A Tale of Two Cities

I often romanticize things I feel I have a deep connection with.

That’s not to say that I’m a hopeless romantic or live in a state of complete blissful ignorance. I’ve in the very least acknowledged that others’ experiences with said “things” may very well be different from mine, and those experiences are just as valid as anything that I have gone through. However, in terms of my experience, I tend to hold firm to glamorized versions of what that thing is and resolved that I have a special vantage point from others.

I took a break from writing my novel this year. It was mostly intentional, for reasons one may aptly suspect, like writer’s block or burnout; for reasons one might not expect, like completing grad school and planning and executing a solo art show; and for a reason I don’t hear many creatives discuss on online.

In talking to a dear friend a couple months ago, she helped me realize that because my novel is loosely based on my lived experiences, the fact that I couldn’t think of more to write at the time could mean that I needed to live some more to encounter the experiences that will ultimately inspire what happens in my novel.

In short: I needed to live some more.

So, in taking her advice, I made the conscious decision to take a step back from writing and live my life. I went on a vacation, I partied with friends and family, I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I even got a dog (her name is Olivia Lameaux and she runs my household).

While doing all these things, I also dug deep to examine my life through a more comprehensive lens. I began inner child therapy. I started enforcing my boundaries while encountering expected and unexpected backlash. I also had an oracle card reader expose all the generational traumas that were weighing heavy on my shoulders.

This year was a lot.

And the one thing steady on my mind during my time off was the thought of how what I’ve experienced will influence my novel. I wish I could say that I discovered a ton of parallels and connections; and perhaps those things won’t be seen until I start writing again. But until then, I can only commit to believing that only a few connections were made.

One thing I did realize in actively living this year was that personal experience does not equate to ultimate truth. In fact, by altering the lens in which I’ve examined my experiences both this year and over the course of my life thus far, I’m finally taking to heart the idea that two things can be true about the same shared experience.

Which brings me back to Girard.

I grew up a privileged Black girl in rural Georgia. My parents may have been divorced, but they were both very present in my life and my relationships with them were generally stable [all things considered]. I’ve lived in the same house throughout my childhood on land that has been in my family for at least five generations. I’ve worked the land that both my parents and grandparents have toiled. In turn, that land has given me a sense of financial stability, spiritual solitude and geographic protection. I was raised with the understanding that I’ve had a better lot in life than most of my peers in the area. At the same time, I’d occasionally find myself in disbelief that some of them might not see the beauty and wonder of the place I call home.

It wasn’t until I lived this year that I truly identified the lens through which I was viewing my precious hometown of Girard, GA. I learned that it’s not enough to simply acknowledge the difference in lived experiences between myself and my peers. I had to take it a step further. I needed to understand their experiences in Girard and how those experiences have shaped who they are and how they view the place we all call home.

Girard is still a magical place for me.

But it’s also hell for others.

And both things can be true about home. Understanding this doesn’t tarnish my view of this place as much as it enriches it. In my pursuit of writing a novel based in Girard and the variety of characters who call it home, I needed to understand that those characters’ experiences with this place will be varied and not universally magical.

Girard is a source of light as well as darkness. Two locales rolled into one sprawling landscape dotted with sunflowers in the summer months and dark, damp soil in the winter. Fond family memories and wretched nightmares. It’s a home that I can no longer glamorize because, in a year of living, this precious place has become humanized. And just like humans, Girard is a messy, complicated, beautiful conundrum still worthy of my attention.

And my love.

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