Between the ages of 2 and 8 I spent quite a bit of time at my grandparents’ home in Farmersville. That little yellow house was my favorite place in the world. When I wasn’t outside in the yard helping Grandpa rake the leaves or racing my bike down the driveway, I was curled up next to Grandma on the arm of the big green chair listening to her tell stories.
I loved them all, but my favorite were always the ones about when she worked at Early California sorting olives.
Both my grandparents had a limited education. Grandpa quit school in the sixth grade to help his father in the fields, and Grandma contracted polio in her left shoulder when she was in her early teens causing her to miss school.
When I was a child, Grandpa would speak to me in small amounts of English, while Grandma, who knew English, would always emphasis her speech using her hands.
This is why I loved hearing about her time at the plant. There was something comforting in watching her mimic the motions of pushing olives left and right – even with polio, it never detained her. Grandma worked vigorously.
Sometimes she’d repeat stories, but I didn’t mind. I’d listen to the sound of her voice until I fell asleep or until it faded into the Spanish novela that played on the television.
Grandma always encouraged me to write and draw. She’d sit with me as I practiced my alphabet on a small notepad with a pen.
When I got older, and began to learn how to write as fast as I spoke, Grandma got me a journal. It was a thin, pink, hard-covered notebook with Cinderella, Snow White and Belle printed on it.
“Write about your day, mija. Write it down so you won’t ever forget it.” She said.
I used to wonder how I could ever forget the days I spent with her and Grandpa, but I wrote about our day anyway, as Grandma did the same on her little yellow notepad.
Eventually, school became more time consuming and my stays at the little yellow house grew shorter. When I missed Grandma, I’d bring out the pink journal before bed and read my horribly written entries. It was as if I was with her again. I heard her tenacity, her kindness and her self-awareness.
I’ve had many journals since that pink princess book. Some of them beautifully bounded and others just a spiral notebook I found in my dad’s classroom. But I’d never considered myself a storyteller. Even years later, as a college student working as a reporter for The Collegian, I simply fell in love with the idea of hearing a person’s voice, their truth, the way I heard Grandma’s in her stories.
I’ve written a few personal posts for The Collegian. I had a lovely reader tell me that she enjoyed my tone in the post I wrote about my mother back in October for breast cancer awareness month. While I was incredibly thankful, I struggled to hear my own voice.
I was given the compliment a few other times, and again as humbling as it was, I could not hear it.
In my last blog post, I discussed the difficulty I faced realizing and accepting changes happening at that point in time. My aim toward “self-discovery,” if you will, left me feeling a bit numb, anxious and frustrated. I didn’t know how to talk about it, let alone write about it. But then I remembered what Grandma used to say when I was a kid:
“Write about your day, mija. Write it down so you won’t ever forget.”
And that’s what I had been trying to do, I tried to forget about the changes, so much so that it festered an unnerving feeling inside me. That’s when I knew I needed to take out that piece of paper. I needed to write about it – even if it was difficult.
As I wrote out the post, I felt more like myself. I was able to better understand what I wanted out of my life and the importance of growing as a person – which I discuss more in that post.
The other day, I read that post for the first time since I wrote it, and I finally heard it. I heard my voice.
A sudden wave of liberation moved within me because I’d finally admitted my truth and discovered the way in which to express it.
Slowly the pieces of change are coming together as I keep my pen and paper close. Things aren’t so much upside down and inside out anymore.
Writing is my truth. I want to interact with people and bring their thoughts to life, as well as my own. I aspire to write the way Grandma captivates a room when she tells a story, not necessarily to remember that exact day, but to remember her truth.
THIS is why I write. This is my voice.
And I hope that readers will push to find their own voice. There is no due date, no criterion, no goal image. Just truth. Your truth. Whatever it may be, and however you wish to express it. I hope you find it. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes it takes turning your idea of reality upside down and inside out to figure it out.
But keep searching, keep growing and listen closely. You’ll soon be able to hear it.