Note: This article is lengthy.
Just finishing lunch and trying to mentally engage with a specific project.
I’ve been trying for the past six or so hours.
I’m not concerned as for once in a long while there’s no deadline to meet and more I know what I need to do and even have the project started. It’s just turning into one of those days where I’m meandering my way forward.
As opposed to running.
My mind wandered back to a day many moons ago, a day that pops into my consciousness quite a bit.
Ever since the shutdown last March.
Long before everything was shut down I attended a presentation at a Marine Center that was cohosted by the US Navy. I struck up a brief conversation with a teen girl whose family was sitting at the same table. After complimenting her on her presentation I asked what she liked to do. Her answer? “I like to write.”
I remember smiling big time at that and telling her “I’m a writer.”
She smiled just as big.
I asked her what kind of writing she liked to do.
At this point I became aware of her parents definitely focused on the conversation.
She told me she liked to write stories to which I explained that’s what I do. I then spent a few minutes encouraging her to write with a specific caveat. Follow your heart.
I went on to explain there would be times she would have to write papers she didn’t want to write about subjects that may bore her, but that they were important to her education as a writer.
All writing is practice.
I wound the conversation down by encouraging her to follow her heart – her inner guidance – as it would never steer her wrong.
I also told her to keep writing.
I often wonder what possessed me to speak to this girl. My stomach was in knots almost the entire time.
Who was I to offer advice? Oh, that’s right – a writer!
My mind drifts back to that young woman in these days of isolation and I think about how much she is missing by not being able to participate in that project aimed at youth. I wonder if she remembers some adult talking to her about writing and hope she is still at it.
Following her heart.
I don’t think I did it because of the messaging I got growing up which was anything but supportive towards writing as a career.
- You don’t want to be a writer – they don’t make any money. You want to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer – or at least marry one.
So they could realize their dream of having one in the family they could brag about.
- A writer? Yeah, my son told me he wants to be in a rock band. I told him to get a real job.
Told to me by a college counselor. Apparently he didn’t think being a writer was a real job.
My parents encouraged me to…FOLLOW MY HEART!!!!
This included not discouraging me from being a writer. Not once.
I’ll admit my path to writing is non-traditional though I’m not sure if there is a such thing as a traditional path to that profession.
I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I only know that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 3 and I’ve been writing ever since.
It’s in me.
Not Just Writing. I found myself recently encouraging another beautiful young woman facing the challenges of lockdown.
The challenges she was facing were numerous. Not only were they being asked to dance over zoom – alone– they were being forced to find a place to do so.
Oh yes, everyone’s home can double as a dance studio.
We talked back and forth and I offered some suggestions on how to turn a small space into a makeshift studio.
Hanging mirror doors and installing a barre are relatively simple. Framing a closet is also relatively easy. I know – relatively – but it can be done.
What came out of the conversation, however, was something that sent me back into writer mode. This beautiful woman told me she didn’t know who she was if she wasn’t a dancer.
She’d been dancing since early childhood. She was watching helplessly as many of her friends – faced with restrictions that made dancing a shell of what it was meant to be – drop out.
My heart hurt that she was at a point many of us find ourselves along life’s path…who am I?
It was a point I found myself at once upon a time.
Did someone say once upon a time?
I told her that dancing is a form of creativity but that the creativity is in her soul and that if dancing was not the outlet it would take that was okay because it would find another one.
I then backed it up with … of course … a story…
I told her how I had been training for the US Olympic Gymnast team – was told I was the next Nadia Comaneci – when two weeks before Olympic training camp I suffered a brain bleed that left me blind, paralyzed, and in a coma.
Needless to say – bye bye Olympic dream.
I told her that in the rubble of my dream I reconnected with the earlier one – of being a writer and while the rest, as they say, is history, the point of the story was that I was born a creative – as was she – and that that creativity would find a way to express itself no matter what.
I told her not to give up on dancing and that life has a way of working itself out but more importantly I told her that she is not the dancer so much as a creative spirit looking to express that spirit of creativity and that I was 100% certain it would find a way.
Addendum. I didn’t whitewash the pain or frustration. I told her that yes, the disappointment and frustration was formidable.
I’d felt a lot of guilt because of what I’d lost – weirdly enough.
Angels in Disguise. I shared two events of significance – both facilitated by coworkers in the tech industry – that helped me move past the pain.
Writers Wanted. One day early in my tech career I happened to mention to a coworker I wanted to eventually be a writer full-time. Turns out, so did she and what do you know, so did another colleague who’d overheard our conversation and came over from his cubicle to join.
You haven’t lived until you experience the rat in a cage life of working in a cubicle with your alloted space for mementos. Provided they met with corporate approval of course.
Interestingly all of us were pursuing different genres.
What started as a random chance conversation turned into a mini support group.
Last I knew, Mary was able to “quit her day job” after getting a contract and winning an award for her first book. Jim had an agent shopping his manuscript around. Yes, this was years ago but I’d like to think they are still following their dream.
Olympic Reroute. I was having lunch with two sales reps who had also been on track for the Olympics.
This was several years after leaving that other company and relatively close to when I quit to pursue my own writing career.
One was a Canadian who was – interestingly enough – on the gymnast team.
Had it worked out we would have competed!
The other was a guy who was on the US Olympic tennis team.
I was a bit puzzled by the sighs and lamenting that accompanied their stories. I knew what had happened to my dreams but what were they feeling?
What they told me changed my world.
“It was the 1980 Olympics.”
My reply was “Yes, I remember this – I had the brain bleed in the summer of 1979.”
“Don’t you remember? We boycotted the Olympics that year!”
Um, no, I was kind of busy trying to learn to walk again.
That wasn’t a pity party statement so much as an explanation of why that wasn’t topmost on my mind of missed Olympic opportunity.
For the next hour we talked about our feelings at having spent years of hard work – the commitment of ourselves, our families – only to miss an opportunity.
This conversation healed me in ways I can’t express, and I am forever indebted to these two individuals for baring their hearts and souls that day.
As we concluded lunch all of us agreed that in spite of the deep disappointment, our lives were rich, filled with wonderful experiences. Most importantly, each of us had found ways to channel that creative passion that put us on the Olympic track.
The Canadian found a passion for horses and she competes – successfully.
She also has a beautiful spirit and sense of humor that makes this world a better place.
The gentleman found an outlet for tennis in teaching inner city kids not only tennis but how to find that passion within themselves.
Something he credits his dad for teaching him.
I shared these stories with the beautiful dancer to further explain
- Don’t give up on dancing because the final chapter has not been written
- The creative spirit is in you – it IS you – and it will find a way out
Hell, maybe she’ll end up being a best-selling writer…