Despite it all, I always had my stories.
I could say that I didn’t have a great childhood but I’d be lying. It was great and in retrospect, I didn’t know that growing up in east Harris County in the 1980s was anything but ideal. I do remember, however, being chastised for being different. Different hair, face, color, language. But despite it all, I had my stories.
This was how I coped with the world. I told to stories to myself in my head. In my mind I was a pop singer/lawyer/astronaut who saved the world while simultaneously having the number one record in the universe. In my mind I was She-Ra, princess of power, and in reality I was royalty but had to keep my secret identity in order to stay safe from the enemies of my people.
To say I had an over active imagination was putting it too mildly.
My dad told me stories, too. He told me about his world in Cuba, what it was like to live there and to grow up there. He told me about the time Castro paraded into Havana. He told me about escaping his home country by pretending he was two years older than he was and how my grandmother had an employer who helped with the “transfer”. There were nights my dad would tell me about hunger, and poverty, and pain – concepts my small mind couldn’t completely understand.
My mom read me stories. In fact, she was the person who taught me how to read in English and instilled in me a love of Spanish soap operas. There was the one where the poor girl was really the rich girl but the father/mother/family never knew they existed. However, the evil villainess did everything she could to stop them from knowing. Then there were my mom’s stories, filled with poverty as well but also love from a strict mother and a protective father.
I became a writer because I was raised as a storyteller.
I wish there was some sort of deep thought to this “becoming a writer” thing. Like maybe because I want to change the world through words. (I’m a journalist. I already do that.) Or maybe there is nothing else I’m capable of doing. (There’s a little bit of that but surely I am capable of doing other things. Not sure what they are, though.) There is no deeper meaning to being a writer for me than this: I love a really good story.
There’s something comforting about a story with a beginning, middle, and end, to tell someone a tale and have them interested in it. I love live readings because you can feed off the audience. They want to know what happens next and they listen, sometimes at the edge of their seat, for your next work.
I love the way stories keep us, the human race, hopeful. We know that life doesn’t always have a happy ending but our stories, most of them, have them. And they have meaning and structure and, in a weird sort of way, there is a justice there that we can’t find in our average lives. Hope. That’s what stories do, they give hope, and writers distribute that. Writers give the world hope.
So, in a weird way I am a writer because I am hopeful and believe in silver linings and wishing upon a star. I write the heartbreaks that are healed by righting the wrongs. Bad people get their just desserts. Good people walk into the sunset a different person than they were before.
And those people who were different – different hair, face, color, language – they get their happy ending, too. I make sure of it.
As for my over active imagination? Well, it’s not quite as active but still useful to me as a writer. However, it doesn’t take over my brain as it used to as a kid. Those days, unfortunately, have passed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a long to do list today. I have to run off to save the world while cutting my next hit chart-topping hit.