When I was seven years-old I scribbled on an “about me” class assignment that I wanted to be a lyricist. I’m not quite sure where I learned of that word or who I had spoken to to even discover such a thing, but I wrote it in my faux cursive and it felt true. Felt like it was real. Real, as in possible. I’d started writing poems by then and songs seemed the natural route to take. I suppose it was because I also had endless music inside of me.
By age 10 I was binging on 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant’s very grown-up lyrics. It was the summer I played her cassette, In My Tribe, in my hot pink player until it warped, that I really set my heart on words and music, both. That’s also the year I wrote my first book of poetry for the Young Authors contest and took first place. It was wild. The teachers made me write a poem on demand in class to make sure my parents hadn’t written the book. My poetry was dark and covered topics like divorce and the Holocaust, which were quite heavy for a 5th grader. They decided I was indeed the author and could be awarded the honor. I just knew I was well on my way to becoming a skillful writer. I can remember feeling proud of myself and how great a feeling it was.
Fast-forward to middle school and an English teacher who took a special liking to me. I was reading Dean Koontz thrillers while most of my classmates were passing notes to each other. This teacher began submitting my writings to local competitions between the school districts. I was published several times and given many mentions. I also had my first piece published in a national volume of poetry that can be found in libraries today. I couldn’t tell you the name or topic (of the poem or book) as it seems so long ago since I’ve even had a thought about it. Maybe I should find that book, if I even still have it.
By high school my writing evolved into journalism and I guzzled all the style rules and buzz words. I absolutely enjoyed journalism class (much credit to my enthusiastic teacher) and felt I had found my niche there. That is until my personal writings became quite angry and reckless, mirroring my actions. Suddenly I was writing the most painful parts of my heart and it was as black and blue as a bruise. I was bleeding all over the pages of my journals. Throwing myself into academics wasn’t enough any longer. Words weren’t enough. I was hell-fire.
Before I dropped out of high school I switched school districts, having moved from one parent’s home to the other. I enrolled into the journalism class there and found it to be the only tolerable class next to English. I had a little stint of sharing my voice in both classes before I jumped ship. I recall rewriting our own stanzas from Paradise Lost and gaining notoriety for my steamy love scene writing. I didn’t even know I had words for passion. The English nerds and teacher ate it up. I also contributed art and poetry to the annual creative arts publication published by the journalism class. It was the last of my high school writing endeavors as I quit the second semester of my Junior year. I often wonder what I could have done with writing had I actually showed up or eventually attended university. I think I would have loved every minute of it. Alas, I took different courses after enrolling myself in the school of hard knocks. Some of us are brilliant but stupid.
I don’t really have achey aspirations to become someone now. I used to, years ago. I think I felt if I could pull off something amazing, write something captivating, I’d be someone worth something. I don’t feel that way any longer. Do I still have books and songs inside of me? I think so. Probably worlds of them. But I also have some incredible people entrusted to me that have brilliant futures ahead of them. Incredible people who are doing it the right way, in the right order, and it’s working for them. I’m not saying my time has come and gone, but I do think whenever (and if ever) I pull off that novel or album, it’s not going to be because I have something to prove. It’ll be because I have nothing to prove. My success story is the glory of my children. I didn’t really miss out on anything — it’s all happening right now, and I’m writing about it.