A brilliant writer, thinker, and overall human-being once said: “Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” This, more than anything resonates with my motivation as a writer. Even though I did not discover Strayed’s genius until after completing my memoir, her living wisdom on the topic of writing (which all magically relate to universal life lessons) makes more sense to me than any dead poet or starving artist.
Memoir has been defined as a subcategory of autobiography. The term memoirs have often been used to describe works that are more properly defined as autobiography, than the literary memoir. An autobiography tells the story of a life, while memoir tells a story from a life, such as touchstone events and turning points from the author’s life. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist.
Feed it to yourself. This is something, as a culture, and as a people, that we avoid. We are master avoiders- deflecting the confrontation of our own emotional baggage onto others in the form of advice and fluffy conversation. I learned this while walking through the desert. I walk, with no sign of people for at least a mile in every direction, and I feed myself the things I never thought I needed. And this is how my memoir was written. I walk and realize that when we allow the light to shine on everything we have been carrying instead of the actions of those around us, beautiful things can happen.
I thought recently, about letting your life nurture you in the context of despair. I thought about kids growing up in the parts of Chicago where you are virtually born into a gang affiliation, where you feel safest walking to school in the middle of the street, where guns are not a matter of having and not having, but whether or not yours is “dirty”- indicating a lower price and a murder attached. I thought about children burying their parents, and parents burying their children, about bruises, cardboard boxes, disappearance, hunger, needles, and crying when no one is looking- and I realized that despair is a universal language, justified only by owning it, swallowing it, feeding it to yourself, and allowing it to nurture you. Even if it feels impossible to swallow.
I have realized that the good and the bad mix together as one very powerful, beautifully bitter cocktail- if you let it. A cocktail strong enough to fuel a sisterhood, a front door, a collection of paintings, or library of messy little memoirs. Let it nurture you, because it will.