In high school, I was a writer. Or more specifically, a poet.
Line after line, I wrote down my entire world, as I saw it. I constructed and deconstructed all the usual teenage dramas, fell in and out of love, failed and flew, and in the process, wrote it all down.
But somewhere along the way, I lost my words. That inner voice that had spoken so loud and so clearly to me for so long went quiet. I am not sure what drowned me out – maybe depression, which took me into its grip with a vengeance. Maybe the rush and exhaustion of early motherhood. Maybe the way I disappeared into my marriage. Maybe I had so completely internalized the message that I was too much – too loud, too opinionated, too brash. Maybe for a little while, I just didn’t have anything to say – or at least I thought I didn’t.
I launched my photography business in the Fall of 2009. It was through that work, chasing light, making images, that I started to notice that I had something to say again. For so many years, I’d been living in silence. I had made myself invisible. I didn’t have any idea who I was anymore. I defined myself just by my roles (admirable ones, no doubt). I was a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But Stephanie was buried so deeply inside of me. And oh, how she wanted out.
I met Dane Sanders, and I’ll never, ever forget the day he looked me right in the eye and said ‘You want so badly to be heard, yet you’re making yourself invisible.’ The truth of it stung. This sense of being a ghost was a reality I had created all on my own. And the only way it would change was if I chose to change. To chase the light inside of me.
Over the next two years, I turned my life upside down. I started working with Jeff Jochum, who helped me find even more of my voice. I left my husband. I learned how to be alone. And I picked up my pen again.
Journaling, it would turn out, would be my lifeline. Because just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. The ability to write it all down, to get it out of my own head, to flip through it later, to scratch it out if I needed, set it on fire – my words were back, and they were healing parts of me that felt irreparably broken. I found myself again, in those words. I told myself the truth, no matter how ugly. I wrote down the things I was afraid to say. I wrote down the things I really wanted to say. I even started saying some of those words out loud.
I now keep no less than three journals going at once – four if you count the app on my iPad that I use for note taking when I’m reading. I collect my own stories and observations, quotes, poems, pretty things, and song lyrics. It’s a collection of and for me. I never need to share it, but sharing parts of it has been another step in this journey.
How many of us have rendered ourselves invisible? How many of us are not even telling the truth about our lives to ourselves? And what do we lose every time we swallow those sentences? What things about ourselves could we reclaim if we just started writing honestly again? What if every word we needed to say was heard?
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
Latest posts by Stephanie Ostermann (see all)
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- You Don’t Have to Be Friends With Your Ex (Or His New Wife) - November 23, 2016
- Grief & Landlines - September 20, 2016