Lights Out

Lights Out: Coming Back to Myself

Every so often, I return to the park I used to play at when I was a kid. I tend to just sit in the grass and write for awhile; it’s nothing fancy, but I find that those moments are great opportunities to get my mind settled. That place reminds me of who I was at my core as a kid, aside from reputations, responsibilities, and anything outside of that town. In those days, I was who I was apart from anyone or anything else.

I now realize that once you’ve been through the inevitable difficulties that come with life, healing isn’t as straightforward as we make it out to be. I feel like we all have our idealized version of what we would like our healing to look like. It never seems to look like that in actuality, though. As time went on in my late teenage years, I began to struggle with codependence when I started my journey with romantic relationships. I began to pour so much of myself into the other person at various times that my goals began to fall by the wayside. When things fell apart in my past relationships, I then felt lost and unsure about how to pick up where I left off. These scenarios also made me question whether I could trust my own judgement. Was I capable of healing? Was I capable of standing on my own? Was I even capable of choosing the right people to be in my life moving forward?

A lack of confidence can manifest as a lack of creativity in some of us. This is how the last three years have been for me. I didn’t trust myself to write and to relay an experience in a beautiful way. Even as I was healing mentally and emotionally from those codependent romantic relationships, I slipped into silence and maintained it as a coping mechanism far beyond the heartbreak. So now, as I step back into the creative space I once knew and loved, it feels unknown. It feels uncharted, and like any sense of familiarity is antiquated. But it can become home again, that I know.

Whenever I’m not creative on a consistent basis, I can visibly see the effects. I feel down on myself, and on life. My head feels muddled with thoughts that haven’t been released into anything else. Honestly, when I think about an image to represent this state of mind, it’s a murky pond sitting stagnant. I know something feels wrong, and I know that all I want to do deep-down is get words onto the page. However, I’ve settled into that silent rhythm, and it has somewhat of a hold on me. What I’ve become used to doesn’t involve the creative risk; it might lack fulfillment, but it’s safe and it comes easy. As time has gone on, I’ve begun to feel guilty for not writing, though. I’m not doing myself any favors by avoiding it, that’s for sure, but also because I feel like I’m wasting time. Writing quickly became something that I not only enjoyed as a kid, but also something that I was good at. I feel like I’m wasting time, ability, and ideas with every day my notebook sits unopened, and that comes with its own version of shame.

Creativity today. What might that look like? And no, I don’t mean this sporadic, occasional creativity I’ve been taking part in just to fulfill the edge of the longing. Well, it wouldn’t look like what it did as a child when I first fell in love with the written word. I’m an adult now; I have a job, graduate school, a business that I’ve started, this blog, and relationships to maintain. The map of my life looks a lot different than it did then, but I don’t think that that means the creativity itself is completely different. In other words, I think the spirit of it is the same. That passion which transforms ideas to words is more of a home for me than I’ve been treating it. And what is the purpose of a home? Well, I might argue that with everywhere we go in a day, a month, a year, a life, it’s a place to return to.

In this creatively quiet time, I’ve surprisingly been doing a lot of thinking about publishing and what it would be like to put my writing out there. It seems silly when there isn’t any writing to actually put out there right now. I’ve imagined my novels on the shelves of bookstores, my short stories in magazine spreads, and my poetry nestled into collections. Each time I’ve sat to down to write, though those have been few and far between lately, I’ve considered what the piece might be like if it were published. I thought about where it might fit in the current climate of authorship, and thus I put so much pressure on myself to get it right that first time, as thought the final product I’m imagining will suddenly appear. And if you know about first drafts, then you know that that is not how they’re meant to be. This tension within myself has caused so much frustration toward writing. Don’t get me wrong, the potential for publishing is something that really excites me and is certainly something I’d like to experience, but I’m getting back to something more. And yet, it’s so incredibly simple. I want to write to write. I don’t want publishing to even be a distant thought in my mind; it’s got to be all about getting those words on the page. The publishing mentality is gone, and I think it goes back to it just being about me and words. I’m returning to the words.

Lately, I’ve written down a bunch of concepts for pieces of writing that have yet to be written, but that’s been the peak of my creativity. I have a lot of vision and not a whole lot of action. I have grand plans but not a way to fulfill them. And oddly, I’m okay with that, not having a plan of action. I’m just going to press on and take it one word at a time. I’m going to fall in love with the sound of a pen on paper again, and with the feeling of ink dragging across my left hand as I write. Just like I return to that park to clear my head, I’m returning to writing. I’m returning to who I am outside of anyone else. I’m coming back to myself.

I think this world does a very good job at streamlining us to believe that who we grew up as was naïve, carefree, and simple. I don’t think that that’s true. I think as children, we are much more unapologetic about who we are. We think freely and without reservation, and we often speak in a similar way. It’s like there’s a thicker barrier between us and the world at that time. Life isn’t a balancing act and it’s a lot more still when we need it to be. It’s present. Once we come to believe that we need to be a certain set of criteria to succeed, another to be liked, and yet another to be happy, it’s overwhelming to say the least, and we try to meet as many of those criteria as we possibly can. But when we’re busy doing that, who we are, what we enjoy, and where we started often gets lost in the shuffle.

Every time I return to that park, though, I feel a sense of ease wash over me. It’s like I shed the expectations of anyone and anything outside of those parameters. I lay my blanket on the grass and before I open my notebook, I look around and take everything in for a moment. I think about who I am in relation to that place and how I’ve grown, how I’ve changed. But I also think about just how much has remained the same. I’m coming back to myself.

Much Love, Quinn

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