A friend of mine traveled through San Francisco to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He and I were talking recently and he said, “After certain experiences, you are never the same again.” I agreed with that idea as he meant it, which was that after certain experiences “of a grand nature” you are never the same again. The truth is, that after every experience of every day, you are never quite the same.
I look back at my younger self and can hardly believe we’re the same person. Yet, at other times, we are very much the same person. But I recognize the differences between the two. Can we call this memory? Is that what changes us? With each memory, we add something to who we are, we grow and change, lean with or against the winds of experience.
I like the idea that we’re never the same; that, as the Buddha suggested, everything is in eternal flux. The whole idea allows me to break the chains of old habits and old beliefs. I can pick up new ways of thinking, shift my day to suit me better, change my mind about anything I choose.
I admit that after certain experiences, though, big changes occur. For example, after my first sexual experience, I could never gain that innocence back. After my first book was published, I couldn’t go back to being unpublished. And, after my first child was born, I couldn’t go back to being someone without children. When I think of the “certain experiences” there are many of them. The first time I was lied to, cheated on, dumped…the first time I felt truly loved, committed to, accepted. Then there are the goals I’ve attained, the milestones of my life – new cars, a house, horses. There are things I’ve learned about myself and others that can’t be taken back. Perhaps everything (or anything) can be considered one of those certain experiences if that’s how you remember it.
In my novel, “Ten Months in Wonderland”, I rejoice, doubly, in experiences I had while stationed in Thailand at the end of the Vietnam War. That’s what we were talking about when my friend and I had that discussion I explained at the beginning of this post. The novel is fiction, but it’s also a memory, an emotion, an event that changed me for the rest of my life. I shook off my innocence while over there, and I tried to show that in the novel. I wanted to write something about change, about young men and how they think, about being away from everything you are familiar with, and how it affects you.
Every “certain experience” we, as writers, live through, can become a work of art. There is a place in every one of us where we store our experiences and let them define us or change us. It is that place that I go to often to be sure I’ve chosen the right path. That’s the place where I can privately look at my experiences and know who I am on a level no one else could possibly know. And that’s where I write from when I’m at my best.
Terry Persun is an award winning author and a #1 Amazon bestseller. He is also a Pushcart nominee. His mainstream novel, “Wolf’s Rite”, was a Star of Washington award winner, a POW! Award winner, and a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist. His science fiction novel, “Cathedral of Dreams”, was also a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists. And his historical novel, “Sweet Song”, won a Silver IPPY Award for best regional fiction. His latest novel, “Doublesight”, is book one of his new fantasy series. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. Terry writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy.