Crying is stupid. The last time I cried in public was in high school, in eleventh grade. I loved high school because I adored theatre and speech team and all of my English classes, but math and science were my bane, and especially math. I constantly felt like I was secretly retarded and every one of my friends — overachievers who took advanced calculus and physics and shit — were just too nice to tell me. While my friends took AP Calc tests and got “tapped” for the National Honors Society, I was in remedial Algebra I, struggling to graph a line.
The only thing that I hated more than math class was the fact that I just always failed math. English I could always BS my way out of — there are no wrong answers in English, and maybe that’s why I loved it so much — I could always kind of finagle my way into a “right” answer. But not in math. In Algebra, there are right answers, and there are super-wrong-holy-shit-where-did-you-come-up-with-that-answer kind of answers, and I consistently got the latter. It was always one super small thing, too: A misplaced decimal. A negative sign instead of a positive. One minor detail that destroyed the entire equation. It was always some tiny misstep that I just couldn’t get a handle on. And it infuriated me.
This one particular test, I was determined not to fail. I don’t even remember specifically what the test was about (something about the x-axis and the y-axis, though) but I remember feeling fed. up. with failing. Like, not this time, Satan. I was smart. I was going to ace this. Or at least get a “B.”
The day of the test, we had a pop quiz in another class, Political Science. The teacher split us up into three or four smaller groups and then had us pick a representative from each group to stand at the dry-erase board and answer questions on behalf of the group. Whichever group won would get a buttload of extra credit. I have no godly idea why, but during Political Science that day the clouds parted, Jesus came down, and the teacher announced that the subject of our quiz was not political science, in fact, but 1980s pop culture.
So I’m all, stand down bitches. I got this. And my hand to God, I marched up to the dry-erase board and won the entire game for my team single-handedly. Alf. Perfect Strangers. Mork and Mindy. There wasn’t one damn answer I didn’t know. And I felt like a God.
And then I went to fourth period and bombed my Algebra test. The test I had studied two weeks for.
Walking back from class after the test, I ran into my best friend, Joe, and before he could even say Hey Watts, I threw myself on him and sobbed into his shirt, just a spigot of snot and hot, humiliated tears. I’m inconsolable. I’m a puddle. I’m Julianne Moore in every Julianne Moore movie that’s ever existed. Poor Joe probably thought somebody died (if you’re reading this — sorry, buddy). After I stopped blubbering long enough to tell him what had happened, he, utterly confused, was like, Oh. Dude, it’s fine. But it wasn’t fine. I could see now — the difference between the person I wanted to be and the person I actually was. I wanted to be a braniac, like every single one of my braniac friends. I wanted to effortlessly glide through AP Calc and get “tapped” into the National Honor Society — and when you’re seventeen years old, you’re still young enough to think that if you just want to become that person bad enough, then you just magically will be. And I wasn’t. I wasn’t. I just wasn’t.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I’ve been thinking about this lately — the kind of person I want to be, the person I am, and the person I’m slowly becoming.
Man this sounds angsty and navel-gazy, but whatevs: Growing up I wrote all the time, lots of fiction, because I wanted to be Stephen King. I didn’t just want to sound like Stephen King, or have cool ideas and make millions of dollars like Stephen King — I legit wanted to HAVE HIS BRAIN AS MY OWN. I wanted to dig through his garbage and smell his sheets (Not really, because ew, but I was for real obsessed with him and everything he wrote). As far as I was concerned, Stephen King was a rock star, and I modeled everything I wrote after his writing. It was all creepy, gothic, paranormal, profanity-laced. I loved him. And I would write these literal novels, upwards of fifty thousand words, at the age of twelve, and then cry and cry because what my voice sounded like on paper was nowhere near what Stephen King’s voice sounded like. I wanted to sound like a thirty-year-old male fiction writer and I was so incredibly angry and devastated that I didn’t.
I’ve taken some time off this blog, unexpectedly. Partially because life with two kids is hectic, and I’m on the phone every single day with a doctor, a therapist, or an insurance person, trying to get Henry the best possible care. But I’ve also not been writing as much because I’ve been writing elsewhere.
In January, I decided to start freelancing full-time (or, about as “full time” as you can get with two young children). And in the six short months I’ve been doing this — pitching articles, sending out letters of interest — I can’t even believe what I’ve been able to do. In February, I published an essay in the Washington Post. In April, The Atlantic. In May, the Daily Beast. And the most recent clip? The mother. fuggin. New. York. Times.
I share this because I feel like I’m slowly becoming that person, that person I always wanted to be, the person who has that “writerly” voice I always wanted to have. I’m starting to develop a writing style that’s distinct and totally my own and I’m starting to have that authorial voice I’ve lusted after since I was nine. The person I’ve always wanted to become, and the person I am becoming, is starting to merge together. Like, those writers I’ve always admired? I’m becoming that. It’s wonderful. And exhilerating. And fun.
So I can’t promise I’m going to write here more often, although between deadlines and phone calls and screaming toddlers, I definitely am going to try. But I wanted to share how positively scared and excited and euphoric I am to be easing into that person I’ve always wanted to become, and to like who I’m becoming. I’m not Stephen King — not even close. And I still can’t graph a line to save my life. But I’m going to keep writing, and learning, because that’s who I am: A writer. I am. I am. I just am.