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Stories and Self

Author: Jacqueline Boland

Although we’ve been locked down, I have travelled.

I’ve tasted the sticky sweetness of candyfloss and drifted towards the smell of fresh popcorn at a mysterious circus in the secret hours of night. I’ve gazed upon shimmering spires of glass, cities soaked in starlight and ancient kingdoms long since lost. I’ve felt the weightlessness of floating through whorls of galaxies and the blistering skin from traipsing tirelessly through sun-scorched deserts. I’ve encountered thieves and pirates, befriended fae and witches, saved princes and mermaids. I have felt more, more, more than ever.

Although we’ve been locked down, I have opened up.

Bloomed as the flowers in spring from a seed buried deep and forgotten. Abandoned. Now watered with words spilling from the pages of books, endless books. Fed with imagination, dreams and more words but bursting from within, begging to be released into the world. Stories demanding to be told. Dreams waiting to be realised. Every root is a part of myself I’d forgotten existed, tangling in the soil and taking purchase. Every sprouting petal is an idea, an opportunity, a part of myself I could be, waiting to be released in a whisper of wind.

Remember this. It says. When the world is loud again and all your distractions have returned, remember what it was to dream.

Although we’ve been locked down, we’ve found time.

The time to think, to feel, to reflect. The time to knit, to paint, to bake banana bread. The time to reconnect — with others, with nature, with ourselves. The time to read and write and create and chase long-forgotten dreams. Every project and procrastination, odd-job and hobby — every time we said “one day”, well, that “one day” arrived. If not now, when? When will we ever have a time like this again? The time to be. Just, be.

Although we’ve been locked down, I’ve found myself.

I’ve rediscovered the little girl who loved words — drinking them in, soaking them up and rearranging them into something new. A dream of writing stories chewed up and devoured by fear resurfacing after reading again like I once did as a child with all the time in the world. In the year that never was I’ve remembered how to enjoy my own company, how to slow down and be still and be comfortable doing so. I’ve come face to face with the little girl and vowed I will not forget you again.

Words. Such delicate little things with such immeasurable impact. The unimaginable power of words plucked carefully for purpose and placed on a page, or stirred into a frenzy from our hearts and passionately spoken aloud — to comfort, to empower, to upset, to bring joy and to connect. There’s not been much to talk about, but I can talk about books. I haven’t been able to see my family and friends, but I can write them letters. I can’t comfort a friend over a coffee or with a hug, but I can send them a message to let them know I’m here.

And I am grateful. This time, for me, has been a celebration of stories and self. Whether it’s the book you curl up with to escape to another world, the rise of voices that will be silenced no longer, the truth that always emerges in time, or what we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives. Each and everything is a story and we all have one to tell. And what do I want mine to be? A story isn’t a story until it’s shared — do I dare dip into the ink?