Find a wayApril 4, 2011
Soccer, track, violin. You have brought those new things to these branches of the family tree. You know we have had runners, but they have been distance runners. A sprinter is an entirely new type of animal that I may have to learn how to feed.
We’ve had two and a half clarinetists (the half was your dad, he didn’t like playing), one flautist, a trumpet player, a couple of artists, a couple of singers and dancers, and a handful of politicians. Your great-great grandmother Dodie raised her child on her own because her husband was struck by a car; she refused to marry again until her daughter was raised and married.
We had a Miss Teen of her state and your Grandma Beanie was Miss Randolph Air Force Base. She was among the first women to serve in the United States armed forces, as a statistician, in the WAF during the early 1950s. We’ve had family members involved in sundry sports; one was a semi-pro football player. We even had a clown.
None of us has set the world on fire with those talents, but most of us used other talents to make our way in the world. I can think of only one of us who can honestly say she pursued her passion, her talent, and made it her life. And no, sweet girl, that one is not me. It was the clown. Truly.
I am a writer and should have pursued writing with every molecule of my being. I should have made it my world. It’s my passion, but I don’t think it will be paying the bills, and you know why. You are doing the same thing I have always done, and I want to talk about it.
Writing did not fail me; I failed my writing. Writing sent me across the world to Japan, all expenses paid, when I wrote an essay for an opportunity to become an exchange student. I failed my writing when I destroyed the essay that won the contest and never allowed anyone other than the judges to read it or even know what I had to say. I failed my mother when I had to tell her she couldn’t see the essay because I had destroyed the only copy out of fear of ridicule by my siblings. I failed her because I didn’t trust her with that small piece of my soul, but entrusted it to complete strangers. Faceless strangers judged (I only met one of the judges in person, and that was much later). Entering a contest when the final decision was delivered to you only if you won made the risk of presenting an essay to them far less intimate and personal.
After the Japan essay, I never risked placing my writing in the path of judgment until I began blogging in 2005. One of my blogs began to have a lot of traffic and I freaked. I didn’t want to hear the judgments, though most of them were very kind and supportive. I retreated from the negative and shut down the blog. I should have toughened up. I should have risked more—much more. Now I will.
You are an amazing writer with a concise style and dry wit. Share it. I am asking you to stop hiding it, stop destroying it. Find the courage to love it while it still exists. If you burn it, as I burned countless journals and other pieces, the only place it lives is in your head. In time it fades and is gone, never having an opportunity to speak to others. I will be writing, and I won’t be destroying. I am asking you to join me.
Yesterday you said, “If anyone ever asked me whose footsteps I want to follow in I would say no one’s, I want to create my own.”
Create your own path with the blazing fire of your passion and don’t allow the fire to burn your work. Keep the fire in front of you, forging new opportunities. Risk it. Find a way.