Writing teachers talk a lot about "finding your voice" and how to be "authentic" in your writing. But this search for voice is a luxury, a kind of stylistic turn that comes only after one has had to courage to speak up in the first place. To find one's voice in terms of writing, one must first have the courage to use the voice they have. Up until recently, this has been easier said than done.
I come from a family of hams. No, not literally speaking, but you know what I mean. My mom has always lovedbeing the center of attention. To this day still comments on how her identical twin girls 'got all the attention' from strangers while she, the mother of twins, was ignored. So I learned early on to let her own the spotlight and do all the socializing. I willingly silenced my own voice because I didn't really think I had another viable option. I became painfully shy (though I'm glad to say I eventually grew out of it). As a kid, the mere thought of being called on (and possibly giving the wrong answer) or raising my hand to speak in class was almost unthinkable. If I'd ever dare raise my hand to ask a question, the teacher would call on my almost immediately, probably out of sheer shock. As a result, I'm very empathetic towards the shier kids in my classes and do all I can to make it clear my classroom is a safe place to speak their minds.
But as a school-kid, I'd literally get sick just imagining talking to the teacher or participating in class (who would've guessed I'd become a teacher?). Speeches in class were terrifying to me. I could certainly have a big mouth at home with my siblings, but out in public, I'd turn to stone. To this day when I'm withcertainfamily members and start to say something, I'm often talked over and inevitably the conversation turns away from what I was saying and back around to the other person. But this is the way we've done it for years and change, even when we want it, is hard to come by, though I'm getting much better at speaking up for myself.
On the plus side, living with my brother was like having a live-in stand up comic in the house, and he still does a mean Harry Carry impression, though he doesn't perform "on command." My dad likes the spotlight when he'sbeing musicalor telling a good story, and he comes by this honestly, as his parents love to tell their stories (but what older people don't?) One of my grandfather's favorite stories (now at 88) is how, as a young entrepreneur, he was elected president of the speech club and became the only non-degree holding member of his orator's group. I come from a long line of story-tellers and attention seekers, and there's really nothing wrong with that. Except for the fact that I internalized my early experiences and bought into the belief that what I have to say is unimportant and no one really wants to hear it anyway. I learned that others deserve the spotlight, and as a good girl, I better let them have it. And I was so afraid of it anyway that it came a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a result, I wrote everything down. For as long as I can remember, I've kept a diary or a journal of sorts and it became like a friend to me. I'd name each one and write to them as if I were writing to a long lost friend or a penpal. I'd tell them everything I was feeling and what went on that day, I'd share my deepest fears and longings. I said things I'd never dare say to others. More than once my sister found my journal and read it, so I learned it wasn't even safe to journal privately, so when I lived with her in my twenties and up until the time I lived in Taiwan, I stopped journaling. I always missed it, though, and this whole blog came about as a result of my desire to document my experiences living in Taiwan and teaching in Taipei. I was comfortable with the idea of a "published journal" of my experiences, since it seemed like people were going to read what I wrote anyway. At least this way it was on my terms. Originally, I hadn't intendedAmazing Graceto be a diabetes blog, but once I started opening up a bit for the first time in my life about my struggles with type 1 diabetes, especially living in Asia, I found that it felt good to get it out and realized that if I was benefiting from those of you out there who were blogging about life with diabetes, someone might glean a little something from what I had to say, as well.
So I continued to write. And you, gentle blogosphere, continued to read my words and follow my adventures, even after I returned home and life became more "normal" (notice the use of quotation marks). You've shared my ups and downs and let me say whatever it was that needed to be said. You helped me realize that I'm not alone in this life with or without diabetes. You taught me a huge lesson that I didn't get early on--that it can feel safe and good to put myself out there and tell the world what I'm thinking, feeling or experiencing. You believed in me at a time when I didn't fully believe in myself, and led me to trust my own voice and my writing ability. I've always enjoyed writing, but lacked the confidence to offer it up in any real way to the world. Having this blog has changed that. I can't adequately express how huge that is to me.
Granted, some people may not agree with me or even like what I have to say, but I've finally learned that it doesn't matter--not everyone is going to like you. And that's the beauty of this country and the internet: freedom to choose. No one's forcing me to read your blogs nor you mine.Diabetes Dailyand most other places allow and encourage comments to and from one another as a means of support and free expression. I've only once had to delete a comment that I deemed in appropriate, and 99.9% of us leave supportive feedback or share our own stories or interpretations. I love that! And I thank David, Elizabeth and baby E. for inviting me to be a part of theDiabetes Daily familyand thus allowing my work to reach a wider audience.
Not everything I write is golden (or even good, for that matter), nor will each post speak to each one of you, but if there's any grain of truth in what I say that enables you to glean something from it or identify with another through shared feelings or experiences, then that's enough for me. Without you guys I can honestly say that I would not have had the gumption to go back on an insulin pump right now (I love you,Gil) nor would I have have had the courage or belief in myself as a writer to ever apply to graduate school for English/writing. Thank you for never coming close to judging me as harshly as I judge myself. Thank you for your unsolicited but heartfelt compliments and encouragement.
Thank you for letting me write about my diabetes and my feelings and my past, present and future experiences and holding me gently in your thoughts when I falter in my diabetes care or in life in general. Anyone who says bloggers are a bunch of mindless windbags has never taken a step into theDiabetes OC. Thank you for being a part of my extended family and letting me become a part of yours. We've cheered each other on as we marry,create little miracles,publish our own books,secure good jobs,follow our passions,raise our voices, andcreate beautiful art. The fact that I'm gearing up to go to graduate school in a couple months to hone my writing skills brings me such joyful anticipation and happiness that I can't fully express it in words. It isn't hyperbole when I say I wouldn't be standing where I am today if it weren't for the readers of this blog in addition to the generous support and love of my family and friends. Though we may not know each other personally and some may never comment, I know you're out there and your presence in my life is no less real.
Even as a writer, or perhaps more so because of this fact, I'm keenly aware of language's inability to express the most important and sacred of things. Our deepest feelings and most private experiences cannot be truly shared through words, for in trying to name what it is we felt, by the very nature of the limits of language, we lose something vital in the process. But we try anyway, for in trying lies the hope that the signposts of words may signal in someone, or more importantly, in ourselves, the presence of a deeper truth that while it needs no words to express itself, nonetheless appreciates the gesture.
Thank you for sticking with me as I evolve and grow as a person, a diabetic and a writer. It means a lot to me.