The Record Skip Manifesto

I recently watched the movie Her. Twice. I’m a sucker for emotions that run high and beautifully written dialogue. Words tend to plant themselves in my heart and grow there. One of the lines that resonated with me was when Scarlett Johanssen whispered through the speakers, “The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

There are times, especially when I’m involved with this masochistic art we call memoir writing, that I feel stuck. I feel as if I keep harping on the same bad memories over and over again. It’s like I keep revisiting a place on the pavement where I tripped, and my blood is still smeared into the sidewalk, and I’m there just to remind myself that this is where I fell, this is a part of my past, of my identity, forever.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve done the Invictus Project twice that hinders me. I used to be able to crank out draft after draft, just trying to get whatever I had to say on the page. It’s the high emotions I try to avoid now. I’ve paid my penance once already. My sanity is trying to avoid doing it again. So the words come slower now.

When I revisit these memories, it’s easy to feel stunted, like I haven’t grown at all in the last year and a half. I’m letting the timid, terrified little girl I once viewed myself as out of her locked closet in the back of my mind. But I’ve found that time has a way of moving in a circle. I re-encounter these turning points in my life, and most of the time I try to lock them away or bury them. It was the only way I could feel like I’m moving forward.

And then one day, I realized little things that were not the same. And I understood that this was progress. It’s like someone moved the needle on a skipping record. I saw people differently, and they saw me differently. They recognized an unconscious change within me.

It’s hard to quantify change. The only manifestation that I could see was within my writing. The deeper I delve into my Invictus piece, the more I understand has changed. For my future and fellow writers that dare to walk past those blood-smeared sidewalks over and over again, this is my manifesto to you. This project, as cliched and obvious as it sounds, has taught me more than any tripping and falling I could have experienced on my own.

The Record Skip Manifesto:

1. Nothing is harder than writing- There are marathons that are run, mountains that are climbed, and physical pain that can be unbearable. But any athlete will recite the words “mind over matter.” If you don’t mind, the pain doesn’t matter. But how do you battle your own brain? The words never get easier, but what you write takes on more weight.

2. You can’t understand others unless you understand yourself, and vice versa- Empathy is the greatest human emotion. It’s what makes you cry during a song or a movie. Its absence can throw you into the darkest, loneliest corner of your mind. It’s the collective human consciousness that gives everyone the tiniest glimmer of hope that this all means something. It has to.

3. Reality is multifaceted- The past is not your own. Your memories are not yours to keep. And things never happen the way you remember them. All lives are made of moments of shared space, and as a writer, it’s our job to see all of their parts.

4. What you do matters- Give yourself space to be a writer. Things that seem simple and child-like are often the most profound. Nothing stands the test of time like one meaningful sentence.

5. Evolution is a terrifying entity- Nothing tears people apart, crushes dreams more, or illuminates the world like change. People, whether you believe they really change or not, can’t help but evolve. They adapt, they expand, they live.