I’ve always been a writer in my heart, even before I knew what stories I wanted to tell. When I was younger, I kept little notebooks with me at all times, to write lists or song lyrics or just doodle during class. My friends in high school were fascinated by them. They weren’t really journals, but they chronicled my life, my thoughts, in ways that were cryptic enough that I didn’t mind my friends flipping through them. They were a way to release tension or keep track of my responsibilities, but more than anything, they were the beginning of my life as a documenter.
I document to remember, but also to process. Writing gets my emotions onto paper (or screen) and helps me to connect with other human beings. Isn’t that the point of life? Connection? That’s something I always wanted when starting a blog and writing for the newspaper, but I wasn’t sure how to ever write the stories that floated around my head.
When I started attending graduate school, I was unsure of myself. I think that’s part of how I’ll be forever, but deep down, I had no idea what I was doing. Who I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a teacher and to learn, but that was about it. Almost immediately, I realized if nothing else, life led me back to school to fall in love with writing in a way that I’d been missing. I have a journalism degree and I have this blog, and I always knew in the back of my head that I wanted to write books about my life and family, but I needed a little nudge. Dare I say it, I needed validation. Of course my family and my husband will dote on my work, praise my blog posts and encourage me to the ends of the earth. I need their support more than anyone else’s. But sometimes, you just need someone on the outside saying “Yes, this is good.” I took classes with professors who pushed me to get uncomfortable with myself, and that was the best thing that could have ever happened.
This year, I attended the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention with my classmates and professor, and I presented my piece called “A Field of Queens,” which is about the traditions surrounding death in Appalachia and my questions about them. I ended up winning First Place in Creative Nonfiction out of all the schools there. I also tied for First Place for the same piece in the Maier Awards on campus. (I tied with my classmate JP Midkiff – check out his work here!) I have a piece about the Women’s March coming out in an anthology by Cat Pleska, and I have written and submitted more of my work for publication possibilities than ever.
I know this is not the typical blog post you’re probably used to, and I truly don’t do it to brag. (Okay, maybe a little.) My point is, sometimes shit has to go down for you to find your way. Life rarely goes the way you planned, and even though it often feels like things happen out of nowhere, it’s really a million tiny steps that get you to where you are. Sometimes, you have to get beaten down a bit and do something new to figure out what you really want. And sometimes, you need someone who doesn’t totally know you to tell you you’re doing a good job.
I think it’s okay to be proud of myself. My sister just recently told me “I know you’re acting like you aren’t a big deal. BUT YOU ARE.” I don’t think I’m a big deal, but I think I have something to offer. I didn’t always know what stories I wanted to tell. But now I do.