I became a writer after I lived long enough to have stories that were worth writing about. It has been through the guiding hand of Carolyn Walker, a writing instructor and author of the memoir Every Least Sparrow, that I've learned to write well.
If I were to tell you when I started my writing career, I would have to say it began in 1979, my senior year in High School. It wasn’t like I wrote anything memorable. It was more the fact that it was the first time, in a very long time, that I found something interesting.
My first three years of High School were pretty much a wash. The peers in my generation trailed at the end of the Baby Boomers. Unlike the hippies before us, we had no specific agenda. We were too young for Woodstock. The mandatory draft for the Vietnam War had ended. And the use of recreational drugs was the norm. Being a teen from what was recently coined as the Generation Jones era, I spent the majority of my time partying with friends and working for enough cash to keep up with everybody else. I learned how to master the art of lying to my teachers, parents, or anyone who was in authority. I did just enough of the required lessons to pass my classes because the world at that point was still full of promise.
I knew the twelfth grade was a little late in the game to start working on my education, but it was in Mr. Chalmers Contemporary Issues class that I finally decided I wanted to try.
I started going to class every day. I actually listened to what my teacher had to say and wrote down the lesson notes from the chalkboard as he instructed. I surprised myself when I began to look forward to doing the homework, versus what I was used to doing, modifying the latest stolen answer sheet. I loved writing the essay portions of the assignments. And I can still remember the sense of pride I felt when I first saw that A on my last report card. I remember thinking that it wasn’t hard to do well. I just had to show up. Actively listen. Follow the plan.
If only life as a grownup would have followed those same rules.
One year after I graduated from High School, I transitioned from a home where my parents provided for me, to my own house in a world that was on the verge of economic collapse. The American dream of finding success through hard work seemed to have vanished. Unskilled jobs in the workforce were limited and it was a dog-eat-dog battlefield for employment.
With few opportunities for financial success, starting a family seemed like the answer that would provide the peers in my generation a sense of security.
My first marriage ended in a contentious divorce after eight years. We had four children and struggled to find a healthy balance in our co-parenting responsibilities. And, although I knew life-changing accidents happened, I never in a million years thought I'd experience that kind of heartache. Our baby was 8-months-old when her head got stuck between the crib railing and mattress. She suffered irreversible brain damage due to the lack of oxygen.
I was 28-years-old, single, with four little kids under the age of eight, one of which was handicapped. What I didn’t know back then was that my life was still going to be worth living. When I was forced to deal with each of the challenges that went along with raising a child with special needs, I learned the skills needed to fight for what I believed in. Family activities, like playgrounds and the beach, were no longer fun. I couldn’t have any hands-on time with the older children because my time was spent hanging onto my baby, while I tried in vain to adapt a way for her to play. I had to figure out which activities made my family happy. I found going to the mall with a small spending allowance was something we could all enjoy. The kids loved the book store and the candy shop. And we didn’t stick out like as much of a sore thumb amidst the crowded halls. There were lots of kids and adults in wheelchairs there.
My experiences have taught me just how vulnerable the human life is. Journeying through the extraordinary world of the special needs population, it is the people who I shared each adventure with that I remember most. I have learned that some of the best parts about living, happened in the shadows of those hard times and dark places.
Those are the kinds of stories that I write and want to share with you.
If you would like to continue with me on with this journey of life, please subscribe to get updates when new posts are published.
If you’re wondering, I surely do want to hear from you. Please join in on my blog. Or if you are more comfortable with a different means of social media, use any of the contact options I have provided.
“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” - Mark Twain