I have always wanted a story worth telling. For as long as I can remember, I’ve narrated my life in my head, as if I were living a fantasy. “Alexandra glances over her shoulder at the billow of the breeze,” I’d recite while walking down the street. When I was a child, it was the best game I could have asked for. As an adult, it is habit.
In my past, this affinity for fantastical elements has often caused me to be allured by mystery, drama, and excitement in real life, diminishing natural fears in replace of the opportunity to recite a more breathtaking story. I was drawn to live dangerously in the most poetic way possible. It was passionate, but sometimes delusional and typically ridiculous.
I was also the only one listening. The practice of internal narration isolated me from reality. It twisted the truth with myths and left me confused on what perception was concrete. I spent more time in my head than I did in connection, which left others in the dark with what was really going on in my life, as well as myself, even further lost. Simultaneously, it kept me in a constant pattern of transforming myself into a more enticing character.
In recovery, I’ve had to slow this down. “Being here” has meant landing in my own feet, not those of a neo-Nancy Drew or a complex combination of Jane Eyre and Holden Caulfield. I’ve spent a lot of time on honesty. What was actually true and what I told myself were two very different things for a very long time and it took tremendous work to have them meet. I had to consciously choose to engage in my present and it was not easy. For a while, I was a hardcore liar. I lied about what I ate, what I did, how I did it, and who I was. I lied to pretty much every treatment team I worked with and I lied to myself. Until I couldn’t. Until my truth was slamming into me, everywhere I went, and, ultimately, killing me.
With time and practice, I have began to value honesty in myself as much as I always have for others…actually, even more so. It has been that very tool that has given me a chance. I have been known to bring up truths from ages ago, just to clean my slate. I have gone into sessions and ranted about every single point of my week, in the hopes that I won’t ever miss my world. I have emphasized each little thing, just to make sure I never overlook something major, and slip out of myself again. It’s almost excessive…almost.
All of this aside, I still want a story worth telling. With this in mind, a few months ago, I signed up for a class at UCLA called “Writing the Personal Essay,” and have been attending since. In this course, I have learned something crucial. It is not what I do that makes my story, but the words. In one of my first classes, my professor said, “Writing is your way to get back at the world.” In other words, my story is my own. I get to tell it as I see it. It isn’t whether I get hit by a bus that matters, it is the impact of the buses I already feel. It is the every day events that impact. It is the individuality of my already unique life. It is the connection to myself that connects the readers.
Each time I sit down to write, I find that I have a million small events I can recall that are extraordinary in and of themselves, all of their truth included. I do not gloss over the ugly, and I do not enhance the beauty. I tell it as it is. It is shiny. The feedback has been powerful, as well. I capture attention in my stories. People listen. It is the way I recall which enhances; the language; the voice; the body; the feel. I do not have to be Princess Diana. I do not have to be Huckleberry Finn. I do not have to have super powers, nor be a maiden in distress. I am Alexandra. My life is weird enough. And I have ended my search for the perfect autobiography.