There is nothing new under the sun but our perception of things. Technology advances, civilizations flourish and fall, but the human spirit never changes. We are born with all the storylines able to touch our soul. These basic tales bind us through time and cultural differences and allow us to relate to each other while we harbor completely different views of the world. The rest is just letting life flow quietly through you.
Fortunately for the narrator, a story is never a single strand, but a thick twisted rope made of countless points of view, feelings and idiosyncrasies, a conduit buzzing with the pulse of human consciousness, drenched in personal experiences, personalities, humor and relationship quirks, all the things that define life and make us who we are.
As a budding writer I worried that my story has been told before, that somebody else could write it better, that maybe this is not my craft. Nothing can be further from the truth: nobody can tell your story, because it is your responsibility. Nobody else had the curiosity, the emotion, the background and the passion that stirred you to write it. If you don’t write it, nobody else will, and you have to bear the regret of never allowing it to see the light. I don’t write because I am a writer, I write because I have something to say.
I write because I saw people sitting on benches in front of the Brandenburg gate and staring at the wall behind it, in the hope that their loved ones, or long lost relatives, may be doing the same thing on the other side. Or because I learned the story of the blizzard of 1954 when snow reached to the rooftops and people dug intricate systems of tunnels to reconnect their neighborhood.
I write because nobody else woke up to the morning sun lighting up the wall in my grandparents’ guest bedroom, highlighting the golden stencil patterns and playing with the tree shadows, nor did anyone else watch streams of fast flowing water wrap around my ankles as I walked home from school in a torrential summer downpour, or came upon a very old headstone and been told the story of a pretty girl who died of consumption at the beginning of the twentieth century, aged nineteen. The last story spanned seven decades to connect me to an unknown person’s life from way before my time, who am I to let it pass into oblivion?
No story ever comes from nothing, there is no such thing as pure fiction. Without the honesty of real emotions and the authenticity of events that could have happened the tale doesn’t touch the soul. We thrive on empathy and recognizing ourselves in others, we love to know we’re not alone in our predicaments, victories or convictions. We then reach for the mirror of stories, both real and made up, to see our own experiences reflected in them and find solace in the great sea of human thought, always in motion. We can’t help it, we’re wired to connect, care, be curious and offer opinions.
A deluge of images and memories, so thick I have trouble keeping up, brings back places, people and times: the surreal feeling of walking on Broadway for the first time on a very cold January morning, the ghostly halo of Niagara Falls covered in ice at night, the skyline of Manhattan with the Twin Towers still etched into my brain, picking pumpkins in the rain and laughing, knee deep in mud, the space shuttle Columbia disaster, the Curiosity landing, the time before personal computers.
I remember thinking how blessed my grandparents were to watch the advancement of society through almost a century, in good times and bad, from horse drawn carriages and gas lights to mobile communication, unlocking the human genome and deep space exploration. I can’t help but feel that the standard has now been passed on to me to be a witness to the world changing.
I reached the time of my life when one starts looking back on the events one had been privileged to experience, both personal and public. After I read other people’s stories, which made me laugh, cry, or reflect, I became aware that all lives are extraordinary and worth writing about, including my own. We all contribute our small share to the changes in the world, we matter, the people we love matter, as do complete strangers. We shape this world together, one moment at a time, and the future is always of our own choosing, always within our grasp.
This realization hit me when I lived long enough to notice life, instead of fighting it, and when my heart became so full of memories of places that are no more and love for people long gone that I wanted to leave an account of their existence on this earth, their oh, so very ordinary lives, the day to day details that usually get lost in the larger scale of historical reference.
I write because I get caught in the maelstrom of feelings and events from so many people near and far and I don’t want their unrepeatable experiences to be forgotten.
I write because I lived, loved, learned, hurt, and I have so much to say!