Sometimes at night, I look through the trees in my backyard, catch a slip of moon through a cloudy sky, and feel as lonely as I did when I was a teenager. In the night, the quiet, the empty air, my legs tingle all the way up to my backside.
As a kid, I felt that if I only had enough energy and momentum, I could open my bedroom window, burst through a screen, and get the hell out of my life. Decades later, with the lights out and everyone in my house asleep, I get that same get-the-hell-out-of-here feeling—but it’s loneliness rooted in a different kind of craving, not getting the hell out, but looking back and feeling like I’m running out of time.
I forget my manuscript is not a manufactured good, a carton of milk or a can of soda. It doesn’t expire. The thought of my story being expired or untimely because I should know more and should have written more by now–it’s a way I undermine myself.
But still I ask myself, why have I not finished my memoir manuscript? Why do I hold myself back? Have I ever really written a story? Because my stories don’t feel finished. These questions are their own form of loneliness, but they are also comfortable, like a worn-in shoe. And when I start asking them, I feel the low tide of my emotions.
Ebbing back and forth between who I am now, who I once was, this has a lot to do with writing memoir. In creative nonfiction, to create a first person persona, I have to separate myself from the girl I was. It’s a strange, dissociative feat.
When you take a girl like I was, different in her thought processes from who I am now, writing first person narrative becomes difficult because there are two main characters–the narrator and younger me. In my writing, I want to show how different these two are while I use plot lines and a character arc to create a forward momentum.
As I do this, the story continues to change. I’m realizing there may be three main characters: the reflective narrator, the main character of the girl I was, and the feeling of anxiety. Anxiety is so strong throughout this text that at the very least, it creates a mood, a themes, a pattern of imagery. At most, anxiety could become its own character. However, right now, the feeling of anxiety is not dynamic; it doesn’t change. But what if the way I experience the world continues to shift? My story continues to transform as I revise, which means the way I view this manuscript keeps changing, which means that I sometimes wonder if it will ever be done.
But some things don’t change. When I write memoir, I rewrite my story; I reinterpret my life. Through writing, sometimes it feels like I am conjuring myself into existence.
There is no expiration date on experiencing the dream of being myself.