I wrote to my teacher for 10 years. For 10 years he was my living, breathing journal; as reliably mute as a book.
It's been 10 years now. You've gotten to watch me grow up, really. All these letters over the years. Some distant, some sincere, some fully open others tensely restrained, some hasty, stupid, full of badly disguised youthful manipulation, or thrilled release. Always I understand the magic of having you to write to; someone who I imagine cradles tenderly, takes care of those delicate parts of me whatever they are... forgives me for my stupidity. Not ever knowing how real that illusion is but finding comfort in it nonetheless.
I got my first journal as a birthday gift when I was seven. Bound with purple cloth and a painting on the front of an orange cat, it came packaged with a matching purple mechanical pencil (and portended a lifelong love of journaling, cats, and the color purple). Since then, the blank pages in many books have often been, as they have been and are for many people great and small, the singular place where I am truly free to be me. Loneliness and an ache for close friendship were defining colors of my life beginning in middle childhood and continuing for many years and I felt some relief when I emptied myself into those books.
The first time I wrote to him was exhilarating; euphoric. It was a chance to spill thoughts that were, to me at least, precious - and to spill them, for once, not just to an unblinking page but to someone who I imagined would receive them kindly, thoughtfully, understanding the meaning they had for me. Someone who would cradle them like gentle gems, with the care that I gave them.
He didn't write back. Not then, and not after many, many other missives I wrote to him, though he read them all. But like talking to God, hearing back from him was quickly lost as the point. What mattered was the sense of releasing my thoughts into benevolent hands in times of intense loneliness, desperation, profound joy; the sense of another soul to share my heart with. Years went by between my hearing from him. On rare occasions something clicked, something caused his own demons to allow him to reach back, and brief interludes of communication would follow; periods of deep and obsessive confusion for me as I tried to reconcile the fantastical being who existed in my head with the reality of an actual human being. I was so young; too young to understand how young I was - a situation so many, many other growing women find themselves in as they struggle to understand themselves and the world.
My strange friendship (was it that?) with him defined those years in many ways; tainted the backdrop of my life with a particular color that stayed strong and true. But the last time we spoke was a hammer that finally shattered the fantasy that had lived in my head. The spell that had cloaked me for so, so long, making me feel warm and protected, connected and relieved, was broken so quickly and completely that it surprised me. And that spell I know was only an illusion, but its cathartic powers had been real and without it a great emptiness was left behind.
I will always feel gratitude for his allowing the "magic of having someone to write to" to be an oasis for me for so long. I do miss what the illusion gave me. The sense of a friend, an ear, a safe, compassionate home for my thoughts. I missed the feeling of having a place to go during my loneliest and happiest moments; during the darkest hours of night when my heart writhed for connection and my fingers groped in the blackness to feel the touch of the soul of another person. I missed the midnight hours spent with the glow of the computer screen on my face and the hum of the street sweeper in the parking lot across the lamp-lit river of road outside my window while my thoughts flowed quickly and freely in a way they didn't anywhere, or with anyone, else. I missed sharing the vast expanse of the universe inside me in all its flaws and disappointments, its complex and stunning beauty.
I have not written since then. But now, I want to come out of myself. Into the real world this time, here. I want to reach my fingers out and feel others reaching back. I want to let strands of my universe twist out from me and be given glimpses of others in return. This is my journey, your journey, our journey. Part of the lifelong conversation that makes my life endlessly new and rich.