“Why I Turned to Writing,” Tali Hunt (2014) — Inquiry 1

Writing for school is something most students dread—not me.  I have never dreaded writing assignments because I enjoyed getting to tell stories or share points of views.  Even though I enjoyed writing, I never did much of it for myself–at least, not until I learned how good for me it can be.  I suffered the loss of one of my best friends about three years ago; without writing, I don’t know how I would’ve survived that and come out as strong as I did.  Writing became my self-expression, my grieving process, morphine for my heartache if you will.

My parents and I ascended the steep hill that leads to Haspin Acres in Laurel, Indiana, hearing the roar of engines as we neared the top of the hill.  We could hear the loud speaker announcing the upcoming line-ups; they called for Kitt’s motto as we parked our car right next to the fence surrounding the track.  We set up our lawn chairs on the loose, sand-like dirt and had the perfect view of a tall, dirt constructed jump that the riders would fly off of.

The race began with a rumble of engines, all the riders twisting their throttles as far as they’d allow.  They shot off the starting line, twisting and turning around the curves, standing for the little rivet-like hill, and soaring off the jumps—trying to make doubles and even the triples out of the big jumps on the course.  They were getting closer, carrying the growing sound of engines at full speed; Kitt was upfront.  I couldn’t get the proud, Cheshire cat like-grin off my face.  Who am I kidding? I didn’t even try to hide my wide-eyed excitement.

Kitt flew over the jump in front of me.

Something was wrong.

He didn’t launch off the jump.

The nose of his bike dove toward the ground, throwing him over the handlebars to the ground.  His body hit the ground hard; he either couldn’t move or didn’t have time to before his bike landed on him.  His body bounced off the ground from the impact of the bike.  Everything was still, silent, unmoving, but everything was loud, fast, and chaotic as flaggers rushed to stop the riders following him and people yelled for medical aid.

As I watched the woman perform CPR and force a tube down his throat so he could breath, I couldn’t move. I don’t remember breathing; I just remember my tears flowing down my cheeks like rivers.  I was scared.  Waiting for air care helicopter to arrive was the worst forty-five minutes of my life—at least I thought it would be.

With no more reason to be there, my parents and I packed up our chairs and went home.  Instead of bouncing with excitement, I was stone-like, moving only to wipe my eyes and nose.  I couldn’t stop crying.  We arrived home and I decided to go on a walk around my neighborhood to clear my head—it didn’t work.  The scene of the accident played on repeat, the memory of the bike landing on his motionless body replayed with every step. Right foot: Kitt hit the ground. Left foot: the bike hit him. Right foot: Kitt lying on the ground, limp and unconscious. Left foot: the air care helicopter disappearing in the distance. Repeat. Over and over again.

When I returned home, I went straight to my room and dug out my journal.  Strangely, I had found the journal about a week before this whole tragedy. That can’t have been a coincidence. I don’t believe for one second that it was.  Everything happens for a reason, turns out my reason for finding the journal was something I never could have imagined.

Later that night, around seven or eight o’clock, one of Kitt’s friend’s dads called my mom to tell us that Kitt’s parents had made the decision to turn off his respirator (the only thing keeping him alive) and to donate his organs to those in need.  I was in a panic.  My throat shot from my throat where it had been all day into my mouth.  We had to go.  Mom rushed me to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio so that I could see him one last time, but we weren’t allowed in to see him—I didn’t get to say good-bye.  We were the only two in the lobby with the reception personnel at the desk.  My mom hugged me as my body convulsed with another road of tears and body-racking sobs. The thought of not getting to say goodbye is a haunting one.  It’s almost like regretting a decision, but I had no say in the matter.

The car ride home on the dark high ways was a quiet one.  Mom’s phone was constantly buzzing with texts and messages from people trying to grasp the situation and express their sympathy for me (I did not have a phone of my own at the time—THANK GOD cause I would’ve thrown it out the window that night.)

My world felt like it was falling apart—inside and out—and I didn’t want to be alone so bad that I made my mom sleep with me that night.  But the next morning I got up and got dressed.  With Kitt on my mind, I wore my neon pink camisole and “awesome” knee-high pink socks that he always laughed at.  He just wanted to be able to pull them off himself I think.  Then, I went to school.  Everyone already knew.  I faced lots of eyes starring at me in surprise when I walked through the door.  No one knew what to say to me, and that was fine because I didn’t know what to tell them.  I just needed to see my friends and be around people, plus I wanted everyone to think that I was going to be okay.  But I wasn’t.  I remember sitting in Chemistry and this girl wouldn’t stop talking about it.  All I could think was, “Who do you think you are, you dumb bitch?”  I bit my tongue because I didn’t want to this chick to see me cry.   Hiding out in the nurse’s office and leaving school early everyday became my pattern for two weeks after Kitt’s accident because I would get to a point where I couldn’t stand being there anymore.  I couldn’t stand the people and seeing how life just went on almost as if nothing had happened, which to some of them, nothing had.

The day after his accident I was called into the counselor’s office.  Mrs. Watkins, the counselor who does any actual counseling at Franklin County High School, pulled me out of English to ask me if I wanted to talk and to give me a journal.  She told me that if I couldn’t talk to anyone about what had happened that writing my thoughts down could help me heal.  I kind of chuckled when she handed me the journal because I had mine with me at the time, sitting in my stack of folders and books.  I wrote all of my emotions in my journal and used the one Mrs. Watkins gave me to transcribe all of the Facebook posts and messages that had been written on my “wall” in support of my loss.  So many people reached out to write me things like “Thinking of you,” “Praying for you,” “If you need anything, just let me know,” and then my closer friends wrote me paragraphs of how they thought I was strong for having the courage to go to school and face all of the sympathy even though they know that I don’t like it when people feel things like pity for me.

With each new post, came a new round of tears.  My eyes were probably constantly red for weeks because I was either crying, or about to cry, or had just finished crying, or couldn’t cry because I was out of tears for the moment.  But as I read each kind message, I did feel supported.  I only reached out to my closest friends and my family, but if I needed more strength I could read those written messages and know that I wasn’t alone.  (I also received cards from my fellow cheerleaders and even one of my elementary school teachers.  The messages they wrote told me that whatever they were seeing me do showed strength.  I didn’t feel it, but I know now that I did very well compared to most people I know.  I mean I see my friends go through what I was at that time because of a break up.  All I can think is: at least you can get back together.  At least he’s not really gone.)

I don’t remember what I replied to those posts, or if I even tried.  I just remember writing in my journal.  Writing my heart and soul and pain and everything else onto the pages of the composition book that I call my journal, that’s what I remember.  Writing in the book that, before the accident, I would occasionally pick up and write who was dating who, who I had a crush on, what the big gossip was, just frivolous things that weren’t really worth my time, but I was bored so I wrote them down.  That journal has become one of my most important possessions.  Going through losing Kitt created a habit of going to my journal when I’m sad, mad, elated, confused, or if I just need to get something off my mind.    My journal entries are the things that I write for me.  No one else’s eyes are meant to see them.

I had to think about how the experience of loss “shaped my idea of writing,” but that experience shaped so much more than that.  I look at life differently now—what’s important to me is different than before.  I’m not all, “Gotta live life to the fullest!! Yeah!! *does something crazy*.”  But this is why I don’t like “unnecessary drama” (drama that could cause fights over nothing and usually start when someone says something that offends someone outside of the affected group), why I try to show sympathy for people, but often have trouble because I know that they could be going through something so much worse than a break up or a little tiff with their friends.

I try really hard not to take the people in my life for granted.  I have an awesome family, great friends, a great guy for a boyfriend, and even a cute puppy (okay, he’s actually 9 years old but he’s still my puppy) to make my days a little bit better when I feel down.  I also try to appear stronger than I am—I am pretty successful at this…sometimes.  Putting my thoughts down on paper, giving me something to look at while I try to decipher all of my thoughts filling my head with a cacophonous racquet helps me think.  I can just write and write and all of the sudden the answer I’ve been searching for will appear at the end of my pen.

Choosing to write in my journal is my way trying to solve my problems on my own.  This says something about me: I am independent.  I don’t like to bother people with trifling business (or to tell them that I’m struggling with something that I don’t think should be as big a deal as it is to me).  But I do show emotion and that I still miss Kitt through public forms of written communication—Facebook and Twitter—because I know that I’m not the only one who misses him.  By posting my feelings I want others to know that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to still feel heartache even though it’s been three years.  I’m definitely not the nicest person in the world—I can be very judgmental and opinionated in social situations—but sometimes I show my nice side—I am understanding and try to help them through whatever they’re going through.

I have tried to portray the image that I am okay.  If I’m going through something that I can keep private, I do just that.  My emotions about some things hide in my journal, but about other things can be found listed in my tweets.  I would love to have the image of an extremely happy and funny person. Why? Because I love those people.  Sometimes I pretend to be like those people—the first few customers that I ring out at work (I’m a cashier at a grocery store) get to see that me, but it never lasts past half an hour.

I am who I am.  I can say that because I know what I have gone through; I can see just how far I’ve come.  I am stronger and more thoughtful than other people my age.  Experiencing death could have changed me negatively, and it did for a while—no one knew exactly what I was experiencing—but in the long run in made me stronger.  There is no longer a constant pain in my chest, my heart healing through new relationships and time.  I don’t know how I could’ve survived Kitt’s loss without my friends and family, so it really bothers me when people have to go through things alone because I put myself in their shoes.  I look at the way people fight and stay mad about such frivolous things. (Think of something stupid and imagine people fighting about it. See what I mean?)  I am happy again—not all of the time, but more and more everyday.  I see the people that cry and whine about the little things (for example: having to work and go to school), well that’s a part of life.  Just like death.  We all have to do our best to make what we can out of our time. Being able to dispense my overwhelming emotions onto paper has taught me that and that ability has taught me a lot about who I am.  That ability has opened my eyes to why writing can be so crucial, informative, and even healing—why turning to writing can be life changing.