My mom used to say, “If Maria doesn’t have something to talk about, she’ll tell you a story”.  Apparently I was quite a chatterbox in those days, and I have to smile now when I remember the number of times she’d glance at me and say, “Let’s play the quiet game….”

I’m not sure exactly what happened (well, I have a few ideas) but I outgrew the chatterbox phase and drifted into a shy, insecure one where I hardly opened my mouth in social settings. I think for some of us, the love of writing starts there. All that thought and creativity and humor comes pouring out without the pressure of the moment—or the second guessing of what others think.

By the age of twelve I was writing every day. I was famous in my family for my “beginnings”. And I didn’t want to write a short, manageable story. No, I wanted to write…a novel. It wasn’t long before stacks of spiral notebooks filled gathered dust in the closet.

But life happened, as it usually does. I went to college, got married, took various jobs, had a few kids, and no hint of the writer-me peeked out from the the whirlwind of my activities. Years passed and as it turned out, a brief trip to Japan became a turning point for our family.

We eventually moved to Japan long-term with the hope of making a difference among the isolation and loneliness of so many Japanese young people. But in the end, I was the one that succumbed to loneliness and isolation. Our volunteer team was small, and my children were young, rowdy and difficult to manage. I found myself home alone with them in a foreign country, struggling with the language, struggling to connect, and losing myself. Years went by and I think, looking back, that I was depressed. I didn’t really tell anyone. I have a strong survival instinct, and an unwavering belief in the power of hopeful perseverance.

One evening I started writing. It began with a spontaneous thought and became this huge, unwieldy project and I loved it. Laundry piled up, dinner was late, but I was happy. I had tapped into something powerful—a simple creative outlet—and it was amazing what this unleashed in me.

Today I’m in a very different place. A good place. The journey I’ve been on personally has been deeply meaningful for me. So much more than a writing project, but inspired by it. It has trickled into my marriage, my parenting, my faith, and my own sense of self. It has colored everything.

This is why I am writing.