Monday Memoir: Unforgettable

 

At the age of ten, I discovered there was another way of intermingling with my imaginary friends, and that was through writing.  A new world was suddenly opened to me where I can create and bring things to life on paper. Because of my hearing impairment, my overall understanding of grammar was a bit lacking to say the least, and I knew this.  And because of this, I kept whatever I wrote hidden away.  I wasn’t ready to share with the world.

Not yet.

In the meantime, I struggled with insecurities, and with the belief that I was inferior to the other kids. I felt I wasn’t good enough in anything.   As a result, I stayed pretty much a loner with perhaps one or two good friends.

Later on in the same school year, one of the school’s teachers, Mr. Hathaway, announced that the school was going to compete in its first (and only) track meet with other private schools in the area. I signed up for three events: 100 yard dash, 200 yard dash, and 400 yard relay.

I’ll need to clarify that my school’s sport program when compared to the area public schools was more intramural at best; especially given the fact that my entire school population had only seventy students in all (grades Kindergarten through 12th)! And because of the small size, most of our sports were played with co-ed teams.

You get the idea.

Photo Credit: Acclaim Images

 

I was excited, and I was also nervous. I’ve never done track before. We had no coach, or any training. I wondered just how bad I was going to be.

The track meet was held on a warm spring day at another private school (almost as small as my school); the school’s parking lot was converted into a track.  For my first event, the 100 yard dash, I found myself competing against girls who were two and three years older than me, but age or size didn’t matter as I flew past them and finished in 1st place.  The same thing happened in the next event, the 200 yard dash, where I again finished in 1st place. In my last event, 400 yard relay, I was put in as the last runner, and as a team, we placed 2nd.

I never thought that running and competing could be so much fun.

Summer came and my parents placed me in a summer day camp which was sponsored by one of the local public schools. None of the kids from my school were there, but that really didn’t bother me. The kids that were there were from other public schools, ages that ranged from five all the way up to sixteen. I kept to myself as always while occasionally conversing with a few who were close to my age. One whom I do remember was Kari Lynn Nixon. She was a few months younger than me, but I was amazed by her. She was pretty, outgoing, and popular. I can remember one particular day when she involved me in one of the activities she led: how to put on makeups.

Here I was, eleven years old at the time, a tomboy learning how to apply lipstick and blush to my sweaty and dirty face. I must have been a comical sight when I got home later that day.

I remember one specific day over any others though.  It was late morning when one of the camp leaders announced that there was going to be a race.  Anyone who was interested was to come to the baseball field and stand in a line next to the home base. I didn’t think.  I just went. As soon as I stood in that line with at least twenty other kids, doubts filled my mind and butterflies jumped in my stomach.

What was I doing?

Most of these kids were athletes.  A few of whom I actually knew were  star baseball and softball athletes.  What kind of chance would I have against them?  A girl like me who went to a small private school against these other kids who went to schools that were at least ten times larger.

I must be insane.

I seriously considered stepping out and away from the line, but that would mean the entire camp would see me chickening out.  There had to have been about one hundred kids sitting in the bleachers behind me.

I had no choice, but to compete.

Must of the race was a blur to me.  I remember running as fast as I could.  I remember this one boy athlete racing right along beside me.  Then I remember seeing the home base ahead of me as we rounded the last section of the field.  I could hear the kids cheering in the bleachers. I can remember my legs feeling like rubbery leads.  You know what was amazing about that race?

I finished first.

I finally found something that I was good at. Something that apparently I was better than many of the kids from the local public schools.

It all felt quite surreal.  I never had so many people cheering for me.  Congratulating me.

It felt good.

I almost felt…normal.

 

Run With the Wind

Cool breeze sweeping by

the landscape all but a blur

my feet take me home

Writing: The Zero Moment

Click on the image for the DIY MFA Book

Gabriela Pereira:

The hardest step in your creative development is the “zero moment,” the point where you go from doing nothing to doing something. The distance between the zero moment and being a newbie is far greater than the distance between newbie and pro, yet rarely does anyone celebrate this pivotal, important step.
Today, I want you to celebrate. Think back to your zero moment and do something to celebrate that incredible leap of faith. Maybe your zero moment was ages ago and you’ve forgotten all about it. Maybe you’re in that moment right now. Regardless of where you are on your writing journey, I want you to pause and celebrate that enormous first step that brought you to where you are now.

Photo Credit: Bellarmine Magazine

 

I had a handful of “aha” moments when it came to writing.  The first one came when I was a girl (shared this in my How did I become a writer post) when a friend challenged a group of us to see who could write the scariest story.  That was the moment I realized that there was a safer way to channel my imagination, and that was through writing them down on paper.

Throughout high school and most of my college years, I journaled.  It was your typical teenager’s angst and boy-crazed, and trying to figure out what I truly wanted to do with the rest of my life kinds of stuff.   Journaling was a way of dealing with frustrations and disappointments as well as perusing through all the puzzle pieces of life, and trying to see what fits and where.

When I was looking at colleges, I toyed with the idea of either Journalism or English major; but, I’d felt that I didn’t possess an aggressive enough personality for Journalism, and found the course work for English to be too dry and boring.  So, I ended up majoring in Physical Education instead since I enjoyed sports.

I’d envisioned myself working with either professional or Olympian athletes.  I received an associate degree in Physical Education, and went to an University in Virginia to pursue a B.S. in Exercise Science.  I was well on my way to attaining that particular dream.

Then Life intervened, and everything changed.

Between graduating with my A.S. degree, and heading down to the University, I was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa.  Because I also had moderate hearing loss, the specific RP I had was Usher Syndrome.

I was slowly going blind.

This shook everything up.  So much so, I practically gave up on all of my dreams.  I stayed in college though as I didn’t know what else to do. From there, I transferred around at least four different colleges, changed my majors several times, but eventually went back to Physical Education and graduated with my Bachelor degree.

In the midst  of struggling with coming to grip with RP, and confusion about my future, I met and married Aaron.  However, with a year left of college, Aaron was in a car accident, and died.  We were married only nineteen months.

I could have dropped out of college, but didn’t.  I decided that since I was that close to graduating, and needed something to keep me busy, I finished out the last year.

Between the diagnosis, and Aaron’s death, I stopped writing altogether.   Misery became my best friend as I holed myself up in an apartment (by this time, living on social security disability).  Those were dark years.

Three years later, everything changed again.

In come Jay.  Jay and I were good friends back at the very first college I attended. Then we went our separate ways.  But, in late May of 1999, we reconnected.  Something more blossomed between us, and we were married in September (same year).  Days before our wedding day, he gave me a gift.  A beautiful leather-bound (with a picture of a cute cat on front) journal.

It was full of empty pages.  Pages that called out to me.

This was probably my true “zero moment.”  The moment when I realized I must write; not just for the sake of writing itself, but for my mind, spirit, and soul.

And, because the price was too high NOT to.

What about you?  Do you remember your zero moment?

 

 

Great vs. Mediocre Writers

peytonmanningWhat separate great writers from the rest?    Is talent alone enough?

I used to think that one needs to be incredibly talented to be considered “great” or to reach your dream (whether it be to get your book published or see that novel included in the coveted New York Times Best Seller’s List).

Over time I learned that this wasn’t really true.

Once more I see similarities between athletes and writers.  How can a “regular” person achieve that ultimate level of success?

1. Dedication.    How do you think athletes like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady* became the elite athletes they’ve become, huh?  It wasn’t just by talent alone.  They’re driven, dedicated, in their endeavors to be the best.   They get up every day and train; are highly motivated to perfect each throw, learn every aspect of the game (in the case of these quarterbacks, reading the defense and anticipating their next move).  The result?  They make what they do seemed easy, seamless.  It’s that old saying, Practice makes perfect.  The same goes for writers.  The only way you can become better at what you do is to learn as much as you can about your craft, and then practice what you learn.  Every day, or as often as you can.

2. Perseverance.  Peyton had a measurable success while in college but came short of winning the National Championship and the Heisman Trophy.  He didn’t start off too hot in the NFL either (setting a record for the most interceptions thrown in a season).  Did he become frustrated?  Sure he did, but he didn’t give up.  He just worked harder; studied longer.  In the end, it paid off when he led the Colts to a Super Bowl win, and he’s now considered one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever.  Rejections and revisions are the staple of any writer’s life.  Success is difficult, but not impossible.  The key?  Never give up.  Keep writing, keep revising, and keep submitting.  Some of the greatest authors (King and Rowling to name only a few) were rejected as many as one hundred times before seeing one of their books accepted for publication.  If your work keeps being rejected, you really are in great company so hang in there.

3. Make your own path.  Peyton was expected to attend the same college, Ole Miss, as his father and older brother.  He, instead, chose Tennessee and caught hell for it.  Not so much from his family, but from his hometown and especially from the Ole Miss community.  Peyton didn’t want to trek down the same road as his father or older brother.  He didn’t want to be constantly under their shadows; he’d rather have his own.  And what a huge shadow he created.  There is nothing wrong with adopting another writer’s style, but over time, learn to create your own  and from that you will find your true voice which will in turn set you apart from other writers.

4. Stop settling for less.  Don’t allow critics (both internal and external) hold you back.  You shelved a particular story idea because it was too controversial or shocking.   Write it!  Maybe it’s exactly what the world needs to hear.  Or, maybe it could be something that could change a person’s life.  Writers have the ability to change events or the course of history; but, none of these would have happened if they chose to listen to the naysayers.  Don’t settle for what others want to hear or read; write what your heart wants.  Be true to your calling, to yourself.

Okay, so that last point didn’t include an athlete so bite me 🙂   Bottom line, talent alone won’t bring you success or help you achieve your dream.  It’s the heart, the passion for the craft that can lead a writer to greatness along with perseverance and always pushing forward no matter what the critics say.

(*Roads To Greatness)

**Part of the Writers are like athletes series