As a child, stories were how I learned about the world, giving me a chance to see through the eyes of other people. It gave me language for joy and suffering and hate and love. As I grew older, stories became a coping mechanism, a means of escape, of imagining a life different from my own.
When I left home at the age of twenty-five, I had no idea what my path would look like. I had no story to tell. I had spent my entire life in the Patriarchy and Stay-at-Home-Daughter Movements, only to realize that I didn’t belong. My story had always been written for me, and now I was taking over the pen for the first time.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
I used to think I could rewrite my whole life, come clean somehow, and pretend I never had a past of oppression and abuse. I didn’t want to be the victim, the pitied, the weak. But the years have taught me that there is no easy way to delete bitter memories or old scars. I can’t separate the good from the bad. So, I’m moving forward, not chained to the past, but liberated from it, carrying with me the old stories, if only as a preface to the new.
Over the past few years, I’ve studied creative writing at Michigan State University, served on the editorial team for Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and published fiction in Nota Bene and Old Northwest Review. I’m currently writing creative nonfiction, using experimental forms that intersect varying points of view with contemplations on complicity, identity, feminism, and faith.
As an editor and writing consultant, I am passionate about communication and how our stories connect us to each other and bring us into community. If you are interested in my professional work, visit my portfolio page for examples of my writing, editing, and graphic design. If you would like to inquire about how I can help you with your editing and design needs, please contact me here.
The story behind the name.
You might know me by my legal name, Caitlin Vander Meulen, but as a writer I go by Cait West in my best attempt to reclaim a sense of matrilineal heritage. West is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, and by taking her name I seek to honor her and the women in my family who are strong, wise, and full of faith. As I grew up, my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother were the strongest examples of faith I had in my life—women who were selfless, who survived hardship, who worked hard, and who loved with their whole heart.