13 Years

It only took 13 years.

13 years ago I was sitting in an AP US History class listening to our teacher go over our performance as a class on a paper he had just graded.

I remember it like yesterday. He stopped critiquing us as a class, looked at me, and said, “Christina, you are a good writer. I have read a lot of papers in my day, and you are a good writer. You tend to go off on tangents sometimes, but you are a good writer.”

I did not believe him.

I do not know if, like I still have the tendency to do, I just refused to accept a compliment, but I did not take it seriously.

A year later I was in college. I graduated from high school at 16, so to say my freshman year of college was intimidating is an understatement.

I was in an honors program, and our semester project was to design, build, and dedicate a war memorial. Part of that assignment was to write a dedication speech. I did it, and I did it to the best of my ability, but I did not think that out of all of my classmates mine stood a chance of being chosen for the dedication. It was.

I did not believe them.

The thought of giving a speech at such a big event, in front of hundreds of people, was so terrifying that I did not give a second thought to the idea that my old history teacher may have been right.

At one point I went to the program director and tried to talk him out of letting me, or anyone else, give my speech. I was convinced there was no possibility that mine was the best. He said, “Christina, if you think we gave you this because we like you more than everyone else, you are wrong. We like you, but we chose what we thought was the best speech. Honestly, your stage presence worries us a little, but your speech was just that good. We had to give it to you.”

I did not believe him.

After I had my son, and my grandpa’s health became so that he could not travel any longer, a lot of our conversations took place via letters and e-mails.

One of the last letters I got from him said in the last paragraph, “Tina, I have noticed you write very well. Very well. You should try writing more.”

I did not believe him.

This man was my hero in every sense of the word. He is responsible for what little confidence I have in any of my own abilities, and yet, it went over my head.

Tomorrow marks six weeks of working at my first professional writing job. A job I thought I had no chance at landing. A job, I thought, even once I was hired, that I would crash and burn at.

The voices of those three men were in my head when I finally worked up the nerve to send in my resume.

Now, do not be mistaken…

I still go off on tangents.

I still cannot take a compliment.

I still find myself fighting the urge to go talk myself out of an assignment because I just know someone else can do it better.

And lord help us all if they ever ask me to speak publicly. I still have zero stage presence.

But now there are new names to add to the list of people who have told me, that yes, I can do this. I can be a writer.

People, who almost on a daily basis, whether they do it on purpose or not, help me find just a little bit more confidence.

Here is to hoping it does not take another 13 years before I believe them.


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