I would love tell you who I am in a nice, tidy little paragraph. But as much as I roll my eyes at the hackneyed phrase: “It’s complicated.” Yes, I know my name, although I am in flux about my alias. I am a female of a certain age. Of course I know how old I am, but I’d rather not say, not right now, not right up front, LOL. And it’s true I live in Tennessee as of this writing, but I can hear Virginia Beach calling me, not by any name. More like a dolphin calling its mate. I swear, I would tell you—if I only knew. But like most humans, I wear many faces. Find Waldo if you can.
Regardless, no matter how far or how wide I travel, my roots twist and turn in the depths of a ghetto on the West side of Syracuse (Let’s go, Orange!). Dumpster flies and rubber bands aside, I have wanted to be a writer since grade school (although I do thank my lucky stars for the advancements in electronic type because the big fat ‘D’ in penmanship really screwed up my report cards). That was printing. Cursive got worse.
Words have been my best friends since spelling bees in elementary school, and I still salivate every time I walk into a library or smell the fresh ink hot off the press. I have always loved writing and reading and editing, and diagramming sentences and dissecting clauses, and juxtaposing and analyzing words. And I love a good metaphor and similes that are full of surprises. (Ahem, we won’t mention that every now and then I do get carried away with an analogy.) And if you really want to get a good laugh out of me, just dangle a participle.
Throughout my 20s, I was loving life. My childhood scars seemingly healed, my parents and I had become best friends. My husband cherished me. He was my best friend of all. And we made a happy little family with both of our sons in a cozy little home of our own.
Yes, life was puddle wonderful—until my husband and mother both lied in critical care on my 30th birthday (but that too is a story for another day). I knew for sure that prayer had saved my mother’s life, but why hadn’t it saved my husband’s life? His death knocked the born again Christian right out of me.
I moved to Virginia Beach the next year and went back to college, mostly because in the previous three to four years, as I scribbled away my life, it had occurred to me that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I especially didn’t know how to write it.
I studied the masterpieces of English, American, and world literature, and marveled at the wit, the literary devices, the genius. Everything intrigued me, from Plato and Aristotle to Emerson and Thoreau, from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. And Herman Melville’s Moby Dick triggered an impossible number of thoughts for me to process in a short semester. I promised to go back and read it someday when I have more time.
Meanwhile Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s Sula touched my heart, and Emily Dickinson’s poetry touched my soul. And, of course, I was star-struck by everything Shakespeare.
But it was through my in-depth analysis of Walt Whitman’s poem Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking that I first saw the pattern—that I realized that all religions are one. The only difference was how various cultures interpreted the Great One—the devil was in the details. And that revelation was confirmed in my last semester of my senior year, when I took a philosophy class because I had maxed out on English credits. If only I had discovered Whitmont’s The Symbolic Quest and Jung’s Man and His Symbols in my freshman year, I lamented, I would have changed my major pronto. Stupid life. Even a shirt comes with a tag.
But I didn’t have time to think about that. I had to write ten short fiction stories for two independent research projects—and get an A on both— in order to graduate summa cum laude, and the stories were clamoring to get out. Excitement built as my fingertips tapped the keyboard, and I began to experiment with all those literary devices I had learned in the previous three years, as I began to create the ultimate masterpieces.
My professor passed me with an ‘A’ for each project, but I knew in my gut that my fiction fell flat on its face. Confounded, I shoved deep the fear that I had missed my calling, that I somehow misunderstood my destiny. Ten years later, I found myself writing puffery and designing marketing materials for a trade association and married to someone who kept missing the elevator in my dreams.
And there were lots of other detours since then, like that job producing a daily newspaper for three years, and that job at a publishing company for five years editing college-level courses in literature, art, photography, music, science, history, math, philosophy, religion, psychology, economics, and business, not to mention all those stints in between at various companies, providing technical support for one company and payroll services for another, updating and maintaining websites and databases at various companies, and writing SOPs, RFPs, and mission statements, and—yikes!
As I thought about all this wasted time, as I wrote it in my head while I was stirring the rice for dinner one late afternoon—a little character jumped out of my shadow and yelled, “Boo!”
I thought I was destined to be a writer, but when I tried to write I realized I didn’t have the skills. So I went to college where I learned the skills, but then I learned I didn’t have the talent. But as I scanned my life through my rearview mirror, I realized that all those detours provided me with the exact tools I would need to create this website and to write my Truth.
I suddenly saw my blind spot: Writing in itself was not my destiny but rather the vehicle in the driveway that would make my journey possible. The 60 credit hours in literature required to graduate as an English major built a sturdy structure of bricks and mortar—but those three credit hours in philosophy established the cornerstone of my life.
I finally understood after all these years that my destiny would be realized, not in the writing, that is, in the witty and ingenious usage of literary devices—but in the message it hopes to convey. ♂ ♀