When taking the initial steps in a new endeavour, we are bound to stumble and should expect to fall on our face at least a few times. To be as direct about this as possible, I’m nervous. I don’t know what I’m doing. This isn’t the first time I’ve written, it’s just the first time it has been so public. I don’t hide my writing from people, but I usually don’t flaunt it to people I’ve never met before.
When you break it down to it’s core, having a blog is really about putting something personal out in public and saying, “Check it out, I’m pretty awesome.” It does take somewhat of an ego to move forward with the process. Fortunately, I’m not someone lacking in confidence, but I also come complete with an inherent system of self-doubt that works hard to keep my ego pent-in.
What starting this new project has helped me realize is that both the ego and the doubt play an important role in what I put out into the public, but neither of them have anything to do with why I want to put these things out there. I’m not writing a blog because I think I’m the coolest person I know. And I’m not doing it to find validation for myself. I just have something to say. I want to express myself, and I do believe that the words I have to say will be important to somebody, somewhere.
I know at least one person my words have been important to. While I was living in Taiwan I had a friend, Sara(not her real name). When you met her, Sara came off as a happy, out-going, fun, and loving person. But, when you spent time with her, that was not entirely the case. She was constantly obsessing about her weight, was paranoid concerning gossip about her, and had a terrible fear that she would be alone for the rest of her life.
I don’t like spending time in big groups of people. It feels so impersonal and I don’t think you really get to know people that way(but, more on that another day). One night, I went out to my favorite cafe with Sara to get to know her better. The cafe was on a side street behind one of the bustling night markets of Taiwan where vendors line the streets with their carts selling dumplings, tea, fruit, pig knuckle, snake, stinky tofu – all the typical delicacies. The building itself looked out of place surrounded by the busy streets. Vines grew up the front of the brick building and curved around the frame of the windows. The windows themselves were fogged by age and dust and the bricks of the building were old and chipped. The dim lighting gave the appearance that this might just be an old empty building, but inside was a calm, quiet setting that provided relief from the busy city. The interior decorating was no different from the exterior. Old radios were set on tables for display, broken type writers sat begging you to tap their old keys, the floors creaked with age, there were holes in walls where you could see straight through to the next room, and I sat in the far corner of the room at a table for two, my back to the window and Sara across from me.
At first, our conversation did not differ much from any of the others we’d had. She spoke about work and expressed her certainty that some of her colleagues were trying to get her fired. But, things changed with a question I thought was innocent enough. “You don’t trust people very much, do you?” I could see she was holding back tears. I’d seen Sara cry before and I was not eager to see it again. “I’m sorry,” I said, “we don’t need to talk about this if you don’t want to.”
We did talk about it. She told me about her ex-boyfriend from about a year before I’d met her. He had gotten her pregnant and begged her to have the baby aborted, but she was happy. She was excited about having a child and starting a family. She admitted to me that she envisioned him being a part of this family even when he made it clear that he did not want the child. To his credit, he did stick around, but Sara had a miscarriage, and he saw that as his opportunity to get out, no stings attached. She never heard from him again.
She did a good job holding back her tears. I was proud of her for that. She was comfortable after telling me the story, like it was an issue she had now conquered. I gave her some words of comfort and advice. I don’t remember what I said, and she probably doesn’t either. Whatever it was, those weren’t the words she needed. They didn’t mean anything to her.
We fell into a calm, comfortable silence. Nothing needed to be said. I took out my pen and notebook and started writing. She was not alarmed by this, she had seen me do it before. I wrote, maybe for 30 minutes, ripped out the page and handed it to her. I do not write poetry very often, but Sara’s story inspired something in me and that was the way it wanted to come out. She read the poem and then, the tears she had done so well to hold back came out.
I will not recreate the poem here. It was just for her, and it will remain for her unless she wants to share it with others. It is a great feeling to know something that you created has some significance to another individual. Whether that significance is large or small, it creates a priceless connection. As it turns out, the words I wrote for Sara had a pretty big significance for her and she chose to have some of her favorite lines tattooed on her shoulder blade.
Personally, the lines she selected were not my favorite. I thought it was poorly written and I wish I could have edited the work a little more before I gave it to her, but that’s not the point. This meant something to her and it affected her in a significant way. I’m thrilled to know I’ve been able to create something for her. So, whenever I find myself wondering why, I remember Sara and I find my answer: to create something of significance to someone somewhere. It’s not the most ambitious of reasons, but I think it’s a good place to start.
Peace be the Journey