Why I Convinced Myself I Hated Words (And Other Thoughts From My Year of Silence)

In January 2013, I sat down, dyed my hair dark brown, tried to wake up at 6 am every morning, gave up Coca Cola, and completely changed the track I thought I wanted my life to be on, a track I had been working towards since I was 13 years old. Some of the changes were short lived (we all know 6 am and Hannah go together like mud and white shoes), and some of them I did really well with (giving up Coca Cola, who knew I could do that?), and some of the changes I've never looked back on (when you're miserable going to journalism classes and you have two more years of journalism classes ahead of you, you really should transfer into something you love, like non profit studies). One of my fatal flaws is that sometimes, when I make a big decision or when I give something up, I downplay it. I pretend the big decision didn't just fundamentally change my life and everything I've known up until this point. I pretend that I'm not hurting over what I have given up.

I try so hard to prove to everyone that I'm fine without what I have given up, with what I have lost because I have somehow deluded myself into believing that is how I'll appear strong and brave: when I pretend like nothing hurts, and when I pretend like what I have given up doesn't matter at all.

So when I transferred out of journalism, I told myself it didn't matter that I wouldn't be writing all the time anymore. But a piece of me also thought if I wasn't going to be a journalist, I wasn't going to write at all.IMG_4010

For a year and a half, I was very silent. I wrote three blog posts in a year and a half, and my journal entries became incredibly sparse. I just stopped writing. I told myself I had fallen out of love with words, I was discovering new passions, I was falling in love with new things. I told myself I wasn't allowed to write, and I shouldn't write, because I didn't want to be a journalist anyways, so what did words matter to me anyhow?

I think a part of me was very scared that if I admitted I loved words and writing, I'd have to go back to journalism, and the thought of going back to where I was miserable took a lot out of joy out of me. And I promised myself when I left journalism that I would seek joy in all I did.

Words were always my safe place, my solace. Words used to be where I expressed my feelings and emotions best - where I expressed myself best. Words used to be where I found the most joy, and I just abandoned them because I told myself words couldn't matter anymore - I had given them up, I wasn't allowed to care. I said I wasn't creative enough to write anymore, I lost my writing spark.

My list of excuses was pretty extensive, and to be honest, it feels a little cowardly.

This summer, I told myself I was going to start writing again. It started with long walks in the park and a journal tucked in my bag, just in case inspiration struck. Then it was writing before I went to bed. And then it was sneaking to a little Starbucks on my lunch break because I knew I had to write, and researching English classes to take in the fall. I found myself writing about Honduras, and about communities I love, and stuff with my dad, and how my heart was feeling - and I found myself falling back in love with words, and my heart was super full of joy.

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When I first started writing again, I wrote this:

I used to be a writer, but I don't think I am any more. 

I can write - give me an essay or an email or even a letter, and I'm your girl. I have fairly excellent grammar, so that's not the problem. 

Can you be a writer if you don't have a degree in it? I don't know. A piece of me wants to say no, that without a degree, without a piece of paper that says I've done this much school to be learned and wise in my usage of words, I'm not qualified, so shhh, no one wants to hear it. 

And another piece of me, a larger piece of me, knows that's bull shit. If I can coax them out of me, I can get the words to come out - but I lack inspiration most days. I used to think in beautiful phrases. Now I'm not sure I think at all. 

There are still things to write about, Hannah. You just have to find them.

The worst thing I told myself in the year and a half of silence was that my words didn't matter anymore because the entire world wasn't going to read the words of Hannah Van Dyk, an internationally famous journalist. But I have never wanted to write for the entire world - I've always wanted my words to matter to one person, even if that person is me.

I have a wild, magnificent story to tell, filled to the brim with beautiful memories & heartbreaking sadness & lolz to the walls moments, and this wild, magnificent story - filled to the brim with words from an extremely awkward and incredibly loud girl - matters to me.  It seems crazy to not tell that story the best way I know how, in the way that gives me the most joy - with my words.

And with all that being said - will you all join me in my new writing adventure? I'm not sure if it'll be the way it used to, but I'm excited to be writing again (& I hope you kind of are too).