My dear readers, the following post is the first in an experimental synchroblog I am participating in with several friends. Our first subject is guilt; their blogs are linked below.
Incidentally, I am posting this from the Amsterdam airport as I await my connection to Uganda. Most of you are aware of these developments by now, as I exist to you as a real person, and not only on the internet. Regardless, a more detailed post on these developments will follow shortly.
I love reading. My mother, the daughter of a librarian, practically weaned me on books. She spent hours reading to me, and when the number of other children in the house made it difficult, I took up the mantle for myself. I read everything I could get my hands on: children's books, her magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, advertisements that came in the mail.
With all the information that was flowing through my young brain, you might expect that some of it would be forced to squeeze out my fingers, through a pencil, and find its way onto paper. Quite the opposite-- I developed an early aversion to writing of all types, and avoided it like some kids avoid spinach. I felt unsure of my writing skills, like someone who loved to eat but hated to cook. For some reason I didn't understand, this frustrated Mom. She was generally content to let me
have my own hopes and dreams for my future, but she always insisted I would be a writer. I believe her reasoning was that because I hated it so much, I would naturally end up doing it.
Knowing that my book-loving mom expected me to become a writer loomed in the back of my mind for a long time. Mom is an excellent storyteller, and has written stories of her own. Even though she'd never been published, I had a lot to live up to. In my preteens I tried to write several little things, and started a journal every year
(abandoned by April), and wrote essays for school-- all the while hating it and wondering why it was so difficult, why I didn't love it as I should. The feedback I received on my writing was generally positive, but I still felt nervous and unsure of my abilities.
My second semester in college, I got special permission to take a high level creative writing class. I figured that any class with the word "creative" in the title couldn't be terrible, and maybe it would open the door to the mystical land called Love Of Writing. I didn't learn to love it, but I was forced to write in a journal every day or fail the class. On the last day, the professor asked how many of us would continue to write in our journals regularly. I still hated writing, but adored him, and was proud of my consistent, painful words, so I raised my hand. That decision was followed by a summer of faithful-ish writing, followed by 7 years of regret associated with the word "journal." If I'm going to write, I want to be the best, but the number of amazing authors in the world and the subjectivity involved with this art intimidate me. I have some sort of freak mental block that makes me freeze if you put a blank paper in front of me.
In preparing to write this story, I mentioned to Mom the fact that she often told me I'd become a writer, and she had no idea what I was talking about. So now I realize that this is not the story of my guilt, after all. How often have I dreamed for those I love the success I am unable to attain? Is it possible, then, that my mother's desire for me to succeed at something she admired was misinterpreted by me as something that must be mastered to win her admiration? And now, I find that, all these years later, she isn't upset that I don't write for a living, or even regularly, and she admires me anyway. So perhaps, rather than this being a story about guilt, this is a story about love: a mother who gave it freely, and a daughter who is learning it for an art she once dreaded.
As promised, links to my friends' corresponding blog posts:
i write to be rid of things