By guest blogger Carrie Ann Golden
You can find her blog at A Writer and Her Adolescent Muse
My writing journey began at the age of eleven when a friend challenged a group of us as to who could write the scariest story.
The year was 1982 and I was living in a small hamlet in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.
During this time up there, the medical field was still a bit archaic; no where as advanced as that in the larger cities to our south (such as New York City or Boston). As a young girl with moderate hearing loss and speech impairments, I spent lots of time in imaginary worlds of my own making. With no other outlet, I usually acted out the things my imaginary friends wanted which at times led me to trouble.
When I accepted this challenge, I had no inkling as to how much this very act would impact my life.
Through the written words, the worlds and people in my head were breathed into life. The feeling was euphoric for me especially as I read over the story I wrote. It was surreal as I found it difficult to believe that those words came from the pencil I held with my own fingers.
No, that had to have been written by someone else.
I’d get that sense over and over in the coming years.
I still do.
Never Thought Myself As a Writer
For many years afterward, I never thought myself as a writer.
I wrote albeit in journals (instead of fictional stories). It became a form of therapy as I tried to deal with certain challenges of life. I’ve always had a difficult time expressing my feelings and thoughts outwardly; but they came more easily through the written words.
During this period of my life, I was a student (high school then college) and an athlete. I pursued a degree in hope of getting into a field where I could work with highly competitive athletes (I had an opportunity once to get a position with the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid). Things were going well until in April 1992 when I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa.
I Just Gave It All Up
Up to this point, I’ve accepted my hearing disability and managed my mild speech deficit. I was at the brink of realizing many of my dreams when this diagnosis came.
Who would want to hire someone with moderate hearing loss AND progressive vision loss? I kept thinking to myself.
I believed my dreams were now dead. I gave up and just went through the motion until I graduated with my degree some years later.
No One Told Me That It Didn’t Have To Be This Way
I saw the best specialists in the medical fields and it was confirmed that yes, I indeed had RP (Usher Syndrome when including my hearing loss). There was NO cure OR treatment for what I had. And that was that.
No one bothered to pull me to one side to tell me that regardless of my disabilities, my dreams -with improvisation- could still come true.
Not one doctor or specialist saw a need to refer me to a counselor who would be able to help me deal with the depression and anxiety and despair that would nearly overwhelm me.
No one to encourage me, to push me to keep moving forward no matter how frustrated I get. To keep fighting.
Instead, after graduating, I withdrew back into my mind and hid in my tiny apartment shutting out the real world. I lived vicariously through the characters portrayed in movies and TV shows. Throughout this period, not once did I pick up a pen to write. I’d even given up on journaling which had been so therapeutic in the past.
It was as if I was punishing myself.
Somehow I’d felt undeserving of anything that was good or resembled anything like success
I’d completely given up on myself.
I was 28 and it felt like my life was over.
Until Jay came back in my life.
Jay and I first met as freshmen in college (October 1989). We quickly became friends. Although we were dating other people, there was a special connection between us. At the end of our freshmen year, he went on to enlist in the Navy instead of returning to college. The last time I saw him was in early December 1990. He’d just finished boot camp and was about to be shipped overseas for the imminent war in the Persian Gulf. At the time, officials were expecting high casualty rates and he was visiting friends and family members before leaving as he was unsure of his fate. He was single at that time but I was dating someone. He and I had a few moments together but little did I realized, he wanted to tell me his true feelings for me but wasn’t able to since I had to leave to be with my boyfriend.
I left that college a year later to attend a local community college. A year after that, I was diagnosed with RP.
In 1993, I met Aaron whom I would marry less than a year later.
Our short marriage was a tumultuous one at best.
Bitterness over my worsening sight, and the uncertainty of my future in any career field, I made his life hell.
Something I’ve regretted ever since because it was something I can never undo or make up for.
On March 11, 1996, he was killed in a car accident.
Pain and grief and regrets were my constant companions. Instead of trying to work through them, I held them close. I’d felt I was deserving of them. My penance, my punishment for being inferior (because of my disabilities) and for being a cruel and unfeeling bitch (for the way I treated Aaron).
When I graduated in 1997, I moved in my own place. Here was where I shut out the real world, and my parents and siblings. Here I stayed until May 1999 when Jay came back into my life.
And changed everything.
Okay, we need to rewind just a little. Back to May one year earlier (1998).
Alone in my apartment, I’d begun to think back on the college I went to as a freshman and Jay entered my mind for the first time in years. As the memories of our times spent together filled my mind, something dawned on me for the very first time.
Did he like me more than a friend?
I began to remember the last time I saw him. I remembered how he tried to get me away from my boyfriend. It was like he had something urgent to tell me, but I just shooed him off.
I had this awful feeling that surged through me. I’d felt sick as the realization of what he wanted to tell me before heading off to war sunk in.
I didn’t even know if he was still alive. Did he make it through that war? Oh why didn’t I think to keep in touch with him?
Just a few months prior, I received a personal computer donated by the NYS Commission for the Blind. It was on this same device I searched for his name on that college’s alumni directory.
And got a hit.
He’d left an email address.
That evening, I composed a brief message and pressed “send.”
By this time it has been nearly eight years since we’d last talked. Would he still remember me?
Less than twelve hours later, he responded -“Yes, I remember you.”
On and off over the next year, we corresponded; until late May of 1999 when we met up at a mall near my apartment.
It felt like not a day was missed as we fell right in place as friends.
I asked about his time in the Persian Gulf; and what happened to him after the war.
As he told me his story, I was awestruck. He went through just as much pain and loss as I but in different ways.
The war left its mark on him both physically and emotionally (I plan to share more of his story at a later time). Now battling PTSD and an injury sustained during a search and rescue mission on the Philippines after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Jay was not the same boy I knew back in college yet he was.
I suppose the same could be said about me.
Life has a way of doing that whether it’s for the better or not.
The experiences we gained and the hardships we endured enriched our friendship, and something more blossomed from it.
It didn’t take me long before I knew I was in love with him. I guess I had always loved him just didn’t recognized it for what it was years earlier.
We reunited near the end of May; less than a month later, we were engaged. On September 4th, 1999 we were married.
A few weeks before the wedding day, Jay picked me up from work (at the time, I worked as a stock person for a local grocery store which, by the way, was very challenging with my limited vision but somehow I got through that without harming myself or anyone else!). Inside his truck, he gave me a gift.
A beautiful leather-jacket journal.
He’d remembered from our time as freshmen that I’d mentioned how I loved to write. After we reunited, he knew that I no longer wrote and that I struggled emotionally with unresolved issues from my past. With the journal, he’d thought I would return to writing in the hope of finding some sort of healing and peace.
It was one of the most precious gifts anyone could have given me! And it did set me on a path that led to the kind of healing and closure I so desperately needed.
In A Journey There Are Many Paths
In 1999, I returned to writing which I used to center myself; although it was mostly in the form of journaling, I still did not see myself as a writer.
2007 found me living in North Carolina. We’d bought a house in the suburbs, and had a son (born in 2003). I now worked a desk job as a Loan Operations Specialist for a local bank which just relocated to the heart of downtown Raleigh.
Both Jay and I grew up in small towns and considered ourselves as “country.” By 2007, we’ve been living near a large metropolitan area for well over six years. The lifestyle grew more and more hectic, the days long (on the road by 4am for the long commute and home as late as 7:30pm). His PTSD was starting to affect our marriage. Anxiety staked a foothold in my life and disrupted everything. Journaling just wasn’t as effective anymore. My vision continued to worsen and I began to tire more easily even by the simplest of tasks.
Misery, anger and isolation became the mainstays of our lives.
Around this time, a new co-worker came to my department from another bank.
She and I would work together for the next eight years. I learned early on that Mel was a writer. Not just a writer, but a published one. She kept a blog too. And was a poet to boot.
I was in complete awe by her accomplishments, and of her knowledge about the writing industry as well as all-things blogging.
My interest in what she wrote was enormous as I peppered her with so many questions I’m surprised she never told me off; she seemingly never grew tired of my questions and answered each one graciously and with great patience. And it was through her encouragements I would try my hand at a short story (the last one I wrote was as an eleven year old girl).
A story that would end up being my very first published piece.
Because of her, my life would never be the same. She inspired me to delve deeply in writing as I experimented with each genre as well as with poetry. I even began my own blog (the first one was on LiveJournal). Through her, a whole new world opened for me which would send me off on so many different paths.
Paths that I am still exploring and traveling to this day.
For a Writer, There Is No “The End”
Today, I still struggle with my disabilities among other things, but with the endless discoveries of new worlds and characters, I have created new dreams.
Through writing, I can reinvent myself over and over. There is no end to one’s imagination.
The key is not to put limitation on yourself as a writer. Think outside the box! Be bold! Don’t be afraid to try a new genre!
There is power in the written word.
As a writer, you have the power to impact lives.
Writing has changed mine. The journey I began all those years ago is still ongoing. A journey that if it wasn’t for a few key individuals, my life would never be as it is today.