The awakening began at a young age. Entranced by words of all kinds. Emboldened by images that frolicked in the fields of her mind. Unaware of the weirdness that lie beneath.
Imaginary worlds were grown in the free play between siblings and neighborhood friends. Intricate story lines involving evil sorcerers and heroic princess’ being directed by a five year old to a group of children just wanting to play.
Never ending poems and songs being sung for HOURS while climbing trees and arranging Barbie dolls. Using the blocks to create a mall for the Barbies to shop in with their fabulous accessories while terrorist Gi Joes infiltrated the encampments searching for stolen jewelry to fund their campaigns. Always commanded by her little brother who was happy to play along if it meant warfare was immanent.
A world where anything could happen was fostered by her loving family. She was told she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up. So she followed her passions, desperately trying to find enough information to quench her thirst. Her days filled with exciting explorations and action packed adventures, even if the only thing they did that day was go to the grocery store.
The heart of an artist was born when that tiny baby entered the world. The mind of an artist was cultivated in that dorm apartment of a young early childhood education major and her young seminary student husband. They read to calm her insatiable hunger for more. They sang to her and introduced her to their own passions. They raised a creative soul.
Then like all great parents of the time they enrolled her in a local school when the time was appropriate. They were active parents. A room mom and a supportive dad always there to help with homework and stand by as cheerleaders.
But there was something they didn’t notice. You see the other children and the teachers had expectations and she was so bright that she noticed what those expectations were. She knew what they wanted from her. Their actions and reactions spoke louder than any words.
They were quick to silence her questioning, her talking, her daydreaming. This was a place for learning. Pay attention. Stop talking. Don’t doodle on your homework. You’re such a bright child but you need to stop talking. Why don’t you apply yourself. If you’d just apply yourself you would be a success.
Sometimes through actions, others when they thought she wasn’t listening (but she was always listening) and other times straight to her face.
She liked being the good girl and so she conformed to their expectations. She stood in line when she wanted to dance. She wrote in sentences even though she thought a picture would describe it better. She tried to stop talking but her mind was racing so fast that she needed to let the ideas escape and so she found herself talking to anyone who would listen. She saw patterns in everything and when she pointed them out the teacher rejected it, saying that she wasn’t paying attention to the lesson. She would look out of the windows and imagine dragons and knights battling on the playground equipment only to be admonished for daydreaming.
The other children called her weird and bossy. Every year was a new school, a new system to figure out and new rules to adapt to. The imagination was always there but never vocalized, not any more. By the time she reached fifth grade she had killed off the writer inside. Buried her under all of the expectations she felt needed to be met in order to be a good girl.
She was praised for getting right answers, praised for doing as she was told and praise was good, so she did more. She was teachers pet but at the same time she was painfully aware that if she acted too smart then the other kids would turn on her and so she walked that delicate balance. Trying to please everyone, always.
After a decade of pretending, she was a broken shell of herself. Unable to cope with the expectations any longer.
She tried to find herself again. She followed her interests and battled the need for acceptance. For 15 years she fought the need to please everyone else. She fought the need to live up to others expectations and actually do what SHE wanted.
She was broken and trying to find an answer. In the darkness and solitude of the crowded world surrounding her she quietly picked up a pencil. No one saw her. No one noticed. But she felt alive.
You see, she was successful, she had become what everyone else had molded her to be. She had successfully created an image that others would approve of. Others were envious of her ability to do so much. She was happily (truly happily) married, she had intelligent and fun children, a Masters degree and an ability to make it look like she juggled it all.
It took her 25 years to come to the realization that she was a writer and perhaps an artist. That she needed to let those stories escape the prison her mind had become. She needed to express the incessant chattering and imagery that had always filled her mind.
It took motherhood to break her free.
It took seeing herself in her rambunctious, knowledge thirsty children with wild imaginations to realize that this was an integral part of her that could not be killed off.
It took playing with words at 2 am, nightly.
It took walking away from a night at home to a night at a coffee shop, surrounded by the peaceful silence of strangers chatter, with only her mind and a pen as company.
A writer was born.
A creative soul was created by an almighty creator.
Who are we to tell her that she needs to die?
Read some of Tabitha’s projects at Under the Fig Tree