READERS PLEASE NOTE: This article was published
My battle with illness showed me that I am my own protagonist
In middle school I had a friend who I was fiercely competitive with. One of our running jokes was that one of us was “the chosen one.” It had even gotten to the point where my friend bought a shirt with the words, “I am the chosen one” written across it. By the time high school rolled around, we had grown out of it. However, even then, I still felt like some tiny part of my brain latched onto the idea of being the chosen one. This feeling evidently went on to frame major events that took place in my life because those events, no matter how ridiculous, secured the thought that I was the chosen one.
Eighth grade syndrome
In anime, there is this idea where some kids who are going through puberty believe, to some extent, that they are made up characters. This is called Chunibiyo, or in English, eighth grade syndrome. You don’t necessarily need to be in Grade 8 to have this condition; it can happen later on. I had my own version of Chunibiyo when I was in Grade 12. It was that year that I fell more deeply in love with writing. I was in a writer’s craft course and I was exploring all the different writing styles and genres that I could delve into. Eventually, we got to our poetry unit and, being that I had always been a fan of poetry, I decided to take it to the next level. My school was hosting a slam poetry night that year and I had decided to première as my alter ego, MC Rixzan. I distinctly remembered my opening line: R to the I to the X to the Z-A-N. It’s MC Rixzan on the M-I-C giving you a piece called ‘Anesthetic Gravity’!
Looking back, it was all somewhat corny but I was also so proud of myself for being able to perform on my school’s stage. My friends supported me — listening to my rehearsals as I echoed from the top of a lunch table meant to be my stage. On the opening night, I recall my palms becoming increasingly clammy as I stumbled my way through the beginning of my poem, the spotlight blinding me. I quickly found my flow and by the end of my performance, the applause was deafening. The experience confirmed that I had potential. I never went back to being MC Rixzan, but it was firm in my heart that my writing could amaze.
The darkness within
Late February of my second year in Ryerson’s journalism program, I became severely ill, so much so that I had to be pulled out of classes in order to recover. During that time, I didn’t lose the ability to write completely but I did lose the ability to write well. In my recovery process, I decided to get a job to occupy my time. I misspelled the area in which I lived and my mother was contacted about that. That alone didn’t devastate her but the combination of me forgetting how to do basic tasks and how to communicate both coherently and effectively did. During that time, my uncle asked me to come up with the wording for a letter to the mayor on behalf of his sports club. I wrote a letter that I thought was well done, but my uncle found it to be inadequate, to say the least. I felt awful and my aunt scolded him for making me write when I should still be recovering. It was clear to everyone that this was not the same child who won an award for her writing earlier that same year.
During that dark period of my life, I agonized over whether I’d ever be able to write well again. In the midst of all that, I began writing fiction. I did it because I needed a creative outlet, but it also became much more than that and helped me hone in my literary skills once again. By springtime last year, I was able to publish a short story in Ryerson Writers Collective’s first magazine.
Every “chosen one” has self-doubts and sometimes, like in my case, they are featured in year-long arcs playing the underdog. When I conquered this period, I didn’t just come out stronger but I was also filled with gratitude about what I could achieve with my own hands.
Even while I was in recovery, I worked on achieving my short-term goals, such as improving my concentration in order to formulate my long-term goals, which include writing a book. I abandoned semi-worked-on first drafts in order to focus my attention on completing a project that would take months of investment. Last week, after over a year and a half’s worth of hard work, I finally finished my first draft. To me, the draft isn’t just a project in the works, it’s a measure of my progress. I went from a young woman who nearly lost all her ability to write coherently, to being within grasp of creating a full-length novel. Through all its highs and lows, my journey thus far is enough to tell me that I am “the chosen one.”