When I was very young, my mother and I met a woman named Karen. I had no idea then that she would become the inspiration for my future. When I was nine years old, Karen gave me a journal. She told me to use this journal to express my feelings about what was happening in my life and promised it would help. It did.
For a long time, my journal was my only outlet. It was a constant in a life of uncertainty and struggle. When my mother disappeared the summer before my freshman year, what was once a diary became a very long, long letter to my mother. Karen and I kept in contact in the years that passed and she was always encouraging me to share my story. I thought it was a nice idea, but I felt it was presumptuous to assume anyone would want to read my story. After all, everyone has struggles, what makes me so special.
In the fall of 2006, Karen came to visit me in Seattle. With her, she brought The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. She told me that after reading this book, she was even more convinced that I needed to tell my story. “You can do this Tiffy”, she told me. I appreciated her encouragement, but I still didn’t really take her seriously. I figured she was just being supportive.
The next day, we took a trip up to Mount Rainer. As we explored the mountain side, Karen continued to push the issue. She was admit that this book needed to happen. When I confessed that my main concern was the fact that I had no idea how to piece it all together in the form of a progressive story, her eyes lit up!
“Then don’t!” she exclaimed!
I looked at her blankly and she smiled.
“Read The Glass Castle” she said.
When I finally did read the book, I completely understood what she was getting at. Jeannette told her story (which is amazing) in more of a short story format. This would be much easier for someone in my situation. Suddenly the task at hand no longer felt so overwhelming.
Sadly, Karen passed away from cancer several years later and I was never able to truly express to her how influential she was to me. Not just in sharing my story, but in becoming the person I am today. She was the definition of a beautiful person. Even now, I tear up just thinking about her. Her faith, her strength and her perseverance were all inspiring. The world suffered a great loss the day she was laid to rest.
For this reason, I have dedicated my memoir, Insane Roots to her loving memory. If not for her, it may never have been possible.
Thank you Karen, I love you so much.