Editor’s note–the following is an excerpt from a manuscript by Andrea Walker
The day I knew I wanted to be a writer was also the day I went “missing” and my face almost ended up on a milk carton.
I was nine years old and had finished reading an excerpt from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. In the book, he talks about the woods as his inspiration to write. My young, impressionable brain thought that I should do the same thing and venture into the woods myself for inspiration.
I packed a bag which included my two favorite Barbies, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my brand new diary with its own lock & key. I left mom a very detailed, well-written note about my whereabouts and knew exactly where I wanted to go.
Our house was surrounded by forests but the spot I had in mind was a creek bed that was deeper into the woods. It was mid-afternoon. After I found my writing spot, I placed my pink Barbie travel bag on the ground and perched on top of it. I was always a very peculiar child where I could sit and daydream for hours and had no recollection of time. So I honestly can’t really tell you how long I was out there staring up at the trees and scribbling various thoughts in that diary. By the time the sun was going down, I knew I needed to get home and my little adventure had come to an end.
As I got closer to my house, I noticed that there were several police cars in the driveway. I instantly started to panic and thought something bad had happened to Mom or Dad. When I walked into the kitchen, two policemen were talking with my Mom. They all turned to see me wheeling my travel bag behind me, looking as perplexed as they did. Needless to say, I was grounded for an entire month and I was banned from taking anymore writing sabbaticals.
But my love for writing never stopped. I would go off and write plays, stories, poems, and proudly show them off to my parents. Our fridge became a collage of my budding passion.
As a child who was always in her head, writing has always been a way for me to connect the dots, to explore the “whys” and “hows” and try to understand why things happen the way they do. Writing opens up the door for me to document the journey, so to speak. Interestingly enough, I knew deep down that one day I would have a story to tell.
When Dad died my senior year in high school, the last story I wrote was called The Body which recounted me seeing him in his coffin at his funeral. I never shared that story to anyone. I quickly burned it after writing it and never spoke about my father to anyone. After that, I wrote hardly at all. I hardly talked about what was going on inside my head. I stayed in a shell, always writing in my own head but never having the courage to put it words.
Years later, as my mother’s health worsened, I stopped writing altogether. She used to whisper to me sometimes as she struggled to breathe, “I miss your stories, Andrea. When are you going to write for me again like you used to?” When she died, that’s when I started working on this book.
For the last couple of years, I’ve tried to piece together my life like scenes in a movie, trying to recollect all those moments from my childhood, my young adulthood, to where I am now–and figuring out how the story may end. All the people around me, the many people I have loved, lost, hated, admired, adored–all of them weaving in and out of my memories, shaping my existence then and feeding my need for recollection now.
Like my nine-year-old self, I want to go back out into the woods from my youth. I want to hear my father’s strong, calm voice and feel my mother’s touch. Honestly, I can’t really remember what they both sound like now. I want to rewrite the pain from their lives and create a new story for them. I want to turn my heartaches into love stories that last forever.
“Why?” I ask God. “What do I do with this all this?”
I don’t believe that life is a series of happy or sad accidents. There’s intentionality to the people we meet, whose lives are intertwined in our own. Each person, each moment is part of a bigger picture of our existence, that makes us who we are and breathes life into us. Each moment is like a thread that intertwines over time. I celebrate those moments in this book. The mountains that I have climbed. The peaks and valley of my existence thus far. Maybe…just maybe…I can pay homage to all those souls who came into my story over the years.
I dedicate this book to my parents, to the people that I have loved and loved me in return. You know who you are. I have grown to appreciate this complex, dark, rich and diverse world in which we live In.
So I tell you, my reader, that the hardest and most beautiful thing about this world is to live in it.
But you already know that.
Andrea Walker is a true Southern woman having been born and raised in Alabama and currently living in Atlanta. She received her journalism degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham and spent several years in broadcast journalism before moving into marketing. This excerpt is from her first memoir and is super passionate about mental health and women’s empowerment issues.