I jump off the bus, run down the dusty street past home, and yell hello to the boys playing soccer in the street. In one minute I’m at the internet café. Will this reflection be funny, sad, or just thoughtful? It doesn’t really matter. I have found the one thing that helps me adjust to my time far away from the comfort of familiar faces and paved roads: writing. I believe that writing is the key to sanity in an insane world.
I have always loved to write. Yet I took it for granted, I never realized how many people ran kicking and screaming from the idea. This moment of realization hit me full force when I willingly took off for Ghana, a country in western Africa, to work in an orphanage the summer before my senior year of high school. Once there, I lived with a welcoming host family, taught english and math, and got tackled by orphans every day. It was wonderful. Yet, at the same time, I had never felt so alone in my entire 17 years… until I discovered the internet café. This little space provided me with an outlet for my thoughts and a channel for all the amazing experiences I wanted to share. Sometimes, this was relaying a funny exchange like when a random stranger asked me to marry him or it was my astounded reaction to visiting my host grandmother’s tiny, untouched village in the rolling hills near the ocean. Whatever it was, writing helped me cope, explain, share, and clutch tightly to my sanity when I thought for sure I would lose it.
To write is to free yourself. It is like learning to ride a bicycle. You fall off and get bruised at first, but in the end you learn to apply just the right amount of balance and find yourself wanting to go faster. In writing, we leave ourselves exposed to criticism and jeers, but also end up pushing back with a force of brute honesty. It allows us to be tender when we would otherwise shun all feeling and insightful when we would otherwise blunder on without reflecting. Everyone leaves a piece of their self on the page every time they write about an experience or belief. I think personal writing, about anything, lifts a weight off your shoulders and helps people identify with each other. Writing allows us to run, screaming through the streets, brandishing our beliefs like a sword over our heads. It is this kind of freedom that allowed me to fully appreciate the gravity of my experience in Ghana.
As I step back into the dusty street, I feel light-years away. I am reliving every unbelievable moment of my day, from the expression on one of my pupils’ face after she read her first word, to the sight of another gorgeous Ghanaian sunrise. I file each of these written snapshots away as a mental note to myself and keep walking straight ahead, secure in my new found belief: writing is the key to sanity in an insane world.
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