I graduated high school with a 2.0 gpa, from a correctional education program called ACCESS. An acronym for a series of buzz words like Achieve! and Success! to mask the fact that ACCESS was a school you had to take the freeway to get to, located in some concrete business park, where you had a supervisor and half of your classmates were either pregnant or high. I was neither. I was there because my boyfriend told me I should be, but that's another story.
When the time came for me to graduate it was a swift and easy decision to enroll in the local community college across the street from where my mother worked, the school where she and my father met. Maybe this is because everyone in my family went to college, most of them starting their academic journey at the very campus I was attending, maybe because a majority of them are teachers, maybe because my best friend was doing it, or maybe, and this is the one that I find the most likely, though I think all contributed, because at that time I actively did the opposite of anything my family did or wanted and my best friend was just as much dancing with trouble as me, God whispered on a day I shut the blinds and slept, shaking with deep sadness for wanting so bad to never again be in my childhood bedroom: This is where you'll start to find what and who you love. This is where you begin.
At the time I would have never said I heard God, but something landed me in an online registration process and that something was definitely not entirely myself.
Myself hard a hard time eating a banana.
The first college classroom I sat in was in a building that smelled like a science fair, or a whiteboard, or something very cold. It was angular and hard. Stairs going up, up, up. 8am. English 100. Taught by young professor who had just graduated with her MFA from Notre Dame. She had recently gotten engaged after filming a documentary about playing soccer all over the world. (Why was she in Orange County?) She was short. She called me out every time I was late. She asked us to spend the first ten minutes of class writing each tiny detail of our morning. The peach tinted sheets crinkled as I moved and hit snooze to quiet the neon blinking clock. It was the first time anyone asked me to describe anything. She made us tell stories with a hook, arc, and cathartic ending, out loud in front of the entire class. And she had me write a letter to the person I was most angry with. I wrote it to the abusive boyfriend I had broken up with six months prior. I wrote about his tinted truck with rims colored like night. The time he slammed my head into the center consul. The proms he told me I couldn't attend. I wrote to him, a him I never had to send it to, and said no. Not anymore. This time with details. When I received my grade there was a little note attached: "This letter was not only beautifully written, but stuck with me long after I read it. Please know the best lives often come from those who have known horrible things. Please keep writing." So I did. And even though the same teacher, who I took for more than a few classes, would critique me saying, "Ana, you have a way with words but you must learn actual grammar," and, "Ana, this seems like you wrote it an hour," I kept going.
Eventually, slow, quick, seemingly all at once, I wrote my way into a new life.
I wrote of Magnolia's blooming on the lawns of UC Berkeley, watching as frisbees were thrown by barefoot students, floating, paused, bare knees leaping, caught by someone laughing and hollering.
I wrote of new young love, him taking me back to where he was from. Boise, Idaho. I wrote my only memory of that trip, the knowing that I would never ever ever ever want to live there.
I wrote heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak. A windowless room with no way out.
I wrote of Thailand beaches, and South American mountain ranges, and hikes in national parks where I'd be bitten by bugs and burned by the sun.
I wrote of affairs with engaged teaching assistants and the poetry we'd analyze together during office hours. The marks we'd make on The Waste Land. I wrote of the night he took me to a gay club in the city, ecstasy dabbed in our lips, where we danced and danced, sweaty and alive. I wrote wondering if we both needed one another to remind us that we're more than just breathing.
I wrote of farms and dinner parties during summer nights under the full moon. Dewy skin to dewy skin.
I sometimes wrote more angry letters, more sad letters, more actual letters (email replies), please don't ever contact me again.
I wrote my way through therapy sessions, and Ayahuasca ceremonies, and afternoons in the woods giggling, seeing spirals with friends.
I wrote myself to festivals and Burning Man and Kauai breath work circles.
I wrote through deaths. My close friend falling off a roof. My grandmother's voice when she said goodbye, her pancreas breaking. The two weeks my catholic family spent together in her home, mourning.
I wrote through restaurant jobs and assistant positions and days and days wondering if I'd ever make money.
I wrote myself to a business, to pulling up my boots and getting what needed to be done, done.
I wrote of falling in love a final time. Like finally landing home. I wrote of the tears that would stream when I realized that all of it was for this.
I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.
Sometimes I stopped writing. Only to become tired and sick and not sure why. When I stopped writing is when I'd spend thousands of dollars for some to tell me what I needed.
Eventually finding my way to the page again. To feel life.
When I wrote I knew for myself.
Remembering that the way I live it is through words.
That the way I make new is to write it.