Hope Quest (and how it saved my life)

I had neither a particularly happy nor stable sort of upbringing.  Reading and writing (and later music) helped me escape from the drama and the pain.  I  started writing stories the moment I figured out how to hold a pencil in kindergarten.  By the time I was eight, I needed the biggest shelf in the household to hold my burgeoning book collection.  As a teen, music and journalling became an important outlet, especially once my family situation worsened and I plunged into a severe depression as a result.

At 15, I had had enough of all of it and decided to end my life within the year.  I gave away my possessions to my friends and made a plan – and I slept every chance I got, in order to escape my days in the meantime. My dreams, at that time, were vivid and epic, playing out in full colour and continuing night after night like a series on tv.  It was in one of those dreams that a strange girl with a scarred face, white blond hair and eeiry blue eyes showed up – and started moving the stars.  She brought her family with her and they all possessed powers to control the natural world.  I was fascinated by her, by all of them.  I looked forward to my dreams just to see the story continue.  Eventually, the story made it’s way into my waking world and in red ink, I began to fill a notebook about the girl who talked in a whisper, named Hope Quest.

Within a year, I had filled the notebook – and I happily went out and bought another.  In her own quiet way, Hope had convinced me to stay.

I would stick around long enough to move out, go to university and college, get married and start my own family.  Reading, writing and even listening to my favourite music, took a backseat for many years as I raised my three babies and operated home-based businesses in order to devote as much of my time and energy to my kids as possible, so that they would not grow up feeling unloved and unwanted like I had.

But then, as a result, I lost myself.

In January 2017, I realized that despite having a happy family and a stable home, I was plunging into depression again.  I took stock of my life and realized that writing was what had saved me in past and without it, I would never feel truly fulfilled or content with my existence.  So, I carved out time and space in my life – bought a little writing desk for that space – and gave myself permission to be me again. That included getting half a dozen new tattoos within a year, discovering new favourite authors, and listening to the music that I loved before the kids came around.

Mostly, that was Linkin Park.  I had loved them for years.  Being the same age as Chester, and having kids the same age, I felt like I had grown up along with him and his music throughout the years.  Chester’s passion and energy and the raw emotions of his lyrics spoke to me on a personal level.  His struggle with depression and how he expressed it in his songs had been a comfort to me through many of my dark times.

My husband downloaded LP’s entire catologue to my phone one day just to show his support of my new endeavour and it was then that I realized that Chester – his energy, his physique, his sense of humor – would make the perfect inspiration for my antagonist, Blackbird / Lennon, Hope’s rock star brother.

In the book, Hope, who is a star in human form, finds herself collapsing into a blackhole – a metaphor for the darkness and depression in her life – and she looks to Lennon to save her.  After having Hope’s story in my head for so many years, I thought that it would only be fitting to start my new writing journey with her story.  I felt like I was finally in a good place in my life to let her out into the world after serving me so well for all those years.

The writing came quickly, easily and naturally again and for a little while, all felt right in my world again.

 

On the afternoon of July 20th, 2017, I was writing away, more than half way through the first draft of Hope Quest, Linkin Park’s video Leave Out All the Rest playing on Youtube,  when my husband messaged me.  “Did you hear about Linkin Park?” his text said.  “No,” I replied.  “What about my Linkin Park?”  A few moments later, he sent a link to a news story about Chester’s suicide that morning.

It was devastating to me on so many levels.

It took months before I could write again, before I could listen to Linkin Park again.  The night of the tribute concert, at the end of October, was an emotional one.  My husband and children watched it live with me and I cried through the whole thing.

I went outside after it was done and looked at the stars for awhile.

I thought about Chester.  I thought about my book.  I wondered if I should keep going with it.  Was it worth it?  Would it matter?

I thought outloud, “How cool would that be, though, to be able to move the stars?”

And then, directly across my eye line, a shooting star, bright blue in colour, streaked by.  It left a faint trail of red.

It reminded me of Chester’s signature red and blue flame tattoos.

And in it’s own way, it told me to keep going, to finish Hope Quest.

 

It took another year before I finished the first draft.  It took another year to get second, third, fourth, fifith draft and subsequent revisions done, and then to feel confident enough to decide to finally put Hope Quest out into the world

I always thought that if I had the chance to talk to Chester, I’d tell him that he was wrong – his lyrics of In The End – they were wrong.

His music mattered to so many of us suffering from depression and mental illness – his pain that brought those lyrics to life – it mattered too, because without it, the world wouldn’t have his music.

In a much smaller sense, I look at Hope Quest like that.  Without my pain, she wouldn’t have shown up, but she did and because she did, I didn’t end my life at 15.  I wrote the story hoping that maybe my pain and the resulting book might one day help someone else struggling through a tough time in their life.

In the end, it does matter.  All of our pain, our sufferings – the art that is created as a result – our music, our books.  It matters.

It all matters.