But Donne, I am an Island.
When I was little I was actually shy.
I know that those that know me probably think that this is ludicrous, but they can shut their faces on the off chance that some stranger is reading this and it can pass with some credibility. Because it is true. From birth to 12 I really only had one concrete friend, and only saw her one day a week when lucky.
I often felt isolated. Strange. Lonely, I guess, if we want to grind it down to its most bare, most base, emotion. I was a lonely kid. I spent a lot of my time talking to imaginary friends, and, of course, reading.
I felt like I was my own little floating mass of emotion and confusion that couldn’t reach out to any of the other landmasses bobbing far past my own horizons. I was an island. Still am, really, to this day.
We can not know how other people feel. We can not know what other people think. The way in which other people view the world is completely and utterly alien to us. In a way this is exciting. There are as many different worlds, as many different universes out there, as there are people living, breathing, and creating them. Possibly and, most likely, even more.
Of course I didn’t think this way when I was a child. A lot of the time I was bitter. A lot of the time I was sad. A lot of the time I was a lot of things, some of them good, some of them bad, but I had no way of knowing how to share these things. How to build bridges between my island self and the other continents of perspectives. Speaking was utterly useless, the words failed me, I had a small (almost non-existent but extremely embarrassing) speech impediment and the way I said things often sounded dumb or incomprehensible. I would lose track of what I said half way through saying it. Speaking was like fumbling in the cold waters of the gulf between myself and my intended connection. At night. And naked. It was mortifying. It left me shivering. Do not ask little me to speak, no. That would be far too much.
But there were times when I was not-so-lonely. Times when it seemed that a boat had come for me on my little island, and I was sailing towards someone’s horizon. When I was buried in a book, I could see, finally, the way others might see. Feel along side others. Even if they were fictional, they became real, and I could sense the author’s eyes peeking up at me from between each line saying here I am. I’m here. I am with you.
So literature taught me humanity. It taught me empathy. Soon after I learned how to feel for protagonists, to step into their shoes, I learned how to step into the shoes of others.
But I still didn’t know how to share myself with others. And my new ability to feel with others, to be shared with, made it all the more frustrating. They could do it. Why couldn’t I? It would be awhile before I discovered the written word. My own written word. That somehow my thoughts translated better to blank page than it did sound and air. That I could build my own tentative, shaky, bridges out-out-out towards the horizon with ink and story. They were secret. They lead nowhere. But they were there, just waiting for someone to discover them, and the sureness of my little scribbled bridges gave me the confidence to try in person.
When I was twelve I wrote a horrible fantasy novel I still have to this day hidden in my attic.
When I was twelve I made friends. Three more friends. And we wrote together. Silliness. Absolute slap-dash beautiful nonsense. But we wrote. We shared worlds.
Now, eleven years later, I’ve pulled myself through college. Made it into graduate school, am trying my best to write, to share myself with others. I’ve lost the speech impediment (though it still sneaks in when I am nervous), and I’ve made a lot of friends. Without which, I never would have made it here. I love writing. I love reading. I love sharing my island, and visiting the islands of others, and I couldn’t have done it without SLAA.
Thanks, you guys.
Couri Johnson, co-president.
Check out me being awkward, by the way: