The Writer That Still Can
I didn’t think I would see the day when writing couldn’t bring me the peace it usually does until that day arrived. Writing didn’t fill me with anxiety or doubts even after I decided to start freelancing. Words are exciting for me for various reasons but the main one being that they provided a way for me to escape. Over the last few months, I've asked myself "how did I get here?" more times than I'd like to admit but I dug deep and found some answers.
Growing up as a first gen American came with a mountainous pile of incredibly high expectations and stratospheric standards about the direction and pace of my life. I hadn’t the slightest clue that other possibilities were available in my reality. What and how I felt about my world didn’t matter so long as I did what I was “supposed” to do. It was imperative that I reached certain milestones and the room for error was quite minute. There were no breaks or rest when it appeared that the fate of the family name and legacy rested entirely on your eight year old shoulders. I adapted survival techniques to preserve my energy, unbeknownst to me, and found solace in books.
When talking or verbally expressing myself proved itself futile, I looked for ways to channel that frustration. I didn’t have the eye or hands to draw or paint and that only invited in more difficulty for me. Words surrounded me at all times though. My mom made it a point to keep me especially occupied with my learning that I had no time reserved to understand my emotions. I wasn’t always awarded the luxury of having a TV in my room either. It was through reading that my world truly began expanding. Picking out books was analogous to picking out a new world in which to live and there were many days I so desperately wanted to live elsewhere.
Queue up the middle school angst and the never-ending stumble through puberty as I dove deeper into perspectives much grander than my own. Majority of my time was spent in textbooks, at volleyball practice or nose deep in a fiction novel. I became enthralled with the manner in which writers shaped their worlds through words. Their craftsmanship swiftly inspired me to create a new space of my own and I began writing poetry. I had cut my own key that fit the lock of this iron door that held my emotions right behind it. I felt validated in my emotions and I could express whatever I wanted without actually saying a word. I took this freedom and ran with it. Hip hop granted me that same freedom during peak Limewire years when all I did was download a plethora of albums to relieve myself from living in my head. I began constructing soundtracks to my days, hours, minutes and seconds to assist me in navigating through these murky waters.
Not once did it occur to me that I’d start running out of steam, 15 years later. It’s disheartening because in my youth, I aspired to be like Free from 106 & Park. My favorite magazines were Vibe, The Source and Jet because I saw myself in the writing as a lover of music and literature. I studied music with a scrutinizing ear and wrote about the deeper feelings it allowed to flow to the forefront. I learned how to validate myself through my writing and love of music. Now as an adult unlearning and relearning certain behaviors and schools of thought, I feel like the foundation is wavering underneath my feet. These past two years tested me in more ways than I imagined.
After solely writing on my own platform since 2013, I snagged a staff position at BLUNTIQ late 2017. I flourished with the artists and music I chose to feature and began learning how to operate as a working writer. I made the novice mistake of not backing up my work and lost it all in 2018. It devastated me and I’m not sure I fully recovered from that. Pitching to different publications felt fruitless at that point and the way music constantly dropped became increasingly overwhelming. I felt lost and almost as if I betrayed myself. I clipped my own wings, it seemed, and I’ve spent the better part of 2019 to now nursing myself to be healthy enough to just stand again. Imposter syndrome had a vice grip on me and I allowed it to steal my time and energy. I allowed those seeds of anxiety and insecurity to sprout and flower into unappealing buds of disappointment and self-deprecation.
Consider this piece as me restarting my garden as I plant new seeds of courage, patience and confidence. I’m no longer eight year old Ashley looking to run from her reality, nor am I 25 year old Ashley shaken by her very human mistakes. The possibilities of what can change in a day are infinite so imagine all the change that occurred over two years or 15 years. I am still afraid some days. I still have some doubts other days but every day I remind myself of who I am and recognize that I still hold the keys.