By Maria Juliet Rose Nabatanzi (Instagram @UgGirlMaria)

So there I was on an island with a bunch of polite strangers about to read aloud my 100 word piece on “Journey To The Island”. Although I was buzzing off the excitement of how breath-takingly beautiful the island was, I felt a bunch of strange heavy grey emotions stirring inside me too. These emotions acted as though they were very familiar with my body and my mind, but for some strange reason I felt like I was witnessing their presence for the first time. In that tiny moment of reflection as I nervously put together my 100 word piece, only one persistent sentence kept making it’s way to the surface of my mind. “WOW, It’s been a rough life-altering four years. And now we’re here in this beautiful place. Are we really here or is this just a dream!?” Every other creative idea was blocked from my mind, except for these dominate emotions claiming their territory, and fighting for their release.

So I wrote. I wrote about how I felt and how I couldn’t believe that life had given me such a lucky break. Here I was in this beautiful house; this house that looked like the ones in the movies where the main character whisks themselves off to a secluded place for a much needed break from life. Everyone else in the writing group, stuck to what they saw along the boat journey to the island, but I wrote about how I felt free to feel for the first time. I allowed them to see that I was broken.

Each day of the retreat, I found myself delighted with every writing assignment I was given. It felt like a precious opportunity to hold up my broken pieces in the light, so that I could figure out how to glue them back together again. The relief that came flooding though after each session of reading aloud, gave my mind and body space to relax and have fun on the island. At night while listening to the waves, I would think of more ways to visualize and express what I was going through. I accepted that I was emotional wounded. I had been ashamed to admit it because I feared people would think I was weak and too sensitive. In the last five years, I had moved back to my home country, watched my parents relationship fully deteriorate, experienced two years of passive aggressive and aggressive bullying, and then my mother died before anything in our family was resolved. All that time I was trying to act strong when in reality I was emotional crippled. Some days I was angry, some days I was sad, but what annoyed me the most is that I lacked the motivation to do anything. For a whole year and a half, I faked it. People could tell something was not right, but I refused to allow them to acknowledge it publically. I told myself to buckle up, and that other people were going through worse, but it didn’t change the fact that I was hurting.

The best bit of the retreat is that I spent my first Monday morning not in the office, but by the beach watching the waves lap at my feet. During the four days, I ate. I ate unashamedly during breakfast, lunch and dinner because I had let go of the idea that I needed to be perfect. I accepted that I was sensitive and flawed and that is the bonus of being human. It’s was from this place of truth that I was able to write and most importantly watch other people enjoy my writing. I gave my emotions faces, I gave them their own personalities, and where possible I gave them their own life stories too. I accepted and befriended them while making them daring, adventurous and funny to my audience. It’s from my brokenness that I learnt to make lemonade.