Ever since I was a little kid, I absolutely loved writing. I loved the way it made me feel (powerful), how fast it made time go by (very), and how much fun it was to create my own world inside the pages of a notebook (again, very). Even in school, I loved writing essays, particularly the concluding paragraphs, which were the parts of the paper where I could really let my voice come through. I would wrap all the information I had gathered in the prior paragraphs together and leave my reader with something to mull over, something to make them think. I love making people think.

Until I was about 10 years old I was one of those crazy horse-lover girls, and I soon found that writing could accommodate that obsession of mine. I would fill pages upon pages of stories about horses: horses in the wild, horses on farms, horses I rode that I wanted to own. Writing about horses filled the endless days of waiting between my once-a-week horseback riding lessons, because giving life to my imagination about horses was almost as good as the real thing. In addition, writing allowed me to fantasize about what it would be like to own my own horse. (Despite hours of relentless pleading, my mother never seemed to concede on the whole horse-owning thing.) My made-up stories would have to do for now.

As I grew older and outgrew my "horse stage", I still found not only a desire but a need to write. In middle school and high school, everything was changing. I met new friends and lost old ones, lost the dog I had grown up with since I was two as well as two of my grandparents, and began to think about life outside of my small town. I dreamed about leaving home, going to school in New York. Writing all of this down was the only way I could keep track of it all or make sense of it all, the only way I could fathom what it would be like to walk the busy streets of the city instead of the narrow sidewalks of my town. In times of hurt or anger, writing was my biggest outlet-I could say anything about anyone or anything without actually voicing anything. I could organize the thoughts swirling around my head by looking at them on paper and rearranging them, grouping them, sorting out which I should listen to and which I should ignore.

Growing older also meant boys' names began to appear in the pages of my notebooks, boys I knew or boys I had never even talked to but wanted to. I wrote about boys in school or boys I made up, perfect boys that I didn't think could exist in real life. Writing about them bridged the distance between me and their world, made me feel for a moment like I wasn't that shy girl hiding behind her pen. Writing about them made me realize what I wanted and didn't want, how I wanted to be treated and how I didn't want to be treated. I realized that my fantasies weren't that far from reality, but in the mean time writing let me fantasize the same way I fantasized about horses: it allowed me to have what I didn't have.

Even more than horses or boys, writing was a documentation for me; a sort of photo album for my thoughts. I can flip back through the yearbook of my emotions, how they changed or didn't change and how I grew into the newness that was my life. Sometimes I laugh about how concerned I was about something in 7th grade and smile when I realize that it wasn't the end of the world. I smile when I realize that what I'm going through now is not the end of the world. Writing did that for me, gave me that perspective, made me get out of my head and realize that nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

Most of all, though, writing gave me a voice. Having always been a quiet kid, writing made me more confident in myself and made me realize that I actually had things worth saying. Writing so much as a kid made me realize that I always want to write, that it was necessary for me to write, that the way I would make my mark on the world and share my voice was through writing. So now, at 19, I use that knowledge to guide my search for a career but still haven't stopped using writing as an outlet, a source of fun, and as something that gives me life.