Lately I’ve been praying for growth opportunities. Well…Earlier this week I had a couple. Negatively speaking, I had an unpleasant run-in with someone. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I had a significant reminder of the importance of not taking myself for granted.
On the other hand, the most personal and positive rendez-vous of the day involved my first love–writing.
I had an appointment with our county’s Writer in Residence. I won’t mention her name. (I don’t know if she’d mind.) What I will tell you is that she’s a young, talented author from Toronto. I enjoy her work very much.
But in the moments before I saw her, I was sure I was embarking upon a minor disaster.
You see, in the days before our rendez-vous, there was a problem. I couldn’t remember when we were supposed to meet. Sometime in May, the whispers started. “You have a writing appointment coming up.”
I put them aside. Yet still they came. “Writing…You should have something ready to show Ms. Author, blah, blah, blah…”
Before I knew it, June was here.
“Claire, you have a writing appointment. Soon. Check your calendar to see what’s going on.”
I opened Entourage. My appointments aren’t hidden. Still…I didn’t notice anything that made me worry. And when I did a quick search, nothing came up.
The whispers kept getting louder. Finally last weekend, they turned into a scream.
“CHECK YOUR EMAIL!!”
And check it, I did.
I don’t remember what time it was on Sunday night. Only that it was late. I found myself on the edge of my bed, horrified. I was looking at a message that told me that my meeting was the next morning. My writing sample was due days ago.
(un)Fortunately, my Inner Optimist was on duty.
“Calm down, Claire. Just GO. Everything will be all right!”
Well then, I breathed deeply. I can’t show up with absolutely nothing to say…
I scrawled one of those nice-to-know-not-need-to-know writerly-topics on a legal pad. I figured Ms. Author and I would chat for a few minutes and then I would run off. She could take an early lunch, and that would be that.
The next morning, I arrived at the library, flustered. Our WiR comes in from the city by train. I was worried. I envisioned her in meetings with well-prepared candidates, and then me. Someone who didn’t even have the decency to cancel, but expected her to be willing to talk about next-to-nada.
Instead, Ms. Author was very kind. She asked me about…Well…Me.
I wound up telling a bit of my life story. This included the fact that I’d moved to Toronto multiple times over the last decade. My reason? I was determined to leave my small town behind and (hopefully) never return.
Somewhere along the way, something caught Ms. Author’s ear.
At first she had asked me about my childhood. From there, she started digging.
Growing up, I was the only black girl wherever I went. Eventually I saw one or two other brown faces at school. But in spite of this when it came to my daily life, as far as I knew I was the only one of my kind around for
kilometers miles. I attended a religious school. Few if any of the children showed me Jesus’ love. Instead, all I remember was them teasing me about being bookish and pointing out how different I was.
In the past I’d thought about exploring my life through writing. But I’d abandoned those impulses. Perhaps I could do something autobiographical down the road. That’s what I told myself. After all–as a new writer, wouldn’t it be better to work with scandalous characters that were purely products of my imagination?
At this point in my meeting, I felt as though there was a bit of divine intervention. I often believe that God–or “The Universe”, for you non-theists–speaks to us through others. Imagine how I felt when Ms. Author brought it to my attention that maybe I really should be mining my childhood for writing material.
The picture above is from a rough rough draft. I started scribbling on Tuesday during my lunch break. There’s something about discussing my school days. It’s both sad and empowering. I remember when I first went. Before then I had never really felt the weight of being different. But my classmates seemed to like to remind me.
Today, a huge part of me is still a child. That’s been both a hindrance and a help. (For instance, a part of the negativity I experienced on Monday came from the fact that I can be way too trusting.) Still. Although part of me hates to admit it, deep down I can’t help but feel as though some sort of healing will come through making art that is rooted in my history.