When I decided to pitch my first memoir to potential agents or publishing houses in Australia, one of the most persistent questions that came up was: WHY? Why precisely was I compelled to write my story and why did I wish to share it with an audience? Why is my story important to me and how do I think my audience will benefit from it?
When I was in the Caribbean and experiencing a complete turnaround in my life, I often recall thinking ‘Wow, I must remember this situation!’. Harsh and glorious moments see-sawed like a yacht caught sideways in a big swell and I was often tossed from joy to despair within mere minutes. The ongoing intensity of my trials and tribulations forced my brain to record the situations, feelings, the images, smells, sounds and words.
As years went past and I experienced more adventure, world travel, and romances set on opposite ends of the globe. My romantic encounters allowed for fun and frivolous times but left me lost and alone in their aftermath. Once again, emotions and vivid memories were filling up my brain and my karmic backpack. I recall feeling overwhelmed by the unabating upheaval and changes in my life, including several international relocations, the repeated (and disappointingly unsuccessful) affairs, the travel and the heart-wrenching loneliness. Bombarded by a myriad of impressions in rapid succession, memories threatened to spill over from my exhausted mind, and I was afraid of losing them over time.
This was my primary motivation to sit down and write. I did not want to forget. Instead, I chose to hold on to the memories, capture those vivid images and scenarios and remember the rich palette of emotions that had me crying one moment and laughing out loud the next. In addition, this was an opportunity to consciously revisit and relive my turbulent past and face my younger Self. I wanted to meet her on a soul level, inquire into her aspirations and motivations, her pain and the root of that irritable restlessness. I wanted to understand her, so I could know me, now, better. Instinctually I knew that looking within and exploring my younger version would help me heal, grow, and evolve my current Self.
As I began my writing journey, I remembered the ups and downs of those days and the constant inner conflict. I could revisit joyous scenes (and bask in them again) and witness past sadness without being drawn into the depth of the despair I felt at the time. Putting my story down, seeing the letters and words emerge on a screen seemed like a purging, a cleansing through narrative. I began observing, analysing and digesting my life from a distance. As I typed, my Self morphed into a lead actor persona, a character within my personal blockbuster movie. This individual, simultaneously my familiar Self and your next-door-neighbour-heroine: mid-thirties, restless, hopeful, cocky and insecure at the same time. A woman yearning for adventure, spectacular experiences and meaningful encounters, desperately wishing to be connected and loved but often finding herself isolated and alone. Here I was, years later tapping away at my laptop, describing my journey, merging this woman’s path and with my personal history.
Without the intensity of the past emotions, and the pull they had over me at the time, I gained a more objective perspective about my journey and myself, as I witnessed my story taking shape. I cringed and squirmed on my seat occasionally, facing an awkward incident or dicey situation. Did I really do, say, or think this? But as I wrote, and later with each progressing edit, I celebrated memories of strength and survival and was able to accept my missteps and embarrassments for what they were: lessons to be learned. I could see that every memory was a valuable pearl, strung neatly on my necklace of life. The countless hours writing, shaping words and refining sentences, reliving moments and carefully peeling back layers of emotional entanglement provided both a release and empowerment. Looking closely at myself, assessing who I was then (and who I am now), and accepting past and present versions of Self; helped me to embrace who I am today. The more time and effort I invested, the more clarity and understanding unfolded, and the more I was able to draw from my own words.
Once I finished the second and third draft, a strong wish and desire for publishing arose. I wanted to share my story. As I put more time and work into my manuscript, I became more focused on pursuing this goal of publication. But why, really?
An avid reader, I favour memoirs and autobiographies, particularly in the areas of travel, adventure, and self-growth. My experience of reading stories about someone’s life, ingesting their intriguing tales of painful failures and soaring successes, of insufferable hardship and wondrous recoveries, is that I become deeply invested in a stranger’s world. I relate to and feel with the writer. As I navigate his or her personal journey, I savour their meticulously curated narrative and upon reading the final lines of a book often find myself enriched, fulfilled and encouraged by their account.
As I kept editing and refining my book, my drive and desire to reach out to YOU, my potential reader, my audience, grew exponentially. In my mind I can visualise this clearly: with my story I am taking you on my journey. I want you to be my companion on my travelling-sailing-and-romancing-rite-of-passage. I am envisioning my story inspiring and thrilling you as you turn the page. I see YOU relating to my struggles, my stubborn dedication to persevere, and enjoying my humour on this often-awkward path. I see you revelling with me in the joyous and enlightening moments, those that made my heart and soul overflow with gratitude and love. But most of all, I wish to inspire you to boldly and courageously embrace the life you dream and aspire to, as an empowering and rewarding choice. I demonstrate that it makes sense to leave home without a plan, an ultimate goal, or a final destination in mind (or if you have plans, allow them to adapt and evolve as you go). Life is fluid.
Looking back, I sometimes chuckle about my random and chaotic life trajectory. Then again, I would not want to change a thing about it. My life and my story are uniquely mine. My life is my responsibility and my decisions, big and small, have shaped my exquisitely meandering life path. Changing course in life can be daunting but if there is one major take-away message, to the one big question “WHY?”, from my first memoir, it is this:
Be inspired. Go. Hold on tight to your dreams and aspirations. Listen to what makes your heart sing and embrace the discomfort of leaving port and sailing into unknown waters. Whatever you encounter on the horizon will give you direction and shape your journey. You are the only person that can set YOU free. Dream. Trust. Go.