I remember it like it was yesterday. My advisor called me to her desk to review the results of my final exam. My heart pounded with each step. I knew what she said would determine if I was going to be allowed to continue on the yearbook staff.
Writing had been my secret passion since childhood. In grade school, I penned poems. As a young teen, I’d write for hours, spinning stories and ponderings, then tuck them in a safe place. When I got my first yearbook in junior high school, I knew I wanted to be on the yearbook staff; I wanted to have a small part of something big, and maybe even see my words in print. At the end of my sophomore year, I gathered my courage; I asked my teachers for the required written recommendations, turned them in to the yearbook advisor and held my breath…wondering if I would be considered good enough. When I found out I was selected, my joy was uncontainable!
With the fruit of our year’s labor printed and in circulation, I sat at my advisor’s desk. She went over my test answers, critiqued my sample layout page, cropped photos and supporting copy. I tried to read her poker face. She then turned over my paper and pushed it toward me; her comments were scrawled in red ink. I swallowed hard and starting reading.
“Your copy is extremely delightful! You may want to concentrate on that next year by being copy editor — and write everything!”
My head flew up and my jaw dropped. My shocked eyes connected with her smiling eyes. She liked my writing! She thought it was good — good enough to take on the role and responsibility of copy editor! I floated back to my desk, barely able to contain my excitement. I could not believe it! I was going to be the copy editor for my senior yearbook!
Even after all these years, my stomach flutters when I pull out that yearbook. I vividly remember my excitement the first time I saw my words in print. I remember the hours I gruelled over writing the small blocks of copy…the words had to be perfect! After all, my words had to capture the details of each experience and event, because one day, my words would stir long-forgotten memories.
As I transitioned into adulthood, I continued to fill blank paper with prose. I still longed to write professionally, but I played it safe and kept my words to myself.
I was in my early 20s when I met her. She was the new receptionist for the high profile tobacco lobby where I worked. She was attractive, smart, and very chic. Close in age, we soon discovered, while polar opposites in lifestyle and attitude, we shared the love of writing. Soon, we were eating lunch together. I assumed since she was an English major, she was qualified to give me an honest evaluation of my writing skills. I finally worked up the courage to share one of my writings and waited excitedly for her feedback.
“You do know that no one would ever be interested in reading your trivial ramblings, right?” She sighed, “I mean, who cares about your adventures or silly childhood experiences?”
Crushed, I blinked back tears. Once home, I pulled out my thick stack of writings and ripped most of the ink-filled pages to shreds. I didn’t ever want to see the reminder of my failure again. A short time later, she and a married coworker were both fired for a scandalous affair. I confess, I wasn’t sad to see her leave.
Over the years, I continued to write, for my eyes-only, because it brought me great joy. Eventually, as I grew in my faith, I realized that writing was my calling, my ministry, and I was to use my words to encourage others. I took a step of faith and submitted my first online devotional for my church website. It was a small baby step, but a giant step toward pursuing my life-long dream to be a writer.
My writing journey has been slow and challenging, grueling and exciting, and has brought unexpected amazing opportunities. I have discovered writing is much like my spiritual journey: there is always something new to learn and apply, refining is painful, and the agony of wrestling with words is worth every painstaking keystroke when the results glorify God.
Recently, I found the folder containing my collection of writings, including some of the old ones which had managed to survive my destructive rampage decades earlier. I scanned a page and, within the first few sentences, I cringed and my stomach churned; it was one of my trivial ramblings. Victoria’s long-ago words erupted in my mind. I shoved the paper back in the folder and slammed it shut.
As I did, I had an ah-ha moment. While Victoria had been long gone from my life, her words were still subconsciously taunting me. I had given her undeserved authority. I realized, in order for her candle to shine brighter, she had needed to blow mine out.
I put the folder back in its place and quickly pulled one of my scrapbooks off the bookshelf. I turned to the page where I keep the note from my yearbook advisor. The paper has yellowed and the red ink faded, but the familiar encouraging words silenced the ugly, heartless taunts.
Words are powerful. Words will tear down or build up; intimidate or inspire, and crush — or launch — dreams.
I need to be careful with my words and use them wisely and intentionally. I aspire for my words to encourage. I strive to be transparent in my faith walk and daily struggles. I hope to bring a chuckle at my self-exploiting blunders and duh-moments. I must tell about God’s redeeming, faithful, unconditional, and everlasting love. And I desire for my words to always — always — point to Jesus, the Source of my hope, joy and peace.
Oh, and wherever you are, Victoria, I hope you achieved your dream to write. I hope you found success, happiness and true love. And, I also hope that you’ve had countless people cross your path who have encouraged, supported and mentored you in your writing endeavors, even if your words were trivial ramblings.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
- Proverbs 15:4