“I Was Here”
By: Rachel A. Carrera
I’ve always been invisible. But not like in a superpowery way that could be used for something cool. It’s just that I’ve spent most of my life either hiding in the shadows or being passed over because I quietly accepted whatever fate handed me without making enough of a fuss to get noticed.
I was born to teenagers who weren’t ready to settle down and didn’t know what to do with an infant. So rather than place me up for adoption, they left me with grandparents who were busy grieving the loss of their first daughter. My grandparents loved me, but they expected me to play quietly so as not to disturb their retirement years. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just have young parents like everyone else, and frankly, I felt good and sorry for myself. Consequently, as early as four years old, I read fairy tales and escaped my silent world by writing various fantasies about a princess who was found in the forest and taken to a palace where it was discovered that she was the long lost daughter of royalty. She was showered with gold and jewels and given lavish parties to celebrate her homecoming.
During my school years, I made decent grades, so I never required special attention. I was shy and reserved, and I lacked self-confidence. I never raised my hand, and teachers rarely called on me. Worse, because I was so introverted and my voice was barely audible, most kids never cared to play with me, and if they spoke to me at all, it was to pick on me. My elderly grandparents didn’t understand how devastating not being accepted was for a child, and as such, they didn’t intervene on my behalf. I became angry at the world, so I read Gothic horror and tales of revenge, and I wrote about girls who overcame their fate in the schoolyard. The bully became the bullied, and I delighted when the antagonist begged for mercy.
As I grew older, I was still seeking love, and I found it in the arms of a bad boy who didn’t return my affection. While I was busy penning love letters about how much I adored every fiber of his being, he was busy seeing how many notches he could carve in his headboard. I was hurt that my love was unrequited, and I wore my pain like a martyr’s badge on my sleeve. It was then that I delved into reading the classics, and I lost myself writing romances about gorgeous, musclebound men who met the woman of their dreams in an everyday place and made it their mission to win her affection, vowing to love, protect, and care for her always.
When I split from the bad boy, I was left with two beautiful, autistic children and no child support, no one to co-parent with, and no family support system of any kind. I usually spent hours each week fighting for their rights because their teachers or other adults didn’t understand their autism, and I wanted my kids to have a fair shot at life. At the end of each day, after working full-time at an office and part-time at home to keep food on the table, I was emotionally spent. So, once I finally got the kiddos to bed each evening, I mostly read speculative fiction, and I found solace in writing dark stories about one mother’s retribution and vengeance on deadbeat parents everywhere.
In watching my children grow and become a reflection of me, I realized that I’d wasted so much of my youth being angry at circumstances beyond my control rather than standing up and fighting for what I deserved. I knew then that I wasn’t weak for rolling over and taking life’s punches, but rather that I’d become stronger not only because I survived what life dished out, but I thrived despite it all. I wanted to set a good example for my children to follow, and I wanted them to know their mother was not only a strong woman, but was also someone who took the high road even when others acted low. In reinventing myself, I read mostly uplifting Amish fiction, and I wrote poetry and personal essays wherein I pondered various situations in my early years and how I might have handled them differently.
Once my children were grown, I was eagerly anticipating traveling the world and climbing mountains when I was diagnosed with lupus. This time, life threw me a curve that I didn’t expect. Now I can’t write for twenty-hour marathon sessions like I used to. Heck, some days, the mere thought of even reading a short magazine article, much less immersing myself in a book, exhausts me. So, when I write, I have to take my time and make each word count.
I don’t dream about Hollywood endings or revenge anymore. I now write psychological thrillers where strong women overcome just about anything life throws at them, and even the invisible are seen.
It was only recently that I realized that throughout my life’s journey, just because I didn’t speak much didn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to say. I realized that I wrote not to escape my troubles, but rather I used my writing as a tool to overcome them.
I write to leave my mark on the world. I write to be seen. I write to say, “I was here.”