In the winter of my fifteenth year, I lost myself.
It was the end of one story and the beginning of another, but I fell into the binding between pages and couldn't find myself in the words. On one plotline, I began writing my first novel against the backdrop of cold November evenings. It was magic, and it was messy- it was breaking myself open and pouring the contents of my heart onto pure-white paper. After years of dreaming about being an author, I was finally taking the first step towards my heart's biggest desire. Each idea was a revelation, each word a gift; it all felt like one massive adrenaline rush.
Along another plotline, though, I began to struggle. For the past eight years, I had been a year-round swimmer on a team I loved. It dominated my free time, my social life, my weekends; it was everything I had ever known, and that was the way I liked it. But that winter, I was forced to make one of the biggest decisions of my life and leave it all behind. Growing clashes in time commitments and persistent injuries made me realize that perhaps it was time to retire; and so, on a frosty night in January, I hung up my goggles for good.
It was both liberating and agonizing.
Without swimming, this thing that had been part of me for almost half of my life, I felt lost. So I did what came to me
- I wrote. My novel was what tethered me to myself during those first months of emptiness, of freedom. Creating a world that existed only in my own mind was absolutely captivating, but what was even more meaningful were the people that populated it.
Each one of those characters contains a tiny fragment of my soul.
Analia is the daughter of the sea; she is the soft, healing touch of ocean waves. In her kindness, compassion, and empathy, I recognized my own gentle heart. Towards friends and family alike, we both love softly, but fiercely, with everything we have.
Everly is the glue that holds their world together; she is as enduring and resilient as the sun, shining as a beacon for others day after day. But most of all, Everly is fiercely loyal. She would defend those she loves until her last breath, and that is a trait that comes from deep within my own heart.
Kyan, the shadow prince, is quiet and musing and meek. Underneath his intricately constructed exterior, however, lies a strong, brilliant mind. His careful silence revealed to me my own thoughtfulness– and showed me that quietude is not always a weakness.
Cassandra is the courageous princess– wit and sass with an edge of bravery, a fire that cannot be put out. Her spark and perseverance have forged her into a woman made for a crown. Cass burns brighter than I could ever hope to, but the persistence that makes her such a leader belongs to me. It was something that I only realized was mine after finishing my first draft despite writer's burnout, a demanding schedule, and a world that wanted to tell me no.
Over the years, I have grown in my writing, but my craft has also changed me. Creating these characters helped me not only to flesh out the story that was blossoming in my mind's eye, but also to find myself during a period in my life when I wasn't quite sure where I belonged. Writing was my escape during those times. Those words gave me power. Those words made me not a little girl– but a woman. I learned and loved and lost, and I grew up.
And my characters? They were the ones who led me to realize that the Hannah I had been looking for was there all along. I am compassionate, tenacious, loyal, pensive, optimistic, and driven. Should I ever doubt, should I ever forget, they will always be there to bring me home and remind me what truly lies within.