Challenge: Humble Beginnings; Lasting Ambitions

I. Finished. It.

This month has been a creatively challenging one for me. (Even this entry is trying to kill me.) I’m actually impressed I managed to stick to my goal and finish two short stories.

To be perfectly honest I laughed out loud when I figured out this week’s posting. Unlike the others, this one is a bit of a memoir piece. That being said, let's segue right into it.  

Humble Beginnings; Lasting Ambitions

I don’t understand why schools make kids read depressing books so early on. That’s a lie. Of course, I understand. I mean, I understand in the way that I can do some figuring and reach a passable understanding that would have some sense to it. What I was really hoping for was a dramatic raising of the stage curtain to draw you in because this is a story no one truly cares about the way I do. It earmarks the moment I embarked on my literary dream.
               There are two books I was referring to in the beginning there. One was called, One Thousand Paper Cranes, and it followed the story of a young girl who lived close to Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. It followed her decline from radiation poison. How she grew weaker and weaker, all the while trying to fold a thousand paper cranes in the hope of being granted a wish to live if she succeeded.
                It was the first book I read without a happy ending.
                The second one I can safely say cast a much darker shadow, and I remember thinking for long stretched after finishing a chapter. But, first, let me back up a bit and explain some things.
                I was in sixth grade when this all started. Two years ago I was in a crowded city school wearing a navy blue uniform and refusing to make any friends at all after my first one ever replaced
me with an update. When my parents separated, they didn’t go to court to see who got my sisters and I. Instead it was mutually decided we would stay with whoever was better off at the time and my mom, newly married to an Italian carpenter, (this meant she cooked nothing but variations of pasta and sauce for the years she was with him) meant we were going to live with her in a small town covered in trees. By small town I mean, once my sister and I got our first bikes, we could make it from one side to the other and back before dinner.
                When I think of my childhood, those three some-odd years are where I go back to. It’s where we climbed trees, and explored the wood, and jumped onto a trampoline from the roof of the house. Where I made some of my first friends too and, of course, where the seed of this story was planted.  
                My reading teacher was an intimidating woman. She had big, dark, tightly curled hair. It didn’t matter that she was a middle school reading teacher she dressed to impress. She had sharp, strict eyes that counted heads as we hurried through the door before the bell because if you weren’t in your seat the instant that bell stopped ringing, you’d be in for it. She was no nonsense and no excuses, lips always pinched tight. Most of the students hated her. I couldn’t help but secretly adore her.
                She expected more from us, making us read the Tell-Tale Heart by Poe before taking us to see the play. She’s the one who assigned this book about a boy who, after being badly abused, decides to run away and live in a New York Subway station. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this book, but the scenes are still so clear in my head. I remember his glasses, and when they broke, the crawl space he lived in on the subway tracks. I can hear the crinkling newspaper he slept on and picture the bathroom he washed in. Mostly, probably most importantly, to this day I can feel the way I did all those years ago when I first read it. I was intimately and frighteningly connected to his stubbornness, his surety, and his profound loneliness.
                It was the second book I read without a happy ending.
She had us keep journals while we read and for every chapter, there was a new assignment. Let me just state this for the record: I am not a good student. The only thing I hated more than getting up in the morning was homework and projects. In fact, I hated them so much I refused to do a single scrap, and if a teacher managed to get me started, I’d hand in a half-baked mess of a project that reeked of no effort. To be honest, I don’t think I ever knew what it felt like to put effort into something until the day I decided to seriously embark on my literary quest.
These journal entries were no different. I skated by, counting words and sentences, just enough to get a passing red check mark at the corner of the paper. Despite my stubborn refusal every so often a teacher managed to assign something that lit a fire in me.
For one of the entries, she asked us to write a poem. Specifically, a poem from the boy’s perspective about what he might be feeling.
This, I could do.
Not that I would consider myself a poet at that time. Or a writer for that matter. I’d only just gotten into reading and was slowly making my way across the fantasy shelf in the school library. (Painfully slowly I might add) Most of my time was still divided between gymnastics, jumping on the trampoline and waging epic snowball fights with friends as we walked home from school. To top it off, I couldn’t spell at all let alone figure out where commas and semicolons went. (This condition has greatly improved but, still afflicts me to this day.)
I wrote my poem and handed the little blue journal in with all the other students to await the red check. When she walked around the room to hand the journals back, all our heads bowed silently over our books, she stopped at my desk. “Come talk to me after class,” she said.
 I thought I was in trouble. She had such a serious look on her face.
I gathered my courage and went up to her desk after the bell rang. Instead of the reprimand I was expecting and said, “This is really good. Have you ever considered becoming a writer?”
No. No, I had not. But her saying it was like someone had just snapped a ruler on the desk. Something awoke in me and it was a much-needed breath of fragrant air. For a single moment in life, my head was quiet, and a clear path laid out ahead. I don’t think I showed a smidge of this on my face. Instead, I mustered up a meek, “No.”
“Well you should,” she said, with a dramatic pause between each and every word.
And, it was all the encouragement I needed. I dove in right after school. Most of my early work was hand written. I still have it somewhere around here, but it’s all faded. It was painfully bad, but people loved hearing it, and the only thing I loved more than writing it was sharing – word by word as it was written if I could hold a friend hostage long enough.
I’m thankful for that strict, no-nonsense woman even if her name eludes me like the title of that fateful book. Without her, I wouldn’t have had a dream to hold onto and chase for so many years of my life. And, because of her, it’ll make it all the better when I finally see it realized.

Thank you all for reading. As always I encourage anyone to challenge themselves and partake in this contest. I’ll be happy to feature any work on my blog. Next month’s theme will be Connection. For anyone who liked what they read go ahead and read more of my work on Booksie or Wattpad. You can also follow me @elixssamrose on Twitter. 

Question: What was the trigger leading you down your creative road? 


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