Saturday night rolls around and I feel as though I have nothing to say. I’ve written plenty of essays in my life, but a column is much more daunting. I’m expected to present something more personal — something that bears the imprint of not only my name, but my face. I look at my rectangular portrait as she smiles in the corner of the screen; she may be sketched in black and white, but our features are the same. My words are her, and she is me.
Growing up, I never liked the way I looked or drew my own portrait, but I loved the way I wrote. I got a certain rush from the way words would spill from my mind and onto the page, making something so attached to myself and my identity, yet somehow externalized. Journaling became a cathartic way to document seemingly insignificant moments that shaped who I was and how I saw the world. Everyday occurrences became immortalized on pretty pink pages, only accessible with a flimsy key I kept hidden behind my bed.
To me, sharing my personal story with others was not an option. Friends and teachers could read fictional tales or book reports, but that was the extent of my outward creativity. So one day, when my friends went home and I found my diary face down on the bathroom floor — lock broken — I felt as though all was lost. I was robbed of my private, unspoken world, and personal moments became sites of public access.
Throughout my life, I’ve hesitated to relate my own story, because I feel there is so much I can’t say. Unspoken moments and emotions live vibrant lives in my head and my notebooks, but for some reason, I feel as though they can’t be directly translated to the outside world. To share my story requires doing so on my own terms, and to do that takes an incredible amount of vulnerability. So, instead of opening up, I closed myself off and I kept these moments secured under lock and key.
Fast forward to today, and I’m on week 10 of writing a personal column for my university’s newspaper. I can’t quite explain why I decided to take on this role, other than the fact that I felt it was something I needed to do. Instead of having my story wrested from me, I have shared it according to my own will. Each 800-word piece has become a sort of public diary — open to all, read by a few.
The beautiful thing about an arts column is that media becomes a mediator between inner thoughts and the written word. Movies and music have become ways for me to take my personal experiences and present them in a way I feel others can understand. Gradually, a kaleidoscopic version of self has emerged from the monochrome, shimmering like a mirrored ball that takes in its surroundings and reflects them in a new light. Now, I see little bits of self sprinkled all around, existing in used books and froyo swirls.
Through it all, I have come to see art as the universal connector of us all. It is as though we are each united by unspoken moments — whether it be a song lyric or the falling rain — that are just waiting to take shape in the form of the written word. I’ve spent the semester digging into the realm of the unsaid and uncovering lost remnants of myself, but in the process, I have also synthesized a greater connection to the world around me.
Most importantly, this column has taught me to own myself and my story. I no longer grieve the loss of private diary entries as they lay sprawled across the bathroom floor. Instead, I willingly post them on the Internet, accompanied by my name and my image. This concept was once terrifying, but now I look back and smile at the beauty of it all.
So, with this final column, I retire the black and white image I’ve become so acquainted with over the past 10 weeks. Gradually, she will recede into the archives of The Daily Californian, occupying a smaller and smaller space amid each day’s top news. Perhaps, there are some things in life that are better left unsaid, but I’m glad I said them anyway. My public diary is now immortalized in its own little corner of the Internet, and there is no turning back.