Ten years ago when I came home from school, I ran straight upstairs to the office, perched peacefully above the thick woods surrounding our lovely Tennessee dream home. In this corner of the house, tucked away from the rest of the world, I brought my first dreams to life.
Guided purely by my imagination, my mind channeled images, feelings, and perceptions into one flood of force—a current of thought—which my fingertips, pattering competitively on the keys, brought to the screen in front of me within seconds.
My feet never touched the floor, so I crossed my legs or sat on them. Sometimes hours would pass, and my mom would call me down for supper, but I would stall so I could finish my last sentence…or complete an entire scenario. My knees would start to hurt and I would squirm restlessly in the chair, but I was determined to finish what I had started that day. So I sat there until I did.
And then when I did, it was time to play something else!
So I got up and did exactly the same thing… except through the piano. Then, if it was still light outside, I might have hopped on my bike and ridden around and around on our driveway spanning our 11 acres; or cartwheeled obsessive-compulsively in the front yard; or failed every attempt at a slam dunk with my little brother—all of it just fueling my mind for the next round of activities.
The feeling I get from doing the things I do well has always been rewarding, but these things have not always been viewed as accomplishments, or as anything particularly special. I scribbled away… erased away… and scribbled away during those timed essays in fourth grade, proud to finish exactly what I had set out to finish at exactly the right time. I was confident of the work I had done, but when Mrs. Wiley read my narratives in front of the class, I was more concerned about when it was all going to be over with and what others thought about me than about how I was actually an exceptional writing student and why in the world that mattered anyway.
This outlook progressed through high school when my friends excelled at math and science, and while parents and teachers cooed over how “smart” they were. I assumed I needed to be like them if I wanted to be “smart” and succeed in life, too.
Perhaps this is why when, one day in Spanish class, our class valedictorian told someone she thought I was smart, I wasn’t sure exactly how to internally process that. Was she serious? Or just being sympathetic? It was like having my narrative read in front of the class again, except slammed up into two seconds. If I could put my full mental reaction into words it would be something like, “Okay…cool. Thanks! I guess…” or maybe just, “Uh…”
I graduated from high school knowing that I wanted to take my writing somewhere in my life, but I did not graduate high school thinking that writing was anything particularly extraordinary. When I (felt as though miraculously) got accepted to Auburn University, I specifically chose Journalism over English initially because I had heard more frightening, negative statements about majoring in English than in any other existing major. I did not want to be that girl.
Later, but soon enough thankfully, I learned that there are a variety of avenues that you can take in obtaining an English degree, and all of them do not result in spending the rest of your life in a school. Actually, there are even some pretty lucrative careers that can come out of an English background—one being what I fell in love with and which lead me into the English major after all—and that is technical writing.
There was a time during high school when this really popular sign was around, usually in highly traveled places. It said, “Math is power,” and it looked as cool as it sounded.
It wasn’t until I began my studies in writing at AU when I realized that actually, words are power. In fact, words shape, and even dictate, our whole world. Yeah. That sign? Not that cool without the words.
Language defines and affects credibility, authority, laws, responsibility, religion, purpose, relationships, and real life consequences…just to name a few. But you know… numbers are cool, too.
You can pretty much bet your life that the most renowned people of all time are backed up by stacks of literature, and the people who wrote them were often poor scribes slaving away for a government and not getting paid squat; people whose names we don’t even know because they set their bars higher than a vain desire for praise and recognition; people who claimed having the inspiration of divine beings and continue (whether done truthfully or not) to convince the world of these events and meanings; weird people; crazy people; people who changed laws, wrote nation-altering speeches, influenced the hearts of groups and individuals to help make the world a better place; in short, AWESOME PEOPLE (even if a lot of them were actually kind of bad).
I certainly won’t be performing any surgeries or building any software systems, but it sure is satisfying to know that among my gifts is the power to support the people who CAN do these things; and the power to support the people who can’t; the power to understand people; and the power to convey meaning from one group of people to another; the power to articulate a purpose, the power to clarify a vision for a leader, the power to change a person’s life… the power change the world.
Now back to those dreams…