Thursday, July 05, 2012

Writing Regret

It's funny to me that I am writing like anyone is still reading- directing questions and comments to "y'all." I think I got in the habit back when I did have a handful of readers and now this is just my "blogging style." Facebook sort of ruined blogging, I guess. Well, I had a pretty good hand in ruining my own. It started when I shut it down for those months while George was unemployed. It's no big deal though. I wasn't ever going to be a famous blogger. I'm just trying to get back in the habit of writing now.

I have thought a lot recently about how I missed the boat with a writing career. Writing was what I had always wanted to do. There are several specific incidences that led up to my bailing on the dream. The first was the decision of our high school yearbook advisor to give the editor-in-chief position to me and one other girl right before my senior year. This was unprecedented at our school; one person was always the editor-in-chief. Furthermore, I had been on yearbook staff since Freshman year and the other girl had only been on staff since Junior year. I had also been to yearbook camp. Who goes to yearbook camp?! Me, that's who, with our advisor and the two girls who were the editors in the two previous years. The other girl hadn't been. Furthermore, I was a straight A student. There was no reason I wasn't equal to the task of editing the yearbook on my own. I am not really sure (wasn't then, still am not) why the advisor decided that we should share the position. I remember pleading with her, literally crying, and telling her how hurtful and unfair it was. I had worked hard for and earned the position. She wouldn't bend. And the thing is, the next year she went right back to just one editor-in-chief. I kind of feel a little sick writing about it. It was a pretty major betrayal as this teacher had always been my favorite. I thought she actually sort of "got" me. Apparently not. It was pretty devastating to my sixteen year old self.

The second and third scenarios came in college. I was eager to work on The Glomerata, Auburn's yearbook. In order to work on the publication, one must interview. My interview, in the spring of my freshman year, went surprisingly well. The editor-in-chief offered me a position as an editor. Panicked, I told her that I didn't think I was ready for that, that perhaps I should just start out as a staff writer. I still don't know why I freaked out. I think I was just keenly aware, after graduating high school in a class of just 23, of being a little fish in a huge pond. And my high school teacher had planted those seeds of doubt. I just didn't think I could handle the position. And I know I could have!

Moving ahead to my sophomore year, I did a little bit of writing for The Glom, but always acting as an intimidated, "lowly" sophomore. I remember calling Miss Auburn to interview her. She was so nice, and I wrote a lovely piece (which was published), but I just felt so timid. Who was I to call Miss Auburn?!! I wrote less and less after that. I just couldn't handle the pressure. But I did take JM101 which was Auburn's "weed out course" for would be journalists. It was one of those classes where you have to make and 84 just to pass and a 95 to get an A. I got an A! I wasn't weeded out! And yet, I weeded myself out with fear. I looked around and saw all of these people with such high ambition, women who would hope to be Diane Sawyer. And I thought, "I don't want to be Diane Sawyer. I'll get eaten alive by these people!" So I didn't take JM102. What?! Sophomore year at Auburn was a blur of parents divorcing and a way too serious boyfriend. Writing never had a chance.

Nonetheless, I took fiction writing classes during my junior year. These proved to be disastrous because I am not a fiction writer. At the time though, writing was writing to me, so my failure (not literal but felt) in fiction writing made me feel like I was probably right to have given up on The Glom and journalism in general. And let me just say that it didn't help that the entire time my dad was saying I'd never make it as a writer, that everyone wants to be a writer and there's no way I could compete (not that he had ever read anything I'd written), and that I should do something with math or computers (meanwhile, in my math and computer classes, I was earning solid Cs for the first time in my life!!).

Somewhere in there, my older sister used a connection of hers to score me a meeting with an editor of a magazine published by the Baptist Sunday School Board in downtown Nashville. I went and spent an afternoon with the nicest lady, and she was really encouraging. This is actually a really cool story when you think about it, that my sister did that for me and that God gave me this one voice of encouragement and window of opportunity. She gave me a book to read and asked me to write a review to submit to her. That was my chance! And do you know that I totally blew it? I started the book, but I didn't like it (probably after only about twelve pages if I remember correctly) and I never wrote the review.

So, by the time I finally wandered my way through a Bachelor of Arts in English, I felt much less confident, but much less excited about any other option. I wanted to write. But I thought I'd spend some time with my family before joining the wild, scary world. By my family, I mean RUF because that was my family at Auburn. The only thing more exciting than writing was continuing to be a part of such a wonderful ministry. But we know how that ends. (Or, if you don't, not well.) Even more of my confidence (if I had any left) was swallowed up in that situation. I gained weight and have been overweight since. Sad! I wanted the world to stop until I could find my footing. But it didn't and yet, I couldn't. I think I hoped marrying George would save me and we fought horribly at first because it didn't. And yet, looking back, it kind of did. Building a family with him has become my life's work. I think I'm thinking a lot about myself as an individual again now that our family finally seems to have some sort of footing

Well, the end of the writing story is that shortly after leaving work with RUF and getting engaged, I did meet (and hit it off with) the editor of The Auburn-Opelika newspaper (called something different now than it was then) and he asked me to bring my resume by his office the following morning. I was so excited and terrified at the same time. The biggest fear was that I had no resume. I didn't know how to write one or what I'd even put on one. I did show up the following morning, but I didn't have my resume. He told me to call him next week. And when I called him next week, he told me to call him the next week. He told me to call him next week for at least twelve weeks before I finally gave up. And I think when I gave up, I really gave up. The closest I have come to pursuing writing since then is this silly blog. 

It's hard to write about some of this. Thank goodness no one is reading! Or, if you are, it's fine. These are not big secrets. It's just hard to put it all out there on the page. Sometimes I wonder what it would've been like to have someone there believing in me all along the way. On the other hand, plenty of people succeed without that, so I can hardly blame anyone. And there were those small successes that I can see in hindsight. I think the biggest thing was just how lost I felt. It's interesting to think about the timing of my parents' divorce. If you think about divorce, it is such a huge thing, it's almost impossible that parents are going to really be looking out for their children, especially one 330 miles away. My younger sister, who actually lived zero miles away from them, was in high school and dropped out and ended up eloping at eighteen. In a way, these events were early enough in her life that she had time to course correct later on and go to college and choose a career path that would work for her. However, she chose a spouse in the midst of her state of being lost. Fortunately, he has turned out to be a great guy! My older sister was mostly through college when everything went down. She felt quite lost after graduation, but she at least had her career path chosen. It took her a while to find her way to being ready to get married though. And she may even say that she was so changed by the divorce that her career path would have been chosen differently if she had had to choose on the other side. I think I was lost at just such a time as would impact my course of study the most. However, I gained friendship and eventually, out of one particular friendship, an awesome marriage, so I can't regret too much. One thing that I think is common among those of us from broken homes though is the overwhelming sense of loss when we see or hear about people with close families. Now, I know that "every family is dysfunctional," but if anyone is reading, and is from a good home, just know that your sensitivity to this issue is appreciated. People from good homes have something that's hard to quantify, but the rest of us recognize it every day, because we see what we never had, and what we only hope our children will have (though it is so foreign to us that we cannot be sure we are giving it to them). It spills over, as this post points out, into countless avenues of one's life.

I truly hope I don't sound bitter. I don't feel bitter. I may be still just a little bit lost though. But then, I mentioned that earlier this week. It's just on my mind lately. I'll let you know what comes of it (there I go again! Who is this "you" you speak of?).

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