The thing about waking up with no memories is that you don’t realise what you’ve lost until people start telling you who you are meant to be. That’s where my journey began, 20 years ago.
I woke up as a 19-year-old, having survived a serious road accident and the subsequent surgery to remove a blood clot from my brain. I had broken my back but, although it was painful, I could walk and talk. Yet there was a lot missing. I was alive, but I was not the teenager who had crossed the road and been hit by a black cab that night. He was gone. I had lost my childhood memories.
My head was flooded with questions. Everything was new. At first, the questions were small and simple and very much in the present. What’s an ice-cream? How do I make that music play? Who are they?
I was very fortunate to have a family who supported me at home while I recovered. There was so much to learn and with every answer came more questions; soon, the questions became bigger and tougher. What am I going to do with my life? How can I get a job when I don’t remember school? Who am I, really?
In my bedroom I found a drawer crammed full of artwork, essays and scripts with my name on them. I didn’t recognise any of it. I knew I had a good imagination but I couldn’t draw like that. I knew I loved stories, but I was struggling to read and write. It seemed hard to believe that I had once been this clever, creative kid, who had apparently dreamed of being a writer. How I wished I could be him again.
Then I was told that it was possible that my memories might not actually be gone, they were just hard to reach. Maybe something from my past could jog them. My hopes ballooned. I just needed to find a key, and so my search began.
I went to a lot of the places I was told I had been to as a child, all the parks and shops and old schools. I went to places we’d been to on holiday and travelled the tube on the routes I had taken in my teens. We tried everything, but as time went on, the boy with my name in so many stories and grainy photographs remained another person in another world.
The night before my 30th birthday, I decided to try to accept that he was simply gone – for ever. I was planning a 1980s-themed party and had started preparing a playlist of 80s music. It was late. I went to bed, plugged my earphones in and closed my eyes. I started skipping from one classic to the next, adding each tune to the playlist. After 10 years of listening to the radio, I knew them all by heart.
Then I pressed “skip” one more time, and that’s when it happened – the most surreal moment of my life. A song I had somehow not heard in all that time, The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, began to play, and I was transported.
I found myself sitting on a strange, blue floor, staring at a silver stereo. Then suddenly I was walking in bright sunshine, holding a giant man’s hand. In a flash I was in another curious place; I saw some coloured glass lights on an enormous Christmas tree that towered over me. Near the tree, standing in a doorway, there was a woman. She was young, smiling, and didn’t have grey hair. She was my mum. I was her little boy, and it was real. I was finally there with her, at last.
It was such a short moment but it was mine, and that changed everything. It lit a flame inside of me and the idea for a story exploded into my head. I knew that learning to write again would be hard, but it wasn’t impossible. And if something is not impossible then you can do it.
I took that young kid’s dream, that he first had as a nine-year-old, out of the drawer. Today I’m 39 and inside that drawer is a shiny novel with my name on it, the first of a new series about a boy who wakes up with no memories, in another world. He must find his memories to unlock the power he’ll need to stop a villain who is making everyone forget.
Twenty years on, I still know how much I lost from the accident, but I also know that it didn’t stop me – I found my way back – and that tells me who I really am.