I try to own my story. I am a collection of stories really. I'm a culmination of little tales and big ones, woven together in the weirdest, most haphazard way. We all are.
I was a baby, a little girl. I bounced around, I wanted to be an actress. I used to talk to anyone who would listen. I used to dance and sing. I loved everything. Everything. I didn't even know the expression back then, but I can tell you: I thought the world was my oyster.
A little later, I thought I'd be a writer, an art teacher, a mother. I had a slew of friends, an eye for clothes and shoes (even in elementary school), and if I knew the answer, then you can be damn sure I raised my hand.
I loved school, hated sports (one of my pretty little black flats once flew off my foot and across the field during a game of kickball), and life was mostly good. Whatever came my way, I could cope. I had the self-reliance, the gumption, the eternal optimism and creativity.
And then came middle school. "Outgoing" changed to "reserved", "opinionated" became "accommodating", "present" became "hidden", "vivacious" became "subdued", "filled" became "starved".
I retreated into myself. I became a prisoner of my own fears and worries. Of adolescent suffering. And suffering became so familiar that I clung to it, used it to cope, used it to keep myself in check. It became my way of life, my new personality. And sadly, as I remained that way for years to come, it was the Arielle that everyone knew.
I was shy. Quiet. Waiting for others to speak for me. Waiting for someone else to take the lead. Reserved. Unsure.
My high school friends saw this girl.
My college friends saw this girl. I inflicted punishment upon myself in the form of a ripening eating disorder.
But before this girl existed, there was another girl. The real Arielle. The one waiting inside. The one who was actually born into this world. The vivacious, curly-headed, smiling, leader who was ready for the world to be her oyster.
Somewhere in my last year of college, along the edges of my recovery from an eating disorder, among my decision to audition for the Vagina Monologues on a whim and later perform the role I snagged, between the pages of a 90+ page undergraduate senior thesis I adored and best friend who cared for me and coaxed me into flesh and blood instead of a shell of a girl, I started to get the real Arielle back.
My husband Rick never met the shy, reserved version that had been wrapping the authentic Arielle like some flimsy paper for so many years. He met a bold woman with kind words and a flair for writing, a woman who at first glance looked as though she was coming into her own, getting started. But really, she wasn't getting started. She was going back - GETTING back - the Arielle that got lost. She wasn't reinventing, she was revisiting.
I was never able to be a mother. Circumstances wrote a different story. I like to consider myself a writer in the non-occupation sense, but rather than use my degree in English to move to a big city and find writing opportunities, I got married and became a licensed masters level social worker instead. In my application essay for grad school, I wrote:
"For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help others. My interests have changed over the years, but my drive to do something good for this world has not. As a child and young adult, all I ever wanted to be was a writer. Until recent years, I never realized that my ability to put feelings and knowledge into words and my desire to help others could blend together to create a beautiful union. My personal experiences have only made stronger my desire to help others and at this point in my life, pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work is the next step in my journey."
I meant every word.
I get to work with different populations. I do work in the eating disorder field and in the field of aging. I try to stay creative.
That person...the person I was before Rick died was the real me. But folks, she's gone. All those stories still remain as part of me...leading up to this bit...this current slice of Arielle life...but it doesn't stop there. I'm an evolution of the former me... New stories have now been added to the mix. I lived through my husband's suicide. I planned a funeral at 29. I stamped that label WIDOW on myself and ran with it. I started a new blog. I cultivated friendships. I am living alone. I am throwing fear out the window.
And maybe now, as these new stories are added to the rest of my story, I'm more of a writer than ever.