When I was four or five, I wanted to take piano lessons because my brother took them. The way my mom tells the story, I couldn’t even say the word “piano,” but I knew I wanted them: “pih-panno” lessons. Instead of a “no,” I received a green light, encouragement and kind, daily discipline to practice, practice, practice. In exchange, my teacher received mom and dad’s hard-earned money. This continued for more than 10 years.
In high school, I took a creative writing class and wrote a story which, once completed, probably left readers wondering what significant — and possibly unsettling — incident I had experienced during my younger years. In truth, it was nothing more than imagination that I decided to reveal on paper, similar to how a child whispers into another’s ear with trusting innocence. Instead of the story being cast aside or judged, as it easily could have been, it was embraced by both class and instructor. It was constructively critiqued. And with the critique came the request to continue its next chapter.
One year later, it was made known that the Los Angeles Times was looking for high school students who wanted to write articles for a special section. If published, $50 per article would be sent to the author (not bad money back in the day). I figured it was worth a shot. When I received my first check in the mail, I was elated. More important than the money, however, were the handwritten letters from the editor which accompanied the payment. Each story’s main message was acknowledged; heartfelt gratitude for submitting my work was expressed. With each declaration of their appreciation, I was simultaneously humbled and confused. “It’s just a story,” was my mental reply to the neatly penned notes. I placed them toward the back of a drawer where I knew they’d be out of sight, yet safe from destruction. I rarely looked at them, but I kept them.
Somewhere along the way, the beautiful, cobblestone path made up of hundreds of bits of praise became slippery with the dew of life’s trials. When it came time for my solo flight, turbulence — often times invisible and with a knack for sneaking up behind, as any good antagonist would do — paid a visit. No longer were supporters readily available at the sidelines. A lot of it was on me. And it made me nervous.
There’s nothing worse than self-doubt when you know you can do something. How it even works its way into the equation is beyond me. If I’ve done it before, why even question it?
These days, I’ve realized that my quiet life isn’t void of anything. I used to wonder if it was, and my point of comparison was, well, the world. A dangerous slope, comparison is. My relatively simple existence is, however, full of the minutes and hours I need to hear myself think. To let myself create. To be able to wonder and explore and investigate whatever it is that I find to be of interest. And to find the voice that wandered on its own for more than 15 years…but which found its way home, more rich and supported than before.
I keep using that word, and — frankly — to say that I’ve had “support” through the years is, in my book, an understatement nearing insult status. After all, those who have been on this journey with me have made it a journey because of their gentle nudging, their guiding wisdom and patient cheerleading. In a sense, you’ve been my editors who have helped shape my own story. The same way I’ve kept those notes from the editor safe, I’ve kept your kind words tucked into a secure, untouchable corner of my heart. I look inward to them often. Their kindness bolsters my spirit.
A wise friend recently bestowed upon me one of her favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Nobody is obligated to utter a kind word to another. But when they do, it’s a gift that deserves being paid forward. Today I give thanks for my family, my friends, my supporters, those who tell me to go, do and bloom — regardless of what others say — and those who remind me that unless we chase our dreams, we’ll never stand a chance at catching them.