“I write so I can go to sleep at night. I write so I won’t forget the times when my belly hurt from laughing so hard at a silly joke or the rare times when my father talks about his life in Cambodia. I write because he doesn’t have a strong enough voice to talk about our history. I write so I can remember the people who came into my life and the lessons I have learned from them. I write so that I can remember his face even when he’s not around. I write because I have lived an incredible life and I want the world to know who I am and where I am going. I write because the stories want to be told and I can feel them dripping out of my skin.”
When I was 9 years old, I picked up Anne Frank’s Dairy from the public library. I loved that book but didn’t quite understand what happened. At the end there was an afterword explaining what happened after she was found in the Secret Annex. BUT what did it all mean? Where did they take her and why did she die? There were words that I’ve never come across before like Nazi, genocide, and gestapo. Looking for answers, I went to my father and showed him the book. He said, very simply, “It is similar to what happened in Cambodia.” I cried for days thinking about Anne. I knew what happened in Cambodia.
We lost a lot because of the Khmer Rouge genocide: family members, friends, a culture that was flourishing, a way of living. I know very little about my parents’ lives before it all happened and they don’t speak very candidly about those four years in the labor camps either. When I was younger I would daydream that one day a mysterious package would appear on my doorstep and in it would be everything that would explain who my parents were. Vintage clothes, pictures from their teenage years, love letters, journal entries, photos of them with their arms around their friends. I know those things don’t exist but I still believe that one day I will crack that mystery open and our family history will come tumbling out.
At age twelve, I read Anne’s diary again and fully understood its content. Right after, I picked up a pen and wrote in a journal for the first time. It’s been 20 years now and I still write in a paper journal. I’m not very good, I definitely won’t be getting anything published soon but I do it anyway. Some days it takes patience to jot down everything that I have cumulated in me and some days it’s just a word or two to sum up how I’m feeling.
A week ago I started the FIND YOUR VOICE eight week workshop. The basic idea is to have weekly lessons and prompts that would help you to become a better storyteller and in doing so, help you better understand who you are. I am loving it so far. It’s been very inspiring to connect with other people and to see others’ perspective on storytelling. Some people have decided to just write, others have used scrapbooking journals to make art, while others are storytelling through images. The reason I engage in storytelling is the same reason why I chose photography as a profession; because stories are important in all mediums, because I don’t want to lose those precious stories (yours or mine), because you and I are born to tell stories.
I am filled to the brim with stories.
Digital scrapbooking template by Paislee Press.