When you look back, you can see traces of that person inside you trying to emerge, but getting shut down for one reason or another. In my case, I was the kid with the wild imagination, never just playing or studying or riding in the car, but always creating dramatic narratives around me. In elementary school, I kept getting in trouble for pointing my finger at the teacher. I meant no disrespect. I was just absorbed in my little universe, where the teacher was a character in an elaborate theatrical production, one I created by “painting” with my finger. Of course, no one bothered asking why I was pointing at the teacher. As these things go, I was just treated as a disruption to the class, because I refused to follow the script.
By the time middle school rolled around, I’d learned to follow that script – to swallow that wildly imaginative little girl, keep my head down, and do what they expected of me. The turning point happened when my father bought me a jacket with Disney characters on the back. After being mercilessly teased for it the next day at school, I wanted to burn that damn jacket. I had just learned the first in a series of lessons: it’s not OK to be me. And so I conformed. On the outside, everything stayed the same – I made good grades, had a circle of friends, and seemed well-adjusted. But inside, I felt an emptiness that over the years grew into the sense that my life lacked purpose and meaning. I never finished anything I started, struggled through early college courses after all my peers had graduated university, and I had as many as 13 jobs in one year – some more interesting than others, some causing me shame, and all seeming to lead to nothing.
I continued to do the “right” thing until one day in my sociology class, I realized college education wasn’t for me, so I stopped trying to fit the mold and fight my true self. Instead, I embraced myself – closing the book, getting up in the middle of class, and walking out. That decision turned out to be a life-defining moment. It was as if something inside unplugged and released. I didn't know what my next step would be, but I allowed myself to dwell in that place of uncertainty, rather than trying to rush into something else. And it was in that place of not-knowingness that my first book appeared when I woke up one morning. It wasn’t a dream; rather a reality, clear as day – the beginning and end of my first book, Seeker of Time.
My job was to fill in the middle, which is exactly what I did, over the next four years, whenever I was doing something mindless – driving to work, shopping for groceries, taking a shower. I followed and expanded the story in my mind, breathing life into the characters. Four years later, the book was bursting at the seams of my mind, to the point where I could no longer contain it. Until then, I had kept it a secret, even from my best friend—my husband. I finished nothing in my life, and the thought of sharing another idea, another thing, I would never complete caused me great anxiety. But during dinner one night at the Cheesecake Factory, I told him the entire story and waited in anxious suspense for his reaction.
He was blown away, full-stop. He told me he believed in me and that I had to write the book.
With my husband’s validation, I felt the courage and strength to sit down and knock out the full prologue that very night. Following my initial burst of inspiration, I struggled terribly with writing, in particular, with my self-esteem as a writer. I hadn’t even finished college, so who was I to write a book? There were so many successful young adult authors in the world, and they all surpassed me with their knowledge and talent. How could I compete with that?
Not long into this internal battle, I got pregnant. A traumatic delivery resulted in PTSD and an unexplainable chronic illness. A few months after the birth of our son, I slipped into a dark depression. I stopped writing. I lost my will to live. Life got hard. The emotional and physical pain were unbearable. After several months of battling depression, I opened my unfinished manuscript. The demons of self-doubt still plagued me...until the day I had the proverbial a-ha moment: While a plethora of young adult books were incredibly well-written, with exceptionally developed characters and plots, I realized, many lacked depth and substance. They failed to provide guidance to the youth: deep spiritual questions and ways to approach the challenges in life. Yes, I thought they were good reads, but what happens when the book is closed?
Dropping to my knees, I prayed with a full heart. "Lord. let me be the steward of your work."
I wasn’t aware, but at that moment, I got out of my own damn way. I intuitively recognized that I was a channel for something greater—and when I opened myself up to that power, it flowed through me. The next morning, I wrote with a ferocity unlike anything I had ever seen before, and after years of the book languishing on my desk, I finished it in two weeks flat. I completed my second book, start to finish, in one month, and completed my third book in thirteen days.
While writing, I allowed my characters to process dark emotions. I allowed them to face their inner demons, and by doing so, I healed, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The depression lifted, the chronic illness vanished, and my relationship with God grew stronger. Witnessing the power of writing out one's feelings, led me to share my journey with at-risk youth in juvenile detention centers, children in foster care, and middle school and high school students around the state of Texas. Everyone experiences trauma differently, and sometimes it's hard to revisit one's troubling past, so I suggested writing participants create a fictional character, like I did in my writing, to walk through the trauma. Therapist around the country praise this technique. It allows the individual to take the personalization away from their writing while still processing negative emotions. The positive effects of expressive writing, a term coined by Dr. James Pennebaker, an American social psychologist, opened my eyes to the healing benefits of journaling one's emotions. It's the prescription you can write yourself. Sharing this knowledge with the world is one of my greatest passions.
Since the night of my surrender, I have worked harder than ever before, but for the first time in my life, it hasn’t felt like work. I am living out my true calling, my life’s purpose, my heart’s desire. Writing is like breathing; a natural rhythm my body has learned. Like an arrow, I aligned with the purity of my soul and stepped into the skin of my true self. In doing so, I stopped feeling insecure, stopped feeling the need to conform to anything other than my authentic self. Instead, I feel grounded and confident in who I am. Just like Jax, Elara, and Cyrus, the main characters in my books, the purity of my intentions enabled me to jump through a portal, into a magical realm, where I now manifest my greatest self each day.
It’s your turn: Jump.