decisions I make in terms of what that girl would want for me, for herself. She would want me to drop that six-year-old baggage on the side of the road and drive off as fast as possible. But the baggage is still in my rearview mirror. I could still turn back around if I wanted to.
In this limbo I have time to think about my story and hers. This character, she’s defined by the baggage she has to work through. Who am I now that I can choose to cast it off? My past will always be a part of what shaped me. But there’s a difference your past shaping who you are and shaping who you can become.
My Invictus piece is a memorial, not a grave. I want the readers to love the girl in the story, to connect with what she feels and the journey she goes through. But I also want them to find what she finds, a way to accept the past and use it to change. I want them to unflinchingly head into the storm.
As cliched as it is, our stories are still being written. With every step, it’s laid out in front of us. We can’t stop it from happening, and we can’t choose where it ends. But we can decide which parts of our stories continue on the next page.