Dear A.S. King…
Your words at PCTELA 18 were just what I needed. When you finished, and everyone was standing and clapping because you were amazing (even before 10 am), I wanted to rush up to you and hug you and say….well, I don’t know what I wanted to say. It would have come out as a string of wordswithoutspacesandmaybesometears. It wouldn’t have made sense, mostly because it didn’t make sense to me. I’m not a rush-up-to-strangers-and-hug-them kind of person. I stood and clapped and came to my senses, realizing that you really weren’t speaking just to me. So I didn’t bombard you with a hug. It’s probably for the best because I would have been blubbering and usually the words come out better when I write them, anyway.
All I know is you made me feel okay.
It’s been awhile since I’ve felt okay.
Natalie Goldberg says, “Writers live twice.” I used to think this was a sweet notion…until I started writing about trauma and mental illness and race. (Well, I’m still scared to write too much about that last one.) It’s not easy to live these complexities. I don’t really want to live them twice, and it’s hard to write them.
I’ve been wondering if I have any business trekking these territories as a writer. I’ve come to the hard conviction that one human cannot fix another human. It doesn’t matter how much we try, humans can’t fix other humans. The truth is, it is exhausting encouraging broken people, and the last thing we want to do is love more. It would be so much easier if we could just fix adverse childhood experiences.
We can’t fix mothers leaving and fathers drinking. I can’t fix my daughter, Stephanie. I can only give her love and encouragement to figure out how to heal. There are so many kids who are responding to trauma in dark, dangerous and confusing ways. It’s scary and disconcerting.
I don’t really know what to do about it. I’m winging it as a parent and as a teacher and as a writer. Thanks for affirming that winging it is okay. Your story imprinted on my heart and it changed me.
I love this about Story. It has the power to change hearts. You made me feel like it’s okay to speak truth about trauma and mental illness and the need to keep students stacking words. You’re right: writing releases trauma.
Your question haunts me: If we don’t write in school, then how will the trauma be released? Kids won’t learn to deal with it. They won’t heal.
You proclaimed: Without teachers nothing of significance would happen.
Thank you for telling your story and for speaking truth and hope. You gave me permission to be fearless and speak truth about trauma and mental illness and the need to keep students stacking words.
I didn’t expect you to hang around while I stood with the same mic as you and spoke bold and brave truth that had me remembering that I am capable of writing through the hard.
I didn’t know you were in the room.
Then, you stood before me, holding a copy of my book for me to sign, and it was almost too much for me. Your story made me brave, and in the crazy way of Story, mine looped around and gave back.
Story unites and is the best way I know to fight darkness and speak Truth. It was an honor today to tell the stories of trauma and mental illness and race alongside of you. Thank you for reminding me that my story is not insignificant and it’s okay to break the rules of genre and expectations.
And, thanks for the hug.
PS — I’m very glad to be on “the team.”