Do I use my traumas in my books?
Yes, I do.
Ever since I began writing, I’ve been incorporating real-life events that happened either around me or to me.
In this post I want to share a memory with you, one that left its mark, though I haven't used it yet in any of my books.
First, a little background:
I was born and raised in a kibbutz - the name derives from the Hebrew word kvutza, meaning “group”. Kibbutz is a unique Israeli type of settlement, and it started out as a utopian Zionist community heavily influenced by socialist ideals.
I grew up living in a communal children’s house (yep, it included shared, mixed-gender showers until I was about ten. Nope, it wasn't traumatic). From an early age, we participated in various tasks that contributed to the community such as gardening, housekeeping, and animal care. We all had access to the same resources. Personal possessions were a rarity, and concepts like buying or earning money were entirely foreign to us.
When I was 16, my parents decided to leave the kibbutz and move to Uruguay in South America, where I enrolled in an American high school.
"Fish out of water" perfectly describes my initial state, but fortunately, the school was very welcoming. It wasn't like the huge schools you see in the movies, but quite a tiny one - there were only ten of us in the eleventh grade.
After about a week, I was invited for the first time to join my classmates and others for an outing to a popular cafe. In such a small school, classes of different years mixed socially, and we were a large group, around 20 - sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
We all had coffee (forget France or Italy, South America has the best coffee) and cakes. When we got up to leave, the check was served and everyone was expected to chip in.
It was then that I realized I had no money.
No wallet, no pesos, no credit or debit card. Nada. My naive parents, recently out of the cocoon of the kibbutz themselves, never thought to make sure I carried any with me.
I remember it to this day: the hot wave of humiliation, the bone-deep shame at not contributing, the feeling of utter stupidity - that I should have known better.
My American friends were fine with it, except for one girl named Liz. Her face scrunched up when she was asked for more money to cover my portion.
Later, as we stood outside chatting, I remained silent, struggling to keep up with the rapid-fire English conversation. Then, one of the guys asked about Argentinian football, a topic I liked and followed, saying, “Mia, what do you think?”
Before I could respond, Liz chimed in: “She doesn't think.”
I couldn’t come up with an answer, because a treacherous, self-doubting part of me agreed with her. I was speechless and hurt, and I felt so inadequate.
I have felt stupid and inadequate since then, on several occasions, that's inevitable. But - I've never ever been caught without the means to pay for my meal. Ever. In this day and age of digital payments, I always carry cash with me.
I haven't used this story as I haven’t found the right heroine for it yet.
Do you have stories you carry with you since your youth?
Hit reply and let me know.