Little Shouty

Every day, at 8am and 6pm, a little girl stomps up and down the stairwell in my apartment building, shouting at the top of her lungs.

Her grandma (avó in Portuguese) lives above me, and looks after Little Shouty before and after school, which she attends around the corner.

Little Shouty sometimes comes home to have lunch with Avó, and shouts some more.

Yesterday I heard Little Shouty enter the building moments before a client call was about to start. I was halfway to the door to hiss something scathing in my semi-functional Portuguese, before I remembered something that had come up during journalling recently.

It was about how fragile the little tendrils of personality can be, how easily crushed they are as we try to force people into the moulds we would like them to fit.  

This theme has come up over and over again as I’ve been working on Rebel On The Page.

Kids are so often taught to be quiet, to be still, to be focused. We train out of them the wonder, the unreserved affection, the originality, because their unpruned forms are difficult to manage.

This early shaping can direct the whole course of a life.

Unexamined, these changes can breed hesitant, disconnected, unfulfilled adults. It can take years of work, and whole lot of writing therapy, to restore that original form and allow it to blossom into maturity.

So I decided yesterday that I wasn’t going to demand Little Shouty conform to my ideal of a neighbouring child.

Yes, it’s annoying, and I wish her parents would explain that sometimes shouting isn’t fun for everyone else.

But she’s so excited about seeing her avó and going to school with her friends, and I don’t want to be the force that starts to crush that out of her.

Who knows what the world will miss out on if her joy and energy are stamped out?

It’s only because of a steady writing practice that I realised this in time.

Sometimes I hear about people who think that reflection and self-exploration are indulgent or useless exercises. You’ll be shocked to learn that I disagree.

Writing shows us who we are — the good, the bad, the appealing and the appalling — and shows us how we can be better.

It allows us to reclaim that originality, and there’s no gift more precious that we can give ourselves or the people around us.