This I Believe: Pens and Paper

Feb 21, 2018

"You've sure changed a lot since freshman year, huh?" This is a question I get asked a fair amount. I usually reply with something along the lines of a polite smile or a laugh. The truth is, I have changed a lot. I've never really told anyone about this except the select few, but I'm almost 18 now, so it's time to come clean and leave this behind me. It's finally time for me to face my fears and embrace who I was ­ no matter how much I didn't like her. Have you ever met a drama queen? You know, that one person who always has to have all the attention on them? A few years ago, I was one of the worst ones out there. And I hated her just as much as everyone else did. 

I would do incredibly overdramatic things that eventually caused everyone to grow tired of my antics and leave me without anyone who could tolerate me anymore. I sensed the way I was purposely avoided as if to avoid any schemes I had brewing in my crazy freshman head. Did it hurt? More than anything. Imagine losing all your closest friends ­ even your best friend ­ to something stupid and insignificant. All this was happening to me, and yet, I couldn't stop. The fake tears, the fake tripping, all of it had just become second nature to me — a way of life.

Another question I am often asked, and one I'm sure you're asking yourself is, "Why did she go to all that trouble for attention?" Truthfully? I have absolutely no idea. Then, on a particularly bad day, I picked up an old habit I loved very dearly. Writing. I wrote down my thoughts and confided in my journal my deepest fears and embarrassments.

When I had finally exhausted every topic on my mind, I turned to fiction. I created fantastic worlds out of nothing but ink, paper and my imagination. My main characters became my best friends, role models even. I strove to be as brave as a fierce warrior in battle, as strong as a superhero, and above all, to be honest and kind, both to myself, and those around me. My stories helped me to grow out of that long phase of insecurity. They still do to this day.

Teaching myself to be a better person was a hard lesson to learn, but I realize now it was one I had to learn by myself. And I may have had a lot of pain back then, but I wouldn’t redo those four years for the world. All that shame I felt, and still feel sometimes, shaped me into who I am today, a strong young woman who is comfortable in her own skin, and that’s not something to take shame in, but great pride.

So, what do I believe in? Here’s the answer: I believe in twists and turns, tears and laughter, storylines and plot holes. They got me out of my head when I couldn't stand to think anymore. They provided a friend when I didn't have any others. But here’s a plot twist that even I wasn’t expecting: I control my own story just as much as I do my many fictional ones. I believe in stories because they truly saved me.

Kelly Kincaid reading her essay at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise meeting.
Credit CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS
Kelly Kincaid receiving her scholarship at the The Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise Meeting.
Credit CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS