I’ve always thought that writing something worth reading should come easy – like the words would just flow out onto the page. In some ways, this is what writing has always been to me: a puzzle that when put together, simply sounds right. 

Well, nothing I’ve written about my accident sounds right. 

So, I haven’t been writing. Which is sad – because the fear of being vulnerable is now stunting the thing that brought me the most joy.

When I first tried to write about my accident, I didn’t actually write it. At the time, I was so badly injured that I could barely look at the screen before nausea kicked in. Instead, I vocalized my feelings over a voice recording – and boy, there quite a lot. The main one? Anger. 

I was really angry. 

As I sat, looking outside my window – I was angry at all the people who could move about the world freely. I was angry at all of the people who never showed up, or never told me they cared. I was angry at the people who couldn’t understand what I was going through – or proclaimed that “everything happens for a reason” – but mostly, and more potently, I was angry at myself. 

It’s now been ten months since the accident. My anger has dimmed, but I’m embarrassed to say it still resides uneasily, ready to erupt. It’s one of the many reasons why writing has been so difficult – so unenjoyable. 

In the medium most suited for vulnerability, it makes apparent the emotions that I’ve been trying to avoid. In other words, maybe words haven’t been sounding right not because they’re wrong, but simply because they aren’t the ones I want to hear. 

I want to pause for a moment on this last phrase – “want to hear”. As my anthropology professors said constantly, let’s unpack the meaning. One reason I hated talking about my accident was the signs of visible discomfort that came with it. 

People wanted to look at the grotesque x-rays, measure scars, or feel the metal under my skin, but beyond the morbid curiosity we all have towards that accident on the freeway, they didn’t want to hear anything else. 

People wanted the beginning of a tragedy but the ending of a fairytale. Many wanted me to say that I was thankful for the trials and tribulations. Others wanted to know how I had grown from the experience. It was either that, or they didn’t want to hear anything at all. 

However, while I wasn’t at the beginning of the narrative, I certainly wasn’t at the happy ending. My current existence rested somewhere in the middle. Many things still felt off and I was learning to adjust to my new circumstances. 

Whenever I’d discuss the reality of my situation, I’d always hear in return, “well, it could’ve been a lot worse”. 

It wasn’t as though I didn’t realize this or that I wasn’t thankful to be alive. I was incredibly grateful to be alive. Along with anger, it was one of the stronger emotions that existed within me. 

However, hearing this constantly made me feel something else: shame and embarrassment. 

I was ashamed because I felt like I was over-complaining and that my story wasn’t worth listening to. I developed the belief that while I was objectively going through something difficult – in the eyes of others, it would never be difficult enough.

Thus, whenever I put pen to paper, I always had this nagging fear that maybe others would perceive me as overly emotional and dramatic. However, over time, I’ve realized that letting others define my experience not only prevented the (admittedly difficult) journey of acknowledging my emotions, but also the personal responsibility of validating these feelings for myself. 

During the initial months following my accident, I wallowed in the pool of self-pity. The only way I unearthed myself from this was to share my experience – and listen to the experience of others. I quickly realized that while the details may be different, the essence of a life-changing experience is oftentimes similar. We all feel a cacophony of emotions – some that embarrass us, others that shock even ourselves. 

I’m writing now for a plethora of reasons. Personally, I’m still trying to learn how to forgive myself, how to acknowledge my feelings, and how to move forward. However, I also want to write for the people who have found themselves in the middle of misfortune: the moments that sometimes feel overwhelming, never-ending, and lonely. 

Now, I’ll be honest. My gut instinct is to lace all of my writing on this topic with a warm, comforting thread of humor. This past year, humor has been my safety net – the quickest route to avoiding societal discomfort and awkward pauses. As I write, even now, I have to restrain myself from diminishing or hyperbolizing. Although I love poeticizing, I ultimately know that this type of writing doesn’t currently serve my goal to be authentic

My only hope is that by maintaining my authenticity, I can create a space for those who are also stuck in the beginnings and middles of their story – because I know that’s what the past version of myself needed the most. 

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  • Caitlin Arocho

    Graduating from Johns Hopkins with a degree in Anthropology, Caite cultivated her passion for audio and visual storytelling while documenting stories in Baltimore. This past year, Caite served as a Media Educator in the AmeriCorps, with the goal of giving others the digital tools needed to share their own stories. Through her work, Caite hopes to create collaborative spaces that allow for authentic, personal and at times, unconventional, narratives.