In eighth grade, I was thirteen years old. I was still parting my hair down the middle, and thought my four-inch school binder was bad-ass. Also, my favorite word to use on special occasions when I wanted to be exceptionally cool was “bad-ass.” I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be in life, but that was okay. I was young and the world was my oyster.
One day Mrs. Smith, my English teacher, gave us a writing assignment. We had to write something -anything, but it had to be descriptive. Minus the red hunting hat and cigarettes, the assignment felt a lot like the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye. I chose to write a short story about going to the beach a few minutes from my house. The idea of “the beach” itself is over romanticized, but I think it’s the romanticism placed by tourists and television that made me truly believe it to be the most description-worthy place in existence.
The character was sizzling in the sun and her throat ached with a dryness not even a gulp of her own phlegm-filled saliva could satisfy and so on. Her arm got caught in a vending machine and no one was around so she had to lay there in blistering despair.
My mom read it and commented how well I write and how well I’ve always written and what a great writer I was. Any other thirteen-year-old would have found this somewhat patronizing mainly because tweens are generally irritable little buggers, but I didn’t.
In that moment I knew I was going to be the greatest writer the world has ever seen. I was infinite.
Okay, not really. In that moment I was happy to be getting positive attention, but I never forgot my mother’s reaction. Her words were the first verbal affirmation that my writing could be something, and they inspired me to begin writing at all.
I’m still young, but for a college student, the world is getting progressively smaller. Rather than an oyster, the world is more like roll-on deodorant. But at least in times of doubt, hopelessness, and writer’s block, I can look back to that memory of the first time someone saw my raw potential.