Ideas are the gateway to bigger ambitions and even bigger dreams. Most importantly, ideas can be the start of something great. Sometimes all we need is a little push. Or a little reminder of why we do what we do.
Other times, however, it takes more than that. Sometimes it’s a matter of what we do when our backs are against the wall. It’s about what we choose to do when no one is looking – or not expecting us to do anything at all.
I had an idea of finally doing something with my passion for writing – or explore it, at the very least. It had always been there, ready to burst out like a jack-in-a-box while I was busy dealing with everyday life. But it was my everyday routine – my wheelchair driving, button-pushing routine I had learned to call life. I didn’t think it was boring, but it was something to start with.
It was something I built with my own two hands. I was happy about that, probably the happiest I’d been in a long time. At this point, I had a fairly good sense of how words fit together on a page. My three years of serving as a staff writer for the school newspaper in junior high was the only formal introduction to writing that I had up until that point.
Granted, there was an expected wave of doubt and shock that came over the adviser’s face when I first rolled into the room. At the time, being a writer for the newspaper was actually a class you could get credit for. I signed up for the class, so the adviser knew I was coming. I don’t think she expected me to be in a wheelchair, though. When I turned in a draft of my first story a few weeks later, however, the vibes were completely different. The shock was still there, but a lot of the doubt had melted away.
I knew that I’d broken through a very high glass ceiling in that moment. If I wanted to do the same in high school, it would undoubtedly be a process. I would have to prove myself, which had become second nature to me. I developed a quiet confidence in my ability to write as a result of having to prove myself countless times over the years. I also now had solid reassurance that people were looking beyond my cerebral palsy. The first-hand experience I gained from writing in junior high, along with my own personal need to express myself, was my fuel to try to write as much as my teachers would allow me to. And prove my worth to an entirely new group of people.
If I made it on the staff of my high school newspaper, I’d be one step closer to perhaps gaining even more confidence. If I didn’t make it, however, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the craft of writing. I wanted to catch lightning in a bottle either way. Writing proved to be an extremely important – almost vital – part of my existence. I certainly wasn’t going to be complacent about the possibility of doing it more often, on whatever scale I could.
I did not to pass up an opportunity to write if it came my way, either. I secretly wanted to earn a spot on my high school newspaper’s staff. I didn’t want it to be handed to me just because someone felt pity for me like, “Aww, she wants to write. What a nice thought!” No. I wanted to show people that I could write, and my willingness to make an impression wasn’t some outlandish impulse that I had overnight.
This was about so much more. I wanted to make a good impression, but I also felt like I had a responsibility. Writing was the first thing, other than my disability, that gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me another big reason to prove myself and my worth. I hoped this all would eventually become apparent to others if nothing else. All I needed was a small opening – an inch, two inches or however much space someone was willing to give me.
I took this mindset into my sophomore year of high school, all the way to the adviser of the school newspaper. I politely waited for the look of shock on his face to go away before asking, “Would you mind if I give this a shot?”
There was a long pause. Then silence. I could tell he was doubtful by the shaky tone of his voice.
“Well,” he said. “What experience [with writing] do you have?”
My mind was searching for a subtle way to say I didn’t have any formal experience. I waited a few more minutes to tell him that I’d been referred by the adviser of my junior high newspaper, to continue to write for the high school’s paper. Again, it was a matter of signing up for the class. I just didn’t want my potential adviser and teacher to be surprised this time.
There was another pause – shorter than the one before. I waited to see if that was good or bad.
With that reply, I made it a point to work harder than I ever had in my life. I didn’t have a literary agent, nor did I have a way into the writing industry. One thing was for sure, however. I was going to make sure that this adviser – or anyone else who I’d possibly write for – didn’t regret their decision to take a chance on me.
This certainly wasn’t the end of the ride, but I was going to enjoy it. I just remembered typing random things out on my computer. I had fond memories of my now outdated communication board, and how long it took to “graduate” from using one device to the next. What a crazy journey – one that’s just getting started!
Trust your gut. It may sound like simple, almost cheesy rhetoric. As I found out, it’s not. It’s the key to truly living a fulfilled life.
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