The youngest of 5. The odd one out. I was used to a certain kind of solitary existence where hiding under the wooden study table accompanied by my stuffed dog and bear was a regular afternoon adventure. Nobody wanted the ‘extra’ player who couldn’t jump high enough, run fast enough or play any of the games without ‘special’ rules for the incapable. I was too much the baby to be any use to older children’s desire to win.
With 20 years of hindsight now, I remember how those moments of solitude was fertile ground for imaginative play. My games had no rules, just stories of my stuff animals and I hiking into the woods and hiding in the cave. And when that little adventure grew old, I would cut up paper and imagine myself in the process of inventing something wonderful. Day in day out, when school was over, I found myself in a space of creating my own entertainment.
Often left alone to my own devices by a negligent mother, I found myself growing in the solitude. Growing in the process of conversing with oneself and introspection. A desire for peers brought in me a desire to converse. Shy as I was and often only hanging out with children my older siblings called friends I found myself fascinated by the idea of a diary. I kept one. I remember it as a soft covered Garfield notebook with pages varying in color. I wrote nothing of relevance, except maybe for what happened to me during the day. I was no proficient in writing. Often the entries consisted of short sentences written in uneven print with words misspelled, but always starting with the lines Dear Diary. It was this diary that my older brother found, read and teased me with. It was this diary that made me believe I could never keep another journal for there was no privacy in house with 5 children. It was this diary that made me feel further alienated and alone.
Solitude, however, breeds introspection. Introspection begs expression. I discovered this profoundly as an angsty, suicidal 5th grader in the shape of words—beautiful, powerful words. Our English teacher introduced us to poetry. I do not recall what poem we read, except that we dissected it, gleaning from the short phrases the meaning of the poem. I saw poetry as a code, a secret code the poet sends out to the world and only those who truly understand could decipher its secrets. Something in me started to bloom. When our teacher asked us to write a poem, I felt my body grow wings. Poetry allowed me to speak without having to be straightforward. In poetry I discovered a way to both hide and be seen. In poetry I found a way to speak.
As I fell for poetry, I fell for words. I fell for them hard. Solitude and words moved my feet towards the safety of the library where silence reigned in the valley of words. In there I found myself taking journeys from investigating murders to wearing petticoats. I lived for the words, choosing not the genre or classification, but following a palpable hunger for words. Maybe it was the familiarity of solitude that made me care less for human interaction and more for the company of beautifully stringed out words. Every finished book, filled me with stories of my own, with words of my own, which soon needed its own space to bloom. In the comfort of alone-ness, I began to write not just poetry but stories. My little imaginary games came to life in the pages I filled with stories of all kinds. I spend countless summer afternoons writing pages of stories, often imitating the writers I loved.
Growing in my words, I began true journaling where each page were not filled with things I did, but with thoughts, musings, poetry and stories both fiction and true. As if, all of these words, have long been incubated, they pour out of me in their roughness, broken grammar and fragmented thoughts. Now, many years since my first diary and my life under the study table I have found words and solitude as intimate bedfellows. In the solitary space I carve for myself, I become acquainted with a world inside me, incubated, waiting for the right words to draw them out. In the odd-ness of being left out, I found my solitude and my words. I found myself.