What 2014 Taught Me About Writing and Life: A Far Too Personal, Quite Questionable Account of My Senior Year

The morning of June 3, 2014 was blisteringly hot.
It was much like any other summer day, for reasons as abundant as they were obvious. The air, cliche as it sounds, was still. Everyone else in the house was fast asleep.
Soft rays of sunlight spilled into my room. They would’ve awoken me if I had been sleeping.
I should have been sleeping.
I should have joined the members of my household in my last slumber before graduating high school.
I should have felt the need, the desire to snuggle deeper under those covers and enjoy the solitude of silence.
I should have been tired.
You see – I’d spent the last three days writing.
Insignificant – I am a writer.
Writing is what I do.
But my senior year of high school was different. If life were a novel, I was submerged in my millionth rewrite, with no hope of ever surfacing again.
It’s been said that writers are people for whom writing is harder than it is for everyone else.
My senior year of high school was a testament to that claim. As many of you know from following me on this blog or on Twitter, I struggled through Embers, through college applications, and even through English class essays that were once second nature to me. One vivid memory that will stick with me always is staring at a blank screen with no idea how to proceed, with slowly intensifying panic consuming all rational thought… with the desire to write becoming increasingly miniscule.
Writing wasn’t just something I did.
Writing was part of who I was.
And as the stress of major changes swept the classroom and annihilated everything in its path, my survival instinct kicked in – in the only way it knew how.
As I sunk deeper and deeper underwater, overwhelmed by all that loomed before me, I made a conscious decision to stop writing in my journal – something I’d taken meticulous effort to upkeep nearly all throughout high school. There simply weren’t enough words, enough hours in the day… I told myself that I’d go back and write it down later when I had time to perfect it, but “later” never came.
There was way, way too much to write. So many memories formulating before my very eyes and leaving nothing but the wispy tendrils of prose behind, dissipating in my palms as my fingers closed around them. I was bleeding words, and for nearly half a year, they didn’t stop. So I allowed myself to neglect my writerly duties, and I told myself that for once – for once in my life – I would just live, and not feel the need to chronicle it.
I didn’t write about how a chain of misfortunate events culminated in missing the deadline to apply to what I then believed was my “dream school;” or how shattered and hopeless I felt afterwards; or how my every moment, waking and breathing, revolved around obtaining the perfect entrance exam score and yet I was endlessly struggling to reach it.
I didn’t write about how loudly the fire crackled as our senior homecoming float went up in flames; or how unified we all felt as we destroyed our hard work; or how my eyes welled in the darkness at that last football game when I realized I’d probably never see most of my classmates again.
I didn’t write about how a single party led to burgeoning feelings of resentment and bitterness toward someone I’d once believed would always be my closest friend; or how every subsequent event drew us further and further apart; or how I stopped trusting everyone and grew increasingly isolated in my personal life, disenchanted by the human condition and its propensity for cruelty.
I didn’t write about how close this disenchantment came to nearly destroying me; or how dark and bleak life seemed last January when I felt like it was going nowhere and never would; or how long the longest winter of my life was, when spring seemed a distant myth.
I didn’t write about the time I enjoyed my first Mardi Gras parade in the city that would (unknown to me then) become my home for the next four years; or months later, how I rode on an airplane alone for the first time ever and wandered the streets of Washington D.C. & Maryland, convinced that I wanted nothing more in life than to write and to travel.
I didn’t write about how relieved I was to submit my application to my last-minute and final option for college at the nagging of my best friend, or how loudly I screamed when I got the letter congratulating me for my full scholarship at the same school.
I didn’t write about how great it felt to take to the Cleveland High stage one final time; or how magical those nights riding with my best friend on backroads singing our lungs out to Wicked and Florence + the Machine and Taylor Swift were; or the fro-yo cast party that will always hold a special place in my heart.
I didn’t write about the moment I learned I was valedictorian of my class, and the subsequent feelings of exhaustion and relief that flooded me upon realizing my sleepless nights and anxiety had not been in vain.
I didn’t write about how, on the morning of June 3rd – graduation day – I was still wide-awake, contemplating all of this and more, fascinated by the thin line between greatness and calamity, weary from days of painstaking speech-writing and hoping to be remembered for my very personal, very heartfelt words.
I didn’t write about my last few days at home, where I sifted through 18 years of memorabilia and attempted to keep my emotions in check as I said goodbye to my loving parents and older brother; or in the newsroom, where I discovered that I much prefer fictional writing to the harsh portrayal of reality, where I promised to “schedule some time for the unscheduled,” and where I said goodbye to my second mother.
I didn’t write about my first semester of college, the overwhelming influx of fascinatingly new ideas and people, the late nights and long walks and Starbucks cups that littered my psyche, and the excitement and terror of being on my own for the first time.
I didn’t write about my new friends, who I’d only just met but felt like I’d known my entire life; or about the old ones, from whom I grew further and further apart but still cherished, or how I came to accept that life’s unpredictability is its only predictability and as long as you have faith and kindness, things generally work out for you in the end –
I didn’t write about any of it, and as time went on, I sunk deeper and deeper underwater, sadly convinced I’d lived one of the profoundest years of my life and would have no memory of it.
But I was wrong.
I was so, so wrong.
I was so caught up in my regret at letting these memories go that I didn’t realize I had written them down anyway – not by journaling, but by writing Embers.
You don’t know it, and neither did I, but between all the lines of that novel are the struggles and triumphs of a 16-18 year old girl on the verge of frightful change. All the fear, all the anxiety, all the elation and exhaustion – it’s there, and the story is better because of it.
And as I read back over my many drafts last month, I saw it all, although I’m willing to wager that none of you ever will.
Maybe that’s why I love writing so much. Maybe that’s why I’ve decided that I will dedicate my life to this mystical, elusive, maddening, and yet constantly rewarding craft – it holds my secrets, and it persistently reminds me that there’s a pattern and purpose to this mystical, elusive, maddening, and yet constantly rewarding thing called life.
My resolutions for 2015 are simple:
I want only to feel just as much as I did in 2014 – all the elation and disenchantment – but with the knowledge that, with a little faith and a lot of kindness, spring is always just around the corner. 🙂


6 thoughts on “What 2014 Taught Me About Writing and Life: A Far Too Personal, Quite Questionable Account of My Senior Year

  1. Hiba, this is absolutely gorgeous. What a compelling testament to the reasons why we write – and why sometimes we choose not to. I myself have gone through that cycle many times, finding myself neglecting my journal and my fictional inclinations, desperate to live life more fully and not focus on preserving the memories through the lens of a camera or a journal entry. I can relate to this so, so much. Power to you for ultimately (re)claiming it by writing, both Embers and this blog entry, and for conveying those emotions and dreams so wonderfully.


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