by Amy Matayo
These four words. I’ve heard them my entire life. They’ve followed me around everywhere. From grade school, where I often got in trouble for talking too much (a funny thing now since I could very easily go several hours and days without talking to anyone but myself, especially when I’m writing), to high school to college to today. And I am. Happy by circumstance. Happy by nature. Happy because that seems to be the way God made me.
But not always.
When I was younger, I thought that was a problem. I was known as the happy girl. The funny girl. The girl everyone could count on as a safe place to unload their problems and help carry their burdens. I gave people a shoulder to cry on, a proverbial sofa to lie on—a therapist, a shrink—a designated driver to rely on when one was needed. It was my job. It’s just what I did.
But I didn’t always do it well.
Sometimes I resented it. Sometimes I cried in private. Sometimes I needed someone to listen to me. Sometimes I tried to speak up, but it was never met well. What’s wrong with you? was the typical response—add an annoyed expression and extra emphasis on the word you and a couple of eye rolls and you’ll have yourself a pretty accurate visual. I learned pretty quickly that a lot of people needed me to be a certain way. They needed me to be solid. To be stoic. To be silent. To be happy.
So I learned to stop talking. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to listen to the problems, fears, and worries of the happy girl. The happy girl was supposed to remain that way: happy. So she did. Even as she journaled furiously in her bedroom late at night or wrote lines and lyrics on the wall of her tiny closet where her parents couldn’t see or cried into her pillow for nights on end, during the day she smiled and laughed and listened and cared. And she did. Oh, how she cared. She’s always cared.
Even when she was breaking.
Even when the smile was fake.
Even when she felt ashamed for being a little bit plastic.
This went on for years. Dozens of them, in fact.
Until just a few years ago.
A few years ago, something happened. I can’t even point to what it was. Maybe growing older and wiser. Maybe settling in to my own sense of self a bit more. Maybe just a shift in thinking, a worry that I would one day die and no one would ever really know me.
That was most likely it.
So I set aside that shame and started writing. I set aside my fear of what people would think and decided to write my feelings in a book. A serious book. A book that drifted away from the norm, the expected, the humorous books I had been known for up to that point. And I wrote that book until I was finished. That book is The End of the World. And it’s fiction. And some might say fiction is trivial, especially fiction with romance at its core. First, I reject that notion. Second, for me it was real. The most real thing I had ever written because it was the first time I had ever allowed myself to fully feel. And though all the books I had written before that book also contained pieces of my heart and soul, this time I decided to bare it all: my worries and doubts and very real fear that my fan base would disperse like scattering mice. What is this book? What happened to the funny Amy we’ve learned to count on?
Shades of high school revisited.
But here’s what happened.
Funny Amy got real, and she’s tried to stay that way ever since. Because here’s the truth: funny Amy sometimes worries. Funny Amy often cries. Funny Amy is occasionally crippled with self-doubt. Funny Amy can get depressed. And funny Amy decided to finally stop hiding and learn to be okay with that.
Because just as strong as the fear once was that no one would ever really know me, I’d come to realize that if I wasn’t careful…if I wasn’t honest…if I didn’t rip off the comfortable mask…
I might not ever learn to know myself.
Amy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, and The Thirteenth Chance. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her–she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use.
She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel. Connect with Amy on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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