Going through old journals is a strange experience, because you spot all the things you were blind to at the time. In retrospect, it can even seem like there's some kind of cosmic order.
For example, in 2005 I was still struggling to settle into a life in a new country, and I wasn't even aware of how lost I was. I realized that at the customs I had to leave more behind than just my nail scissors, but I shrugged it off. As a writer, having to leave your language behind is beyond painful. It's beyond debilitating. It strips you of your identity and leaves you with just a heap of bones. It took all my energy to hold those bones together, using anything I could find as glue.
I just discovered that I copied out a Grace Nichols poem, much like a prayer:
I have crossed an ocean
I have lost my tongue
From the root of the old one
A new one has sprung."
I had no way of knowing that one day I would actually meet her - last year, at the very moment I had finally found myself and my tongue again, she appeared. (Ironically, to see my show!) And I didn't even remember how her poem gave me hope, and so I missed my opportunity to thank her.
I know the way I use my new tongue is unwieldy and awkward, I trip and I stumble and often I run out of words. I'll always feel the grief for my old one, and I'm not sure this country will ever feel like home. But finally admitting the pain, letting myself feel it, is like reclaiming myself. What took me so long?
(Cover Image Credit: Esperanza Education)