Child's Play:

Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

By Justine Manzano

            The other day, someone was fired at my best friend’s job for claiming he was having an affair with her.  She had never even met the guy, but here he was, claiming that he had spent the weekend with her on an intimate getaway.  I heard this and told her, “Only us!  This would only ever happen to one of us.”  And then I was chatting with a friend and told her the tale with a chuckle, and she told me “Your life gets weirder and weirder every time you talk, I swear.”  And that’s when I realized it – I would be the best writer in the world, I would have more material than anyone else out there, I would proliferate bookshelves – if I could just betray all my friends and family and shout out all of their business.

            Seriously, I have seen a lot of things in my almost 27 years (27 as of December 29th, for anyone who is counting…or buying birthday gifts).  Some of the things I have seen have been good.  I have seen what the love of family members and friends can do for a person.  I have seen people get very happily married.  I have watched people raise amazing kids.  I have fallen in love and had an amazing kid of my own.  I have seen my friends and family win awards, triumph over adversity and find unbelievable success.  I have watched loved ones discover who they really are and find themselves amidst overwhelming opposition.  I have become a Sunday School Teacher, despite how completely screwed up I should be.  I have watched loved ones survive a long time with health issues that should have killed them.  I have watched people with talent flourish.  I have walked away from crappy friends, only to find out 12 years later that they have grown into someone I can actually talk to.  I have half adopted any child around me, as I love them all.  I have helped people.

            Some of the things I have seen and experienced have been bad.  I have watched abuse in all its forms happen and I have watched nobody say a thing about it.  I have watched people I loved dearly struggle with addiction.  I have watched somebody slowly go insane right before my very eyes.  I have watched people struggle with less forceful, but just as debilitating mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder.  I have been friends with people who are so sick they have no idea if tomorrow is an option for them.  I have been told the phrase “If I die tomorrow, this is what I would want you to do,” with some immediacy.  I have had a knife held to my throat.  I have witnessed illness and I have experienced it.  I have helped people struggling with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  I have watched teenagers get themselves into life altering trouble.  I have had frenemies.  I have had enemies.  I have watched the hearts of the people I love break.  I have had my own heart broken.  I have known people struggling with infertility and I have known people who use abortions like birth control (not an argument against abortion, just an argument against going through them like water).  I have watched divorce and separation break people and families.  I have seen discrimination and I have seen unfairness.  I have watched people lose their jobs for real reasons and I have seen people’s lives devastated for the sake of petty bull crap.  I have seen infidelity on bold display and I have seen it carefully hidden.  I have seen people get caught in the act.  I have seen people abandon their children completely for no good reason that I can see.  I have given people advice that was absolutely terrible.  I have been completely unable to help some people.

            Some of the stuff I have encountered is just plain weird.  I have watched people make up a million stories simply because they were starved for attention.  I have worked some pretty weird jobs and had some pretty strange things happened to me at them.  I have quit jobs for some very strange reasons.  I have seen people freak out and act like somebody else, completely.  I have watched people fight over the stupidest things.  I have gained friendships and lost friendships in the weirdest ways.

            I have lived.  It’s a weird life.  It’s a very full life for someone some would still consider a kid.  But the truth is, for those who know me, I may act immature, but that’s because I’ve never had the chance to be.  I’ve watched things unfold before my eyes and have deemed myself entitled to my share of silliness.  And I’m proud of that.

            My experiences may have been overwhelming, but they have also been incredible.  And that variety has opened me up to a world of possibilities in my writing and in my life.  When crap goes down, I know the score and when I need my characters to go through an experience, I have a gigantic bag of tricks to grab from – although names will certainly be changed to protect the innocent.  Wouldn’t want anybody’s privacy being violated, now would we?

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