As I prepared my talk for the book signing last weekend, I had the chance to contemplate why I wrote Akilina: Out of the Woods. At first, I thought I would tell everyone about myself, then about how Akilina came to be. I ran through the talk aloud a few times, but though the words were all true, something was wrong in the telling of it.
It wasn’t as if I had created this book — it was more like this book had created me.
One day, in 2003, I’d sat down in Starbucks on Caine Road in Hong Kong, as I often did. Staring out the window at the traffic, at the people hustling by, I contemplated my path. Then I opened my notebook and began writing. I was “practicing” my writing, going deep inside to write about what I was feeling, but writing about it in the third person (she was feeling this, she was feeling that). I only wrote one page that day. It was about a woman who was alone at the end of a trail, who didn’t know where to go next.
That woman was me.
You see, I’d created a successful personal training business in Hong Kong, was known as an inspiring BodyPump instructor, and was meeting everyone’s needs but my own. For years, I’d worked to combine the physical and mental nature of my work — I was both a psychologist and a personal trainer, but somehow, I had lost the psychology side of my work. This was my crossroads. I didn’t know where to go next, how to continue my quest to inspire large numbers of people, while being true to both of my passions.
So I began to write about it. To write myself out of it. I wrote of dreams I’d had, frightening experiences, uplifting experiences. I wrote of what I knew — running in the woods, scrambling up waterfalls, facing down my darker side and learning how to let it works it’s power in positive ways. I wrote to free myself from where I’d gotten stuck. And I wrote to free others, by sharing what being stuck felt like. To figure out how to break free.
I wrote the first draft of my book in three months, and then we adopted our children. Having tiny babies, I suddenly saw just how self-absorbed the heroine in my novel was — perhaps how self-absorbed I had been myself — and rewrote the book to turn around the fate of a baby lost in the woods. As my babies grew, my book grew. It began as a 90-page novella and ended as a 364 page novel.
Reading the final draft before sending it to the printer, I saw that this book was all I was — hugely physical, a combination of dark and light, with a large dose of self-doubt and what I hoped was a larger dose of courage.
The book complete, I looked around myself, and realised I was no longer stuck. Through my writing, I had forged a new path for myself, as coach, writer, and inspirer.
So to tell you how I came to write Akilina is really to tell you how I came to write my own life. Now, a mother of two, a wife, content at the place I have reached, at the ability to once again motivate both mind and body, I see this novel for what it was: a pathway forward.
What I hope, when I look deepest within myself, is that this book forges pathways forward for all who read it. Sometimes, when readers approach me with a certain look in their eyes, a look which says, thank you, now I feel less alone, I feel I have achieved this. Helped them find their path again, as writing this book helped me find my own.