Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about life before Los Angeles - what I went through to get here, what has made me the person that I’ve become. It’s interesting to me to recollect the patterns from one year to the next. The way that events unfolded in my life could have been nothing less than fate.
I grew up in a small town with my mother; a young RN fresh out of nursing school, and for the first five years of my life it was just the two of us. She taught me how to entertain myself as an only child. I read a lot, and had an entire entourage of imaginary friends. I can remember in Kindergarten I watched my “friend” Diannah bounce from the teacher’s desk to the chalkboard tray, and lower herself to the ground using the cord connected to a large map of the U.S on the wall. It was all in my own imagination, but I could see the map unroll, and a world of new and exciting places fell down before me. Little did I know that one day, I would travel coast to coast.
My mother remarried when I was five. My stepfather’s children had a strong dislike towards me, and to be honest I wasn’t always particularly fond of them. According to them, I was the imposter. Like most other despised outcasts, I took to the woods. There was always something so calming about the openness in the outdoors.
I would spend days on end from ages six to fourteen running alone, barefoot through the summer grass, and when winter fell, I would nestle myself into a large tree branch with my latest 400 page challenge. I always read the first page, and the last… before deciding to read the books entirely.
Books were my escape. My journey. They were everywhere I wanted to go, and everyone I wanted to be. I jumped into them like a fever… and spread every inch of myself out onto the pages, allowing the characters to infect me like they were a part of my soul.
Those pages were my reminder that there was something else out there. Something bigger than what I already knew. Words described how you felt, what you saw, how you asked for things and showed appreciation. Words explained everything you believed in, and even what you couldn’t understand. They could command an army, or break a heart. Words were life. Words were motion. Words were everything.
It was no surprise to my mother when I won a poetry contest in the fourth grade. I wrote a poem about bullying, and being different. I remember only a few lines from it. “I can run really fast and jump really high, but my shoes aren’t name brand so you won’t let me try.” I also used the example of a sinner being amongst saints… they considered him to be an outcast. But then posed the question, “What if you’re a saint in the midst of all sinners?”
I have known injustice since I was a child. It took many years before we ever danced together, but for as long as I can remember, we’ve been acquainted. I would help my mother sift through our WIC food stamps, while pushing a cart full of kids and generic food items down the aisle. We didn’t have much, but it was enough to keep us fed and sheltered. I knew my parent’s loved me in every way they knew how, but we were from “the wrong side of the tracks.” A little piece of land down a long gravel road in Olivehill. It wasn’t exactly the kind of place you wanted to come from.
I can remember the first time someone related my family to the “Beverly Hillbillies who never struck oil.” We were nothing… So they said… We were trash, so they said. It was the moment that I realized the effect of words. How they made me feel. What it made me believe about myself. It took me almost ten years to learn to listen to the words within me and not the ones outside of my heart.
Back then I would write about my teenage years in spiral notebooks. Words scrawled in black and blue ink of love stories, tears, and broken hearts filled those pages, which explains why then I felt so empty inside. The stories that I often relive as an adult when asking myself what kind of future I want, those are the ones I go back to. Words that eventually I will one day revisit and put into a larger story… however, my heart isn’t ready yet. Those words will remain unsaid .
When I started college as a creative writing major, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that every other option was boring, and words were really the only thing I had ever been good with. I wound up pursuing a passion in film later on, but not before using those creative words within me to write a speech that I read aloud to the entire Freshman class. When I spoke aloud, I felt ignorant. Small town. Miniscule. But when I wrote… I felt as if I could capture history in tiny increments, and share it with the world. I thought, surely someone must be interested. I wanted to be President. My campaign slogan was “Pick Me, I’m Tennessee.” My accent was so thick that people couldn’t remember my name only where I was from... But it was enough. I won.
Now here I am at 24, a producer’s assistant in Los Angeles California, and an avid writer pursuing something that I can’t quite picture yet. Last week I stood 15 ft. from Kelly Osbourne, met one of the executive producers from America’s next top model, and saw Unique from Glee for the second time. This morning, I’m writing these words down, just to cast them out into the world. If they land anywhere I’ll be lucky, and if not… I know they’re there. I know that I have made it. I know that I am no longer that whimsical little girl on a tree-branch, but I’m still full of wanderlust. These words tell me so.