When I was a child I did not have an imaginary friend, but I had an imaginary narrator. Every single experience, event and occurrence in my young life was narrated by a voice, and sometimes it wasn’t even a voice but a feeling, much like déjà vu. Playing pretend rock band with my brother, digging through the carpenter shop’s garbage for pieces to use as toys, tending a tostada stand during the summer, getting lost at the airport, all of these and more were narrated in my head as they occurred by this familiar stranger, in third person past tense. On many occasions, I imagined this voice standing at the pearly gates, presenting a case for me so that I could get into heaven, because I don’t do well in warm temperatures and I was terrified that the time I made a joke about God in Catholic school was a sure-way ticket to the hot place.
The narrator disappeared when I was old enough to write and “rich” enough to afford journals—my tostada stand did quite well. Or rather, she transformed, not disappeared, and became the voice on the page. But her focus shifted. These weren’t diaries, they were journals and, perhaps because they were around during the most difficult time of my life, they were full of fiction. They were my means of escape from myself and my life. These journals no longer exist, though. I’d got rid of them as soon as the ink dried on the page. I got rid of the journals because how dare I dream? How dare I escape? How dare I write and create?
When it became clear to me that I would not be going to college right after high school, and quite possibly never—I had already accomplished more than either of my parents had, I should be happy with that—I sought comfort in local libraries, where my legal status or economic standing were not impediments to furthering my education. All that reading brought back the narrator. I vividly remember how she narrated the moment I became so desperate that I hid between the book aisles to nervously tear off the security tags of the philosophy book I wanted to read at home. Ironically the book was on ethics and morality.
“She would have checked out the book like a regular patron,” the narrator explained, “if only she had the proper documentation to get a library card. She cried when she got home, then began to read the book that night.”
I didn’t take any more books from the library. And I’d like to think that I smuggled the book back in, but I can’t honestly remember what happened to it.
It wasn’t exactly a no-brainer to choose to major in English when I finally (thankfully) went to college. It had been a long time since anyone had read my writing and being away from academics for so long, I thought I’d lost my—for lack of better words—writing mojo.
“She still got it,” said the narrator when the English professor pulled me aside to return my first assignment and compliment my writing.
He advised I pursue it and consider an English major, but upon consideration it didn’t seem practical. I come from a long line of mechanics and housewives. The closest we have to creative careers in the family are wrestlers in my mother’s side (the Castillos), because, while it is technically a sport, it takes imagination to create those personas and costums. What would I do with an English degree? To this day, after earning my B.A., I’m still advised to pursue “something that will actually make money.” Teach, get a government job, be a lawyer. After all, isn’t that the point of a higher education? To earn more and have the life that Calderons and Castillos before me didn’t have?
I want to write.
It took me a long time to admit it. It didn’t seem like a dream I was allowed to have.
But I am a writer.
I was a writer the moment I heard that voice narrating moments in my life. I was a writer when I wrote fantasies and short stories to distract myself from the pains of being an adolescent and growing up in a foreign country. I still write to escape in times of trouble, but I mostly write because it is my source of travel. It is a way that I can visit the depths of my mind and be a tourist in the minds of others.
Above all, I write because I want to be heard and seen. It’s not to pursue the fame and fortune that my family wish for me but are skeptical a career in writing will achieve. I write to rebel against our status quo of living in the shadows and to show who we are, where we come from, and how we experience life. I aim to contribute to the conversation of the human experience, not to finally open a savings account—I’ve heard of those; they sound nice.
Yesterday my mom sent me link to scholarships that might help pay for grad school. She called me this morning to ask if I had applied. I explained to her that I looked through them and I unfortunately didn’t qualify for those. The search continues.
“This is going to happen,” Mom promised me. “You’re going to grad school, my little writer.”
“Are you sure you want to be this supportive of my dream to be a successful writer? You know my first book will be titled, Here Are Some Essays on How My Parents F***ed Me Up.”
“Eh… As long as you buy me a house,” she said.
Little did her mother know, she had already bought her a castle in her last short story.
Yajaira (pronounced thx-a-lot-mom-n-dad) earned a B.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in French from the University of California, Davis, where she wrote for the student paper The Davis Beat. She is alarmingly obsessed with music and is completely incapable of writing and creating without it. She is eternally grateful to her grade school crushes who helped prepare her to deal with rejection, which has become valuable in her pursuit of the title “published author.” She will attend MSMU’s grad schools program in the fall. Twitter: @wiseyness
See what this writer has to say on Being Ready: The Myth of the Muse.
Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash
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