The Happy Accident
I always loved music. It has always been part of my life, from my darkest moments, huddled in the dark with my headphones in, bawling my eyes out, to the happiest times of my life, belting out songs at the top of my lungs, no matter who could hear.
Before I decided to be a writer (or, more accurately, after I decided as a child to be a writer and before I decided as a young adult to be a writer), I wanted to be a musician. I was going to be either a cellist or a rock star. You know, whichever one worked out first. I even applied to music school my senior year of high school.
Then the accident happened. I was seventeen. I won’t go into the details of the accident because they are beyond the point (plus, they’re sort of embarrassing, as are most accidents resulting from high school shenanigans), but it resulted in the loss, temporarily, of use of my right hand.
Obviously, this posed a problem to my becoming a cellist. Or a guitarist. I was devastated. And, while my right hand is now usable, it has never fully recovered. But my desire to become a musician pushed me to work hard at physical therapy. To do my exercises, religiously, even though they were painful and frustrating, even though they didn’t seem, at times, to be helping. Because I had a goal. I had to pick up that bow again. I had to pluck those strings.
I like to flatter myself that I am not a musician today because of that accident. It took away too much of my right hand’s flexibility, feeling, and dexterity. But the truth is, I didn’t want it enough. There were musicians who did more, and better, with less than I was left with. Music pushed me to recover from my accident, but it wasn’t where I really wanted to go.
Because I learned, during my recovery, that something else meant more to me. While I’d been dreaming of rock stardom, I’d been writing songs. Not music, but pages and pages and pages of angsty teenage longing and disillusionment. I probably wrote two or three new songs a day. And when my right hand was bandaged and splinted, useless for nearly a year, I could not write.
I could type some, with one or two fingers of my left hand. And I learned how to scratch words out, slowly, painstakingly, with my left hand. I had to, just to survive. Because not being able to write made me feel like I was suffocating.
But writing with my non-dominant hand, while it was better than nothing, was slow, and my hand got tired easily, and half the time I couldn’t read what I’d written later. There was no replacement for having a thought, grabbing a pen, and scribbling it out in no time. I can’t stress this enough: I felt like it was going to kill me, not being able to write anymore. And perhaps part of that was just that I was seventeen, that all seventeen-year-old girls feel everything with blazing intensity, that all experiences are life-or-death. But part of it was that I was, at heart, a writer.
As I regained use of my right hand, I started writing with it. It was painful, and slow, and I grew tired quickly. But I felt like myself again, and I forgot about music. I was lost in writing. I knew what I wanted to do, and who I was at the core.
The reason I bring it up is this: In a lot of ways, I am very, very lucky. I know what I want out of life. I have known for a very long time. And sure, what I want is not going to be easy to achieve. But what dream is easy? When I get discouraged, when I want to quit writing altogether and become an accountant (as if I could), I need to remember those days when picking up a pen and writing a few simple words on a page was a task that was almost too big to achieve. I need to remember how it felt, how much it made my very bones ache, to be unable to write down my thoughts, my feelings, my imaginings. And I need to be grateful that I can write now, and never take that for granted.