I won a D.A.R.E writing competition in the 4th grade.
We had just spent the whole year learning about drugs and alcohol and were asked to write a letter to a "friend" struggling with a substance abuse problem.
About anytime anyone sipped a beer during that year I'd be on their case. Which to someone who does not have a problem could be a wee bit annoying.
"You sure you want to do that Dad?"
I'd be nearly standing over you reciting statistics and facts, while your patient, loving self would just smile, listen to me sweetly and take another sip once I got off my soapbox.
I'll never forget when my teacher told me that my letter [that I admit, I worked really, really hard on] had been picked and she wanted me to read it in front of the entire 4th grade class. A local police officer handed me a microphone while a bunch of kids sat cross legged on a carpet made of blue, red and yellow squares.
The boys fidgeted while the girls sat in lines braiding each others hair.
It was as if I had won the lotto.
It wasn't the fact I got picked and was asked to read. That part actually made me pretty nervous. Elementary school was full of awkward, hurtful moments. Anyone else?
What mattered more was that someone thought I had something that should be shared. Someone told me, "You are a good writer."
And still to this day, nearly 18 years later, it sticks. I remember that moment as if it were right now; typing on these keys, just returned from yoga, sipping my coffee and getting a second helping of oatmeal bake.
Those moments stick y'all. Those moments of feeling all filled up. Like maybe you're flying and standing on solid ground all at once.
They stick to the core of who we are and what we're made of.
Some moments are good, we hold on tight and grip them with all our strength. Moments like riding in the car with my mom, telling her that I thought Grandma should live with us instead of that big building full of people she doesn't know. I didn't know it then, but I look back now knowing full well my life changed drastically for the better.
There are those other moments that stick and we'd like to see them go. We'd gladly take a giant eraser and get rid of the parts that make us cringe or ache.
Regardless of being good or bad, or if we even dare to remember - each one shapes us. Each one is part of a map, drawing in detail where we've been and where we might want to go. They are a reminder of home, of truth, of where we get filled up.
Writing is my chance to come home. It's my sacred spot. It's my surrender when I have a hundred stories floating around my head and I have to put them down. It's my challenge when I get stuck and think I have nothing to say.
You always have something to say. Even the days you feel completely ordinary and simple. When it feels like life is on repeat. You still have things to say.
I imagine this blank white space as a dear friend, "How are you? What did you learn this week? What are you proud of? What are you willing to let go of? Tell me about the best cup of coffee you had."
You have a gift, that when shared, makes you happy. There are days we forget what it is and our feet are confused where to land. But think back, be it yesterday or 15 years ago, when you felt full and purposeful. When you felt like you were living out loud. Write down what you were doing, who you were with, where you were and how it all made you feel.
The sweetest thing I've found is that circumstance and age and location never have to dictate joy. That fullness we get to keep and carry with us, if we choose.
So I write. I keep on writing. Even when I don't know what to say. Because I know it fuels me and reminds me of where it all began, when I was nine years old and heard, "Maeve, you are a good writer."
And I don't say that toot my horn. I don't say that I've arrived. Because most days, if I am being honest, I don't think I'm a very good writer. I forget when you should use a comma or semicolon. I mix up there, their and they're. [Have I left any out?!?] I worry my words are way too emotional and think, "Do folks know I am silly? Do they think I take life and myself way too seriously all the time?"
But that attitude is paralyzing folks. That attitude is what took me 5 years to start a blog.
So I encourage you to think back. I encourage you to ask yourself the question - what can I share? And if you can't answer that question [it's okay] ask someone who can.
Chances are, the things you are good at bring you a lot of joy. And that joy brings other people a lot of joy. And Lord knows, we always need more joy.
So start dear one, start right where you are - practice it, fight through it, get messy, start over, and do it all again.
p.s. Tell me, why do you write?