The Seed is Planted
By the time I was 4-years old, I was reading books. I was obsessed with storytelling from a very young age. Then Star Wars was released the year I turned 7, and my world was changed. At the time I didn’t know there was a name for this type of storytelling. Later, I learned that this was called the hero’s journey. Along with the movie came the legendary action figures. With those action figures and accessories, I was able to create my own stories with the Star Wars characters.
When I was 10-years old, I wrote my first short story. I don’t remember what inspired me to begin writing in that single-subject spiral notebook. But what came out of me was a 23-page masterpiece called “The Killer”. The story centered around a killer named Robby, who had knives for fingers. This was 4 years before A Nightmare on Elm Street came out. I had never seen a horror movie in my life at that point. Perhaps my imagination sparked after seeing commercials for movies such as Halloween, The Shining, The Fog, and Friday the 13th. More short stories followed (not all of them were horror). I immensely enjoyed writing them and loved including my friends as characters.
When I was a child, I was extremely shy. However, this did not stop me from begging my 5th grade teacher to let me read my story, “The Killer”, to the class. She kept denying me for weeks until I finally wore her down. She did stop me after I got about halfway through. These days I probably would have been reported to social services. But I knew I was on to something.
Unfortunately by the time I reached junior high school, I had fallen away from writing stories. I didn’t know it then, but I was struggling with depression. Although I was a good writer, I didn’t have the words to articulate what I was feeling. The only thing I knew about depression at the time was what I had seen on Afterschool Special or “very special episodes” of sitcoms. I was not suicidal. But, I had lost the joy in everything I loved. As somebody in the heart of the GenX generation, I handled my feelings the only way I knew how – suck it up and soldier on. As I wandered off course from writing, I was completely lost. I went to CCRI (Community College of Rhode Island) where I failed miserably. This led to me joining the Navy for a stint. Then I went back to school, still with no direction, but much more discipline. After graduating from CCRI with an Associates degree in Business Management, I decided that computers were the future. So I went to Bryant College (now Bryant University) where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems.
A Spark is Lit
I ignored my gut and continued to veer off my intended path, even as I hated the computer classes, but loved the English and History classes such as Humanities and a Mark Twain honors course. In an English course at CCRI, the professor literally told me that my final project (a piece about the burning of the Gaspee) was so good that I should have it published in a specific journal. Of course I didn’t do it. I can’t remember the name of the journal, but I’ll feel bad if it doesn’t exist anymore because I didn’t submit the article. While working as a computer programmer for a medical software company, I still had a voice in the back of my head telling me to start writing again.
Then in 2009, I saw a movie called Julie & Julia. It centered around a blogger, Julie Powell, who wrote about her challenges of cooking all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This inspired me to begin blogging myself. Return to the ’80s was born (and still alive at rtt80s.com). Next, my journey of running at least a 5k in all 50 states began, which led to starting up an additional blog, Journey of the Rhode Runner.
The Fire is Raging
The more I wrote, the hotter the passion of writing burned. I could not ignore it any longer. I needed to pursue writing even further. I looked into different sorts of writing degrees, and was especially drawn to creative writing. Next I researched schools, and found Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to be the best fit to receive my Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. The cost was good, and all the classes were online. After applying, the school contacted me and said that I could actually go for my Master’s Degree even though I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in that field. There are half as many credits, and it’s a higher degree?! Hell yeah!
After I had gotten through a few courses of the program, a little pandemic hit and changed the world as we knew it. Then I lost an aunt I was very close to. Then an uncle. Then my Dad. Then a cousin who I was close to and one of my biggest supporters (and vice versa).
Despite all these challenges, I continued to work hard, and had many late nights trying to get papers done by the infamous 11:59pm deadline on Thursdays and Sundays. Some courses were a complete joy – especially when I was able to create my own stories. And others were complete struggles. I told myself, “I’m older and more mature now than when I was in high school. I can totally handle these 18th and 19th century literature classes very easily and enjoy them so much!” zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I did very well in all the courses, even the ones I was not thrilled about. I did so well that I am now a member of Sigma Tau Delta. When the school informed me of this, I just thought it was some kind of token fraternity that I would need to pay dues for. I attended the informational meeting anyway just out of curiosity. And boy am I glad I did! Sigma Tau Delta is an International English Honor Society of elite students of the English language or literature. There are conventions you may attend where you can network with writers, publishers, and agents. It’s also a great thing for publishing houses and agents to see on your resume. Of course there was a fee. But, it was a shockingly low one-time fee for a lifetime membership.
This past weekend, this middle-to-low-end-of-the-class high school student, and one-time college dropout, received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing (as a member of Sigma Tau Delta on top of that!), at the age of 52!
Get Back On Your Path
This was all a long-winded way to say that it is never too late to find, or rediscover your passion and/or dream and chase after it without abandon. Growing up, many of us think we are supposed to have our shit together by the time we are 18. That is insane! Some people are lucky, and it works out for them. As for the rest of us, our journeys are different. We try to force ourselves on to a path we are not supposed to be on. When this happens, you will feel a burning inside of you. You’re instinct will be to ignore it. You are comfortable and don’t want to shake things up now. You are doing yourself and the world a disservice! Take some time and think about something that gives you joy or think back about something that used to bring you joy that fell by the wayside due to every day life getting in the way.
Next take some time to take small steps to head on that path. Do things like research to see what it would take to achieve that dream or goal. Then each day take a small step to achieve that goal. Think of it in terms of this running analogy. You watch the Boston Marathon, and it inspires you to run a marathon yourself even though you had never run before…or it’s been years since you’ve run. You don’t just go run 26.2 miles the next day. You may start by running a minute without stopping, or run around the block. Then you gradually build up from there. You’ll learn some tips such as finding the running shoes that are right for you, as well as what to eat and drink for fueling yourself.
So start making those small steps now to attack those big dreams, and you will be fulfilled and enjoy waking up and looking forward to each day. The only thing stopping you is you. This is your life, and it’s short and it’s not too late. You can do it!
Now it’s time to start making it real. Please leave me a comment below and say what your dream or path is. That can be your first step back on your path. Or please let me know if you can relate to my story. Did you lose and then find yourself? I’d love to hear from you!