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What does a two year old girl want for Christmas? A mothers logical assumption would

have been a doll with lots of hair to comb. While gratefully received, imagine my mothers

surprise when her carefully chosen gift was nonchalantly discarded in favor of a book from an

aunty. That simple book had Bible stories with lots of pictures and big letters, I am told.

Although I was certainly unable to read at the time, I can only imagine that I was thrilled to have

had my very own book. Further investigations into my earlier childhood have revealed that, my

parents had been reading extensively to me during that period of time and would have been my

role models for reading at that tender age. Having clearly discerned the positive impact this

experience has had on my life, I am eager to pass on this tradition and actively encourage reading

to young children.

Having learnt her lesson very early on, my mother subsequently gave me books at every

opportunity she got. She did this, ostensibly, because of the many benefits that accrue from

encouraging children to read. However, in the strictest of confidence, my father concedes that it

was mainly to keep me quiet and occupied.

Thusly, a significant portion of my earliest childhood memories were of receiving books

from my parents. That it was such a frequent event only serves to underscore how energetic and

talkative I was at that age, and how desperate my young parents were for peace and quiet. It

evolved from receiving them once a week on a Saturday morning after market, to choosing your

own at the bookshop. My father, again in the strictest of confidence, said that my mother had

some initial regrets on that day she first took me a bookshop. Apparently, I was only interested in

the larger expensive books and not the simpler ones I had been accustomed to up to that point.

In high school I was a voracious reader. So much so that, in my early years there I won a

prize for making the most use of the library. I was the kind of person that would not put down

a book unless, and until, it was read from cover to cover. I prefered books to movies. Books

could be carried anywhere. You could be a part of an adventure in Enid Blytons fantasy land or

be a detective and help solve cases with Nancy Drew. I could have my very own movie in my

head. I never judged. I took the characters at face value, they were who they were.

It was only when I started English Literature classes that my exposure to literary analysis

began. There was no way one would appreciate Shakespeare, or at least get through the class

successfully, by reading only the surface. I learnt to read between the lines, look for symbols and

hidden meanings that the author was trying to get across. In general, I gained the knowledge to

gather much more information from reading that I had ever considered before.

After high school I went on to university and pursued an undergraduate degree in

Physics, and a Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) in Astronomy. The foundation that I had

developed in literary analysis during high school, coupled with my above average reading speed,

served me well during this time period. This was particularly so for my MPhil, where the amount

of research papers that one read was strongly correlated to the success of your own research. Up


to that point I had always taken my strong interest and fluency in reading for granted, however

the constant complaints of my peers about the reading load really opened my eyes to just how

valuable and important my foundation in reading really was.

One would imagine that a bookworm such as myself would transition into writing just as

easily, however this was not the case. I simply had no natural interest or inclination with

writing. Instead, I merely viewed it at the time as a means to an end. When I was ten, and still in

primary school (or elementary school) my mother inquired of my teacher about my weaknesses

in class, and was surprised to learn that writing creatively was one of them. Grammar,

vocabulary, spelling and handwriting were not the issue; it was my voice that was missing.

Getting extra classes for this weakness of mine quickly became a priority for my

mother, and attending these extra classes became a significant fixture of my Saturday mornings

going forward. Coming up with ideas was doable enough, however it was the act of putting those

ideas together in a coherent manner that was at times a struggle. The classes were small, and

facilitated targeted feedback which was critical for me to develop the skills and confidence

needed. Later on in high school, writing became less onerous for me and subjects such as English

and English Literature (which I took as an extra subject) were a much more joyous experience.

So why is it that, on my second Masters, writing a literacy narrative became to be such

a hurdle to overcome? By all accounts, this should have been a straightforward endeavor.

However, in retrospect, the bulk of my writing career occurred during my time at university

and was focused solely on technical or academic writing. The thesis for my Mphil was fifty


thousand words, and honestly, was a much lighter experience for me than these mere 1000-1400

words for this current assignment.

On introspection, the hurdle appears to be with the nature of the content itself. The

requirement being to write about myself and reflect on past private experiences in life. The

majority of my educational experiences to date has been focused on the sciences. And, in our

local educational system, this type of personal reflective writing style is never developed or

encouraged when one is pursuing the sciences. Additionally, I can further attribute my mental

block to these types of reflective work on a somewhat traumatic teenage experience that I had;

which was the unauthorized reading of a personal journal.

A journal contains ones innermost thoughts, dream and hopes. You can be brutally

honest with yourself because you can be assured that there will be no issues surrounding undo

criticism or unnecessary and overly harsh judgements. I remember that I learned a lot from

myself while writing about myself. Most times I did not know that I had in fact thought or felt a

certain way until I had written it out on that pretty pink paper which smelt like flowers. It was an

outlet that I didnt know I needed. It also helped me remember my take on events which were

significant to me at the time. After the unfortunate invasion of privacy, I abruptly stopped

writing down my personal thoughts. Instead, thoughts and feelings were shared with very close

friends and memories were stored in picture form. The remainder, which could not be shared,

was either bottled up or forgotten entirely. Even today my sister comments that I am closed when

discussing personal matters and outgoing with anything else.


Therefore, how does one find ones writing voice? In my opinion and experience

vulnerability is key, at least for me. The idea of people judging me for my written words and

thoughts is somewhat scary. Yet, when one thinks that they are alone this is probably most

furthest from the truth as all human experiences have some measure of commonality. Having

identified this issue of being reflective, I would like to do something about it because I think that

it will help me develop as a person. An attempt to begin was made. Yet the mostly empty journal

with my name scrawled on the first page still watches me tauntingly.