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Literacy narrative. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Bellevue, WA
I never learned how to write. I did, however, learn how to spell. That was my key. Putting pen to paper unlocks my mind, and spills forth a festering, fermented, and fetid liquid that is my thoughts. Truly though, I have found that once this liquid is let to dry, it smells of roses… Lutefisk (a traditional Nordic dish made of fermented whitefish and lye) is the most accurate comparison to my writing. Enjoyed by few, and despised by everyone else; such is my writing. This view of my writing may very well be inaccurate though. It has been developing (fermenting) in my mind for a number of years, starting when I received my first failing grade in an English class.

Before that my work was art. Each paper or poem was the Mona Lisa, and I held myself to such esteem. Bragging wasn’t necessary as teachers would do it for me. I silently received good grades and basked in the envy of my peers. It did not last long.

Each year that I was in school after about fourth grade, I found myself doing less and less of my homework. This was not a conscious decision on my part. I honestly did not think of homework as a necessity. I was more concerned with my sports, or what I would be doing the next day, than with my homework. This habit caught up to me in sixth grade when I failed math. It meant nothing to me. A few weeks grounded, confined to my room with my books; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Wilderness survival and adventure books were my calling. In these books, the characters were isolated from people, but surrounded by the world. An open, expansive plane where anything could and would happen, regardless of what anyone had to say about it. No “villain” just the protagonist and nature. I suppose that in reading these books, I read too deeply. I became this out of place character trying to survive in an unforgiving environment. Anything bad that happened was out of my control, and I began to feel powerless. I became a static character that couldn’t adapt to a changing world, and in seventh grade reality hit me.

My best friend’s dad shot himself. Never before in my life had I experienced death. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I had received word through a dim-witted teacher of mine who thought it would be best to announce his death to the class as a whole. She was put on probation and eventually let go. Needless to say, I struggled with the news. This was a man to which I would confide myself. I talked, laughed and joked with him. I thought of him as an uncle. He took his own life, leaving this world of mine.

Depression hit, and hasn’t left me sense. Drugs and alcohol called my name, and I graciously accepted, but with a hushed tone. No one knew my struggle. I didn’t want them to. People were trees in my wilderness. My mind’s voice was an omnipotent narrator who would show me the way in time, I just had to keep surviving, just like my favorite characters had done. It was that voice that wrote my papers. A compilation of all my readings, memories of sentences and paragraphs that allowed me to speak and write fluently. Drugs and alcohol fogged my memory of the sentences and paragraphs I was trying to emulate, but my thoughts and ideas were still clear. It did not help that in school I stopped paying attention. I would glance at the subject for the day, and in that moment decide if it was worth my time or not. “Sentence structure” the board would read. “I speak English fine, I don’t need that” I would tell myself. “Correct usage of commas” it might say another day. I would promptly fall asleep, satisfied with my ability to use commas. Once teachers saw I didn’t care for the formalities of the English language, they decided it would be good to grade me on my correct usage of it. That is when I failed, and lost all faith in my writing.

Someone stabbed Mona Lisa. Many times, with a red pen. She was defiled, with words written in blood that said “Run on sentence! Not MLA format! Cite your sources! Check your spelling!” When I read these words aloud, one word ran through my mind; Failure. These corrections were made, and I received the final grade of an A, but the word still hung in my mind. A year and a half later during one of my bouts with depression, I carved that word into my right arm, so that I never forget who and what I am.

My writing then became increadibly stale and boring. I would follow the prompt to the letter, and never let my mind free. Anything that I wrote with any voice whatsoever was deemed to be terrible, putrid, horrible writing. I stopped writing poetry, I stopped reading, and I pushed myself further into drugs and alcohol.

Just before my freshman year of high school I was arrested. My baby bottle full of vodka was torn from my lips, and I was alone. Forcibly sober, I was left to fend for myself against my thoughts. Without the tools to do so, I simply laid in bed. The festering, fermenting, fetid liquid forever circumventing my mind. On a whim, I let my inhibitions go and began to write as I used to, and as I am now. I decided to show my high school teachers that my mind was beautiful, but I had to get them to give me a chance. I told them of my struggles, and they helped me overcome them to some extent. I still battle with my depression, but I no longer hide it, and because of this I feel my writing has improved.



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