Living a Thousand Lives
I wrote this in high school. Writing may not be great, but it makes me smile every time. I hope it does you too.
First, I’m snowboarding down Mr. Everest; next I’m surfing the mavericks of California. I dive in, and I’m now a mermaid of the Bermuda triangle. This is how my days were growing up, though I never once left my little home in Northern California. I’d watch movies and TV with my family and the very next thing I did was make them my own in the backyard. If that wasn’t taking my time, I was lying in my small closet my own little world listening to audiobook after audiobook.
I loved being in my little spot on my own listening to these stories. The funny part is, I could read. I liked reading, though I was not very good at it. I just found it easier to live out each book and each moment when my hands were free. It’s harder to jump into freezing water with Harry holding a six hundred page book in your hand. It was hard to play out your own character tied down by weight of the pages. I never knew how much I’d learn from the hours and hours of endless stories. How many lives I had and had yet to live.
My older brothers always told me I didn’t have a life. I was quite offended by it. All I did was listening to, watch, read, and look for new stories. “What kind of life was that?” They’d say. Looking back, I still think they were wrong. I had a life, and not just one, I had many. I’d lived a hundred or more lives. I lived with Jim Hawkins as he sailed the seven seas. I faced Lord Voldemort head on. I explored Narnia from the edge of the world to Calormen. As I listened, I always made my own story. I created my own character to live it. She’d always change the story, and my own was born.
Though I never thought of writing my stories down. I thought they were fun, but no more than that. That was until I saw someone else do it. I always looked up to my elder brother. I used to watch him play video games on his computer, which he liked. It made him feel smart and I liked watching his adventures. I’d act them out later in the backyard and add my own character.
That day however, he wasn’t playing a video game. He was working on a word document.
All I remember for sure was that I thought it very weird and boring. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m writing a book.” My brother told me.
“Why?” I inquired.
“Because I want to make my own story.” He seemed annoyed at me.
“You need to make a book to do that?”
“Yes!” He replied, hoping to shut me up.
This stuck to me. I’d never thought I had to write it down to make it real. It was sure real to me. I don’t really remember what happened next. Suffice it to say, I am a writer now. My dad tell the story this way. He came downstairs one night and heard someone typing fluently on the computer. He thought it was one of the boys were sneaking more video games. He went in to tell them it was time for bed and found his ten year old daughter – who couldn’t type the day before, mind you – typing away as fast as anyone. He told me to go to bed. When he looked at what I’d been typing fifty pages were already written up.
What I do remember is that it never stopped. I still acted stories out in my make-believe. I was quite a bit older than the normal age when I stopped playing pretend. Though I admit, I still play it in my head, even at work. I can be hard at work and a story based on what I am doing is playing on in my brain.
So though I am more reserved today, I was shameless as a child. I even made a story based on games I’d play with my friends. Each of them had a character, and they got to make them how they wished. I had a huge file filled with those stories. I made the structure, then together we fought the villains and found our princes (and saved them as many times as they saved us).
I never realized that writing was not the only talent I was building. When I was twelve, my mom put me into a group where we studied Shakespeare and then performed one of his plays. This was my element, and I’d never known it. I thought Shakespeare would be dull, then I found I could use his stories too. Even more, I learned how to be his characters as he wrote them. I had to learn about who they were and why. Why did she fall in love with him? Why did he do something so foolish? I learned not only how to know a character, but how to be them. I thrived, I learned, and I became.
Looking back, each character taught me who I wanted to be and what I did not want to be. I liked that Rosaline was clever and caring. I did not want to be as impulsive. I admired the love of family the prince at the end of Hamlet had, but I did not want to have his thirst for vengeance.
All those years, I ate and drank, lived and breathed stories and characters. I have often pondered back on all the people who were sure I’d wasted my childhood. I wasn’t going on to be a professional actor. I could never use these skills in the ‘real world’. I’d had no life, no friends. I was even bullied for it. Though I admit, I hardly noticed. I was sad I didn’t have anyone to share my stories with, but I never realized how mean people were to me, not until later.
In looking back on those days and asking myself why I never realized how much people picked on me, I realized why I didn’t care. I was too busy becoming who I wanted to be. In all my stories and characters, I’d been building my own story, my own character. I’d been discovering myself. I learned what was right and what was wrong. I learned where I fit into it all.
All novels are about becoming. The main character always changes, for bad or for good, it doesn’t matter. The characters change. In reading, writing, and acting out their stories, I changed too. So much of who I am came from those stories and what truths I learned in them. I lived their experiences. Experience is the best teacher and I had more ‘experiences’ under my belt at the age of twelve than most people have in twenty years.
It’s why I am a writer today. It’s why I publish my books. Those stories made me who I am. It’s time I made stories to help someone else learn all I learned and become their best selves. I gained fathoms of experience. I want others to enjoy those same blessings. So when asked if I have a life, I always say no. I don’t have a life, I have thousands.