When I was about twelve years old, a friend and I were trying to evoke ghosts in the park across the road from her house. We both held three colored pencils in the shape of a U, the ends slightly touching the other persons U. We asked yes or no questions and if there were any ghosts around, they would point the tips of the pencils inward for yes, outward for no.
The ghosts were around and they started answering our questions. In the beginning, both of us were sure it was just the other person manipulating the pencils, but even now I have no explanation for how the pencils kept moving when we laid them down on the park bench we were sitting on.
By the end of the afternoon, a couple of minutes before we were supposed to head back home for dinner, we decided to each ask one secret question. A question we would only think out loud in our heads.
Hearing thoughts and scaring little girls is apparently among the perks of being a ghost and they answered our unspoken questions. I asked the ghosts if I would grow older than twenty. The ghosts said no. Fine, I thought.
The day I turned twenty-one, I was secretly shocked. Subconsciously I hadn’t really taken the possibility of growing old enough to be an adult into account. Not that it made any difference to the way I organized my life. It looked shockingly similar to what everyone else my age was doing. Studying, going to our favorite café after lectures, having discussions about world issues, laying in bed at night wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life.
I just knew I wasn’t going to have to do this for very long. Thanks to the ghosts, I thought I would one day cross the streets and find myself in a dramatic car accident, being remembered for the rest of eternity by a dent in a tree on the side of the road, and that my parents would eventually forget to bring flowers to it on my birthday.
Turning twenty-one made me realize that the things I did mattered, because I was slowly turning into an adult and there was no telling how long this whole life thing was going to last. And so I had a complete breakdown. I went to a psychologist, who I didn’t tell about the ghosts, just all the other stuff. He told me being twenty-one is hard for everybody, just make sure to get some rest and to go to bed early for the next couple of weeks. So I did.
I started writing out of emergency. I was about to turn twenty-two and I had spent most of the year getting out of bed as little as possible. I woke up one day thinking: I’m either going to start writing or stay in bed until this life ends. I don’t think it actually happened like that, because that would be way too fucking romantic and, also, I knew staying in bed wasn’t a real option. But whichever way it happened, I started writing. Mostly stories in which I was my own main character, setting free all the cows from a nearby farm on the last night of my life.
This is the deal I made with myself: I was going to apply for a creative writing bachelor’s degree and the goal was to get through the first round of the selection procedure. Anything that would happen after that would be a bonus.
I have been living that bonus ever since.
Since the day in the park, I have only used pencils for coloring and making first drafts of things I know will need revision later. Always making sure to never accidentally lay them down in a U-shape.
Maybe the ghosts revised about my dramatic car accident as well, although in some ways I feel like I did die at twenty-one. Some parts of me are still dying, but that is not a bad thing. They’re making space, becoming soil, for other things to grow. I am becoming more and more rooted in this life. There are still days that I don’t want to get out of bed, but I chose writing, so I’m going to have to stick with it. At least until I turn into a ghost.