If you had told me in 1996 that I would leave California and move to Mississippi, I would’ve have howled with rapid laughter until the men in white suits came for me. I’d been to Mississippi. My grandparents lived in Mississippi. I didn’t want to go to Mississippi. Ever. Except to visit my grandparents. On short visits. I’d never actually volunteer to move there. That would be insane.

Ah, circumstances.

There were many that come crashing down as circumstances do, but when Murphy’s Law was finished with me I did what a lot of young people do when life pulls the rug from under them.

I moved back home.

I did mention Mississippi, didn’t I?

That was of course where my mom had moved to after her divorce. And so I took a bus ride from sunny California to humid Mississippi, a trek that seemed to not only traverse distance, but time as well. (Big secret: Mississippi isn’t exactly the most cutting edge state in the Union.) Missing my friends and everything I loved and enjoyed about Cali living, it didn’t take me long to tumble into a mire of self-pity and depression.

And like most miserable creative people, I made art.

At first it was actual art. I sketched like a madman, trying to recreate all that I had lost when I dramatically trashed my entire history of artwork. I was particularly focused on my character creation for the comic book that still revolved in my head. I began to write plots for the stories, filling notebooks with storylines, issue after issue. The plots eventually gave way to complete stories. I’d always had a knack for writing, acing all of my English classes without even trying. But my newfound fervor impelled me to do that which I’d been procrastinating on all of my life: actual writing.

I become focused on poetry, something that I’d never taken interest in before. But my cauldron of roiling emotions had runneth over and I needed a release. I tried my hand at writing out how I felt, and the release was addicting. I wrote poem after crappy poem, dipping my pen into the inkwell of my depression and spattering the pages with my rage. Like most poets, I thought that my statements were of profound importance; dramatic bouts of inner turmoil that laid bare my soul.

It was, of course, crap.

An actual excerpt from that era:

Many times I walk alone

Reaping bitter seeds I’ve sown

I watch as my world tumbles down

My castles pummeled to the ground

All my hopes and dreams are shattered

As my pride is bruised and battered

As for the words I’ve meant to say

Dark winds have swept them all away

Unseen daggers pierce my heart

All I love is torn apart…

And blah, blah blah. Yes, it was as clumsy and overdramatic as a Tyler Perry script. But hey, it was release. It was expression. I entered contests. Wrote articles for the tiny community college that I attended briefly out of sheer boredom. The main thing is that I began to understand the allure of writing. I started with a blank piece of paper and ended with something of myself on the page. I purged myself of emotions that I’d never been able to express vocally. I could do so much more with words than i could do with pictures. My drawing became neglected in favor of creating pictures through expression.

I became addicted to writing. And like so many writers, I dreamed. Published books. Bestsellers. World-wide acclaim.

What a fool I was.