A to Z Reflections: Part I // I’m Writing It the Long Way

Yes, that’s right, this is part one of my Blogging A to Z Challenge “Reflections” posts.

See, I’m not actually finished with the challenge yet, but instead of quitting after the race is over, I’m just going to go on running even as the other participants head home. I still have just over half the alphabet to go but I thought I’d at least share my thoughts so far, and, being sure I will have further thoughts after I cross the finish line, I’ll write “Part II” on the theme itself in a few weeks.

And still, even after all that, I’m want to take the challenge a step further, and with extensive editing, some additional creative writing, and a little art, I’d like make something real out of all that work, something I can hold in my hands. Something you can hold in yours too, and I’ll share my thoughts on that in “Part III.”

So far all I can share is my thoughts on the process. Writing, all kinds of writing, are a daily lesson not just in the craft itself, but in reflection, introspection, observation, and self-awareness. Writing teaches you how you feel about a lot of things and writing every day, or trying to write every day teaches you a lot about yourself too.

I’ve known for a long time that the kind of writing I naturally gravitate toward is a very slow kind of writing. I’ve known this, but I’ve worked hard to try to change it. I’ve read a ton of advice and tried a ton of strategies to “get ahead of myself” and even on good days when I spend every free second I have on words, I still can only get through a half a post at most.

My writing process is made up mostly of reading, gathering facts, ideas, and inspiration. I also enjoy brainstorming and drafting by hand. I like for writing to feel more like an assignment, a task, a very serious endeavor. I’m not sure that will ever change but I know that if I want to it, I have to start by trusting the process first. Maybe I have to just go with it for a while and write the way that feels right to me?

I also realized I’m still not a very good writer, but it’s okay! I wouldn’t expect to be a very good writer yet. I work a full-time job, and I don’t read nearly as much as I should. What I mean to say is, I’m not a good writer because I lack the capacity to be a good writer. I’m not a good writer because I don’t do the things I need to do to be a good writer one day.

I’m aware that I am long-winded and repetitive. I want to learn to either keep my word count but say what I want more clearly, so that I might say more, or, if I have less to say, learn to say it in fewer words and save us all the time. I’m sure I make a ton of grammar and spelling mistakes, many I catch only after hitting “publish.” Maybe my readers would be willing to read my posts with a more critical eye and share my mistakes with me?

Finally, I learned that blogging is hard to prioritize for a writer like me, a writer who has only barely begun to solidify their relationship with the craft. I have very little to show for all of my effort except what I have here on this little unknown and, I feel, unimportant corner of the World Wide Web. It’s hard to feel important when you can see the looks people give you when you talk to them about what you do.

Of course, I know it is only me projecting my own insecurities into the minds of others. In my mind, people only understand one way of writing. I expect that they are disappointed not to hear I am on my way to publishing a book, or a poetry collection, or that I have many articles in popular magazines. I’m sure they want to hear that I’ve written something they have read or something they might want to read someday, or now if I happen to have a draft to share?

I often think blogging isn’t real writing, this challenge reminded me that it most certainly is if I believe it is. If it’s important to me, it is important. My opinion is the only option that matters on the subject, well, and the opinion of my readers of course.

Which brings me to the last thing this challenge taught me this year, I am not very good at engagement.

If there was anything I felt disappointed in myself for or wish I could have done better, it would be commenting and sharing. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much over it. I did the challenge for me. My writing is for me first, always, and with being so sick lately and with work getting in the way, I had to protect my writing time by making cuts to other areas.

I did read every comment posted here, and I replied to many. I still plan to reply to the rest. I’m finding the time to comment on other blogs too. I know engagement is critical here and I know that I give up a lot by not making it a priority. There is still time to make those connections since the master list will be up for some time longer. I will do better.

There are other bloggers I follow and admire who don’t even allow comments on their blogs and instead move to social media to engage their readers. I like that idea considering places like Twitter and Instagram are places I spend most of my time, but I’m sure no one likes little old me enough to open another tab and type their thoughts into yet another text box.

As for the challenge itself, I have very little to complain about. The hosts do a great job of keeping the participants motivated and on track. I only wish the lists provided for each letter stayed open a little longer so that other bloggers like me who fall behind can still share our work with the others. I still plan to participate every year that I can at the very least come up with a theme and a subject for all 26 posts.

I hope you all will continue to follow along while I make my way, slowly but surely, to the finish line. I love my theme, and I have no plans to give up before I’ve written every post I promised myself I would.

Thank you all for your support so far, for every kind or encouraging word. Congrats to everyone who signed up for the challenge, whether you wrote all 26 posts or none, I’m proud of you for at least trying and I want you to know that is enough.

See you soon for the rest of the alphabet!

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a virtual cup of coffee.

Written for the A to Z Blogging Challenge Reflections link-up. Check out my theme “Bleak Realities of Human Existence,” and my posts for the 2018 challenge so far, and, please, follow along for the rest! Even though I failed to finish on time, I am determined not to fail to finish at all. 

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

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If We Were Having Coffee // Working on What Works for Me

Hello dear readers and thank you for stopping by for a bit of coffee and conversation. I failed to prepare the cold brew in time, so I apologize in advance for the hot drip on this warm morning. I guess I could serve it over ice, but who likes watered down coffee? At least the sun is out, and I’m able to open up the house and let the spring breeze through. I have a feeling winter is finally behind us, and despite the pain I’m in right now, I actually feel happy.

#sugarcube #culpability #coffee

A post shared by Artie Redshoe (@artie_redshoe) on

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that ulcerative colitis is a real pain in the ass, literally and figuratively. I’m still feeling pretty cruddy, and I believe I will be for a while. The new medication my doctor prescribed isn’t doing much, in fact, I just seem to be getting worse, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, or at least that is what I keep telling myself. There will be stronger medication soon. I start infusions next month, and I have my fingers crossed and a heart full of hope that by the time summer hits I will feel something like my old self again.

In the meantime, I am getting along the best that I can, eating healthy, resting, and staying hydrated, but not exercising as much as I should I’m sure.

My fiance continues to be wonderful, taking care of me, comforting me, being patient with me, and I continue to feel awful for putting her through so much even though I know it isn’t my fault at all. The guilt just adds to my depression and anxiety and in turn makes my immune system react which makes my colitis worse which makes me feel worse which just makes me more depressed and anxious and so on and so on and so on…

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that due to the teacher walkout/call out I got to enjoy an unexpected 3-day-weekend. I’ll admit before I got wind of the coming protest I had no idea that our teachers made so little. I work for a district with a reputation for having a lot of money. We service a lot of the more affluent areas in the city, and our schools are among the best in the state.

Of course, I should have guessed. I work in the transportation department, and our drivers, assistants, and staff are all making less than their counterparts in the surrounding districts, I just always assumed the teachers were doing ok though. I fully support them and the kids we are all responsible for. We all deserve better, and it’s been disheartening to see so much pushback on social media.

I wish everyone understood how vital a teacher’s job is. Even more, I wish people understood how important every person working in a school district is to the safety and success of every child and our entire country’s future.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this is the last weekend of my birthday month, and I decided to do a little more celebrating. On Saturday, since it was so nice out, and since we had a couple of free tickets, and since we had heard so many good things about it, we went to see A Quiet Place, and I am so glad we did!

I’m a lover of horror films, always have been. There’s something about getting to feel fear and anxiety and even sorrow and regret in such a controlled environment. It’s thrilling, but it only works if you can be fully brought into a story and can really believe you are there with them, trying to escape. A Quiet Place does that in some of the most unusual and captivating storytelling I have ever had the privilege of seeing.

A Quiet Place is a piece of art, and I recommend everyone see it.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the Blogging A to Z Challenge ends tomorrow and I’m half an alphabet behind. I won’t be finishing on time, but somehow, I’m okay with that. I’m not mad. I’m not disappointed. I’m not freaking out or beating myself up. I learned so much, and I found what I came here to find, my passion.

The challenge most certainly was, and continues to be, just the kick in the ass I needed. I have posted more in the past weeks than I had since the beginning of the year. I have momentum, a groove, and I have not given up. I’m just having fun is all and working on what works for me.

I learned that I am a slow writer. I have to brainstorm first, by hand, on paper. Then I have to read three other pieces on the subject and figure out if what I am saying is different enough, interesting enough, or if it makes sense. Then I brainstorm again, by hand, on paper. Then I go through the whole mess trying to put it in order and type it up here.

It’s a lot, and obviously, there are better ways to write blog posts. I could do it that easier way if I wanted, but the truth is, I just like reading and thinking and brainstorming, the writing is just the part I do to justify all the time I put in. I also learned how I want to do better and what I could start adding to my way of explaining things. I have a lot more ideas and a place to work them out now. I feel like I’m back. I feel like I got to begin all over again.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve lost track of time. The sun is going down and turning the rooms orange and lavender, that means it’s getting late and I have fallen behind. I have so much cleaning and preparation for the work week, and I guess I really should wrap up this “L” piece I have sitting in my drafts and try to make progress on “M.”

I hope you had a good week. I hope it was stress-free and productive, and if it wasn’t, I hope the next will be so. I hope your weekend was warm and that you got to meet the sun some. If you didn’t, I hope that wherever you are, there is still time.

Until next time.

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // I Slept a Whole Day Away, Again

“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Hello, dear readers! Whew look at the time, I’m so sorry it’s late. Then again, coffee in the evening can be just as nice as coffee in the morning, you know? Coffee that you drink not because you have to but because you want to because coffee isn’t just for keeping you awake but actually tastes good too, when you take the time to make it right, serve it right, and sip it slowly.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I was actually up early this morning as I always am now because Of my stomach and my medication but I wasn’t feeling well and as, after I had eaten, I fell right back to sleep on the couch. I fell asleep for about hours, waking here and there and trying to will myself up and around the house and losing every time.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it is very unlike me. I like naps, don’t get me wrong but not that early in the day and not for that long.

My new medicine still isn’t working yet, and my body is just tired. I’m working on accepting that this is my new normal, at least for now. The doctor said I needed to be patient and wait five or six weeks to see if this medicine will help and it hasn’t even been three, yet so I have a long way to go still. In the meantime, I’m being taken off the steroid which is contributing to this yucky, sleeping feeling.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am so bummed to have to return to work tomorrow. This past week was our spring break, and while I did have to work a little, a very, very little, and there was some bad weather, we did manage to get out and have some fun.

Thursday we went to the Denver Art Museum for the Star Wars costume exhibit which turned out to be much more in depth and interesting than I thought it would. I was glad for that, I didn’t feel so guilty dragging my girlfriend to it.

It should have been called the Padmé Amidala exhibit, though, since she had the most costumes throughout the films and each was more elaborate and more beautiful than the last. If you have no idea what I am talking about you need to stop here and go start a Star Wars marathon.

Afterward, we tried out a new seafood restaurant, one we had never heard of but had received a Groupon gift for. It was in a hidden part of town I had never now about before, with a few blocks of shops, dining, and bars surrounded by housing. I’ve lived in this city nearly my whole life and never knew about this gem. The food was great, and I can’t wait to go back to the area for more exploring.

Friday we were supposed to head up to Boulder, CO but the weather went to shit, and neither of us wanted to visit an outdoor mall in the rain. We ended up at the movies instead, my favorite thing to do anytime, and saw Raw, an artsy coming of age horror film lots of cannibalism and gore. Then we went for sushi and shopping :)

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my first post for the Blogging A to Z Challenge, A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting, turned out pretty well I think, but I’m sitting here quietly panicking because I have nothing else written, at all! I’m the worst blogger ever I swear. Like, sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing here, but I can’t stop?

Anyway, I have notes for tomorrow’s post, and some vague ideas for a few other days, but that’s it. I don’t know what I expect you to do about it, except throw me a few ideas if you have any? I’m looking for catastrophic failures of humanity here. News stories about our inability to save ourselves or any other life on this planet. I want to know about all the ways we are destroying whatever is right and good inside ourselves. You’d think I have plenty of ideas, and I do, but I need them narrowed down to specifics.

But, whether nor not I get help, I am determined to do the best I can all through April and during this challenge. It’s important to me to tell these stories.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, sadly, I have to go. In the short time, we have been here I have switched from coffee to red wine, and my lovely girlfriend has finished making what looks like the best lasagna I have ever seen. Tonight is a bit of a special night, we are watching the finale of Big Little Lies, and I don’t want to miss a moment.

I hope you had a wonderful week and a very relaxing weekend. SLEave a note in the comments below and catch me up. I’d love to hear how you are and what you’ve been up to.

Until next time :)

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? 

Written for to the Weekend Coffee Share link-up hosted by Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Unsplash

Blogging A to Z Theme Reveal // The World Really is an Awful Place

Hey, hi, hello! Here I am, late to the big Blogging from A to Z Challenge theme reveal, as usual, but better late than never, right?

If you’ve never heard of it, the challenge takes place yearly in the month of April. Bloggers pledge to do their best to write and publish 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, on a schedule. Most choose themes, not all, but I hear it makes it easier.

This will be my third year of participation and you’d think by now I would have figured out the ropes and be well ahead of the curve, but you would be wrong. I’m the kind of person that can’t muster up enough enthusiasm or inspiration to complete a task unless there are looming deadlines and real consequences. I’m working on that.

To be honest it isn’t just my awful work ethic. It’s been a rough year so far and I haven’t had as much time to plan for this thing as I have in recent years but I still hope to rock this thing!

My first year’s theme was astronomy and I failed miserably. My second was fiction. I was able to finish but the writing was kind of crap and I beg you not to look.

I thought about doing fiction again, but I’ve just about given up on that kind of writing, publicly anyway. It doesn’t come easy to me the way that essay/memoir does. I thought about poetry but poetry and I are just starting to get along and I don’t want to force the relationship and risk pushing her away, you know?

So, instead, I looked to what has been on my mind lately. What is it that I can’t let go of? What do I feel the need to spend and whole month talking about?

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

― Albert Schweitzer

Since this past year’s election, all I can see are the ways the world seems to be coming apart at the seams around me. Not just because of that man living in the White House. No, the world was falling apart long before he came into the picture, but he made me more aware of it. His actions have forced me to take notice and face my false sense of safety.

I watch the news nearly constantly now and I think a lot about the privilege I have. I don’t fear bombs. I can find food easily. I have a home and work and money enough that I hardly worry at all, but I haven’t been very good at doing my part to help those who have so much less.  I haven’t even worked very hard to stay informed or raise awareness.

In my defense, I have been a bit overwhelmed but even that is a privilege. So many others don’t have the option of turning away when it all gets to be too much. It’s too easy for me to look away whenever I want to. It’s to easy for all of us to hide inside our homes and go one believing that the fire will never touch us but it will. I promise it will unless we take notice. Now.

The world is full of suffering and bad scary things and I’m not sure what to do now, yet, but it feels right to start by using my platform here for research and awareness. I carry a fair amount of guilt for not doing enough, then or now, to help.

So, my theme this year is the awful world around us.

That’s right, I’m going to write 26 posts, one for each letter of the alphabet all about something in the world that is going wrong but that no one seems to be willing to look at, care about, or fix. Everything from the arctic ice melting, to diseases on the rise, to famine, and war, and much, much more.

I know it’s a strange one. It’s not fun and flashy but it’s real and it’s important. I hope that I can teach you something or point you in the direction of a cause you can care about. I hope we all start thinking more and more about what is happening out there and what our part will be in fixing some of this shit.

April is going to be a real blogging dumpster fire, and kind of a downer, and I encourage you to come along for the ride.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

If you want more information on the challenge, head over to A-to-ZChallenge.com and if you are participating leave a note in the comments below and let me know where to find you :)

Featured image via Unsplash

The Week’s End // A Roundup of Interesting Reads

Hello, friends! If you’re looking for some interesting reads to check out while you relax, look no further, I got you covered. Here are some things I found important, inspiring, and interesting enough to share:

Believe.

Segregation never stopped.

Use what you have.

Promises or Lies?

More lies.

It’s never 9 to 5.

Obama.

A reading list.

Entering white spaces.

Let the men twirl.

Aaliyah + Rihanna

5287e6ac-d6bc-4424-9e4f-fc865f264242

Subtle Ceiling

 

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This list was sent out with yesterday’s newsletter Resist!. Check it out and subscribe!

Original image via Unsplash

Be Useful

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t supposed to be good days, but let’s imagine for a moment that they are. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all right again. If that were the case wouldn’t you be a bit more excited about Mondays?

Yes, you would, so let’s make that dream a reality. Treat this Monday as your big chance to get out there and get some shit done!

So far, for me, this Monday has been a busy one. We are just days from the regular school year starting and things are a little chaotic and crazy at work. I’m doing my best to stay out of the way and out of the fray. All in all, I feel good today, though. I slept better than usual, and I have had my smoothie, my matcha, and lost of water.

Two so simple words that are so easy to forget. Every day when I wake up I try to remind myself of just that: Be Useful.

Tobias van Schneider

Lately, and I guess my whole life, I have struggled to find a direction. Writing has helped but even in writing I find I am flailing around, trying desperately to find a purpose and a direction. I know I love people, and I know I want to reveal some truth about myself and all people, but I don’t know how. I know that I love people, and I want to help other people love and care about others too, but I don’t always know how.  I know that I want to share my story because it helps other people who feel alone, but I don’t always know how.

I don’t know how to connect to people or how to move forward to a place where I feel like I am accomplishing my goals and expressing myself.

Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm.

— Hippocrates

When I boil it all down, I guess I just want to make the world a better place. I want to leave it in better condition than I found it and with that in mind I set out to learn as much as I could about the world and the people in it. To find out why they do what they do, and try to change their perspectives, since I probably can’t change their circumstances.

So I have become an amateur philosopher, someone who is always learning and always thinking, and who seeks to help those looking for it. I do my best to help, or I do nothing, so I do not make anything worse or harder.

This blog is an attempt to do something—rather than nothing—but I’m not always sure what that something is. So this week, I’m doing my best to remember what it was I set out to do, to help people. I am working on a new editorial calendar and with every idea, I ask myself, is this useful in some way? If it isn’t, can I transform it into something that is?

In all things, we do we should ask ourselves if it helps someone somewhere. It’s ok if the thing is only useful to you. We are all here to help ourselves too, right?

This week, try to be of some use. Give all your actions and interests purpose. Give yourself direction and give your name a meaning. Make it so that where ever you are and whatever you are doing you are an asset to those around you. Make it so that you are a person people look to for help, guidance, and direction.

I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.

— Leo Rosten

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Featured image via Unsplash

From Notebooks to Novels

I don’t remember exactly when writing became a part of my life, but I know it was long before I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I only knew that writing offered a way to say the things I couldn’t tell anyone. I only know that it was a very private thing, a secret expression of who I was. I knew that it was all I had.

It started somewhere between when my 14-year-old self gave up on the world and when my 17-year-old self gave the world a second chance. I think my first notebook was probably picked up in a Hot Topic, probably along with a pack of plastic lip rings and a stack of discounted Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics.

I don’t remember when the journals became a part of my daily life, but I do remember there became a time where they were pulled out multiple times a day. I remember trying different pens and inks and even wondering about writing with coffee or even my own blood. Now that would be a true self-expression.

Like my first love, I longed to spend all my time with writing and searched for ways to bring us closer than was probably possible or healthy. I remember that I bought new journals before I could finish the old one, hoping that I could write better with a cover that really represented who I was. I remember I lost one on a bus somewhere and I still feel the loss of it as a tiny hole in my heart.

I don’t remember what I wrote about; I know it was a lot of “sad girl” stuff. I know I was lost, and I know I was angry. More than anything, though, I was lonely. I wrote about being depressed before I knew what it was and I wrote about love before I knew what that was too. I doodled and painted. I wrote my name over and over again, trying to make it into something beautiful and real.

I still have some of them. I keep them in boxes under the basement stairs and whenever I see them I feel a strange combination of love for my younger self who poured herself into them and shame that my deepest, and very often foolish and dramatic, feelings exist in a physical form. A form that anyone might come looking and see.

I don’t remember exactly when those journals moved from paper things to digital things, but I remember spending time on old computers learning HTML and typing away on online diaries along with other “sad girls.” I remember the thrill of making my feelings public and fearing that someone in my family might read them one day.

I wish I could still log into my old Open Diary account. The first place I ever met other sad, lonely girls like myself. I felt free when I wrote there and just like the paper journals that came before I wrote there multiple times a day. I was obsessed. I could change the look of it to suit whoever I was that day, and I could delete one and make another whenever I wanted to start over.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the term blogging or associated it with something I was, or wanted, to do, but I know I was doing it long before I learned the word. I moved from Open Diary to many different blogging platforms over the years, and each one was abandoned and forgotten eventually. I read other people’s blogs and fell in love with their lives only to have them abandon the medium, and me, too.

The freedom I felt at first always turned to fear. Fear of being found out. Fear that my family and friends might read my secrets and know more about me than I wanted. That felt like too much of a loss of power, but the feeling of being understood was too attractive, and I always came back to the online world of journalling.

I don’t remember when I decided that I would like to take the next step and write about who I was and what I felt under my own name, but it was around the time I began to connect the act of personal expression to becoming a published author. I know I hoped that by ceasing to hide behind usernames and convoluted email address I might be able to take this form of expression from notebooks to a novel.

I find myself moving from those private journals of my teenage years to more and more public writing every day. I set out to practice the craft and have ended up revealing more and more of myself to strangers. I am slowly learning to cope with my friends and family seeing me this way too.

I might not remember the details of how or when, but I feel that my life has always bent toward expression through words and toward the sharing of them. I am nowhere near the end of it, and I have no idea where I will end up. I only know that I have always felt the most like myself when I am writing.

I only know that it all started with a cheap notebook I bought in a store that catered to sad, lonely, overly emotional teenage girls like me. I know that that girl had something to say, and she’s still saying it today.

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Writen in response to the  The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: Origin Story

Featured image via Unsplash