To this day I can recall what my mom said to me when I told her, at a young age, that I wanted to be a writer like Stephen King. After all, she was the one who gave me her paperback collection of his novels. I was sitting on the floor in the dining room of our two-bedroom apartment, knelt before the small bookcase, running my fingers across the cracked spines of a novelist who would, like many, influence me.
"I want to be a writer," I said, pulling out Carrie.
From the couch, where my mom was reading a John Grisham novel, she said, "You know how many people want to be a writer and how many make it?"
She didn't say anything else, and I never replied. I put Carrie back on the shelf and went to my room. That was her way of saying 'you'll never make it'.
Know what's funny? My mom wrote poetry and songs. She was a voracious reader, reading three to four books a week. Whenever she was home she was reading. All the time. I don't recall her ever watching TV as much as I recall her reading. I write and read because she passed all that on to me, which I'm thankful for. Yet, she had only read one piece of work by me. "I liked it." That's it. And to give me the answer she did while reading her Grisham novel was not only deflating, but confusing, and heartbreaking.
I love my mom more than anything, and I don't hold a grudge toward her, but I wished she would have been supportive, because if she were my career could have began years earlier and have bloomed sooner. I'm still waiting for it to bloom.
Growing up I didn't have a mentor. Someone to guide me. In high school my teachers weren't helpful. I asked one of my favorites to read a story of mine and give me feedback, which she did read, supposedly, and as for her feedback? "It's good." That's it. My H.S. guidance counselor made the assumption that I had issues and there must've been problems at home based on the poetry I wrote in English class. Dark stuff. I had long hair, wore black, and listened to metal and punk music. I was more normal than she ever knew, but she refused to understand me and called me down to the counselor's office several times based on the refusal to investigate. To know me.
I had no one in my corner to root for me in anything I wanted to do, especially writing, and so the things I wanted to do I never did. Had no faith in them. Why would I? If no else believed in me then why believe in myself? As I grew older I came to the realization that I had to root for myself. Which was hard, especially when I had low self-esteem, depression, and lacked faith in my own abilities. (To some extent I still deal with low self-esteem, depression, and that lack of faith in myself, but that's a post for another day.) But if I didn't cheer me on in some small way, push myself, then who would? How would I get to my destination? To the destination I'm still, to this day, driving toward. Because in Life you never stopping driving. You stop here and there, explore, gas up, and keep on going. That destination is the carrot before our lives. Keep driving.
I think we all, as children, wanted to hear four words from our parents, or in this case from my mom since my dad was out of the picture since I was three, and those four words were "I'm proud of you." Yes, having our parents tell us they love us, or "We/I love you" is the most important, but those words as you grow up, especially as a teen, can be taken for granted.
To hear someone tell you that they are proud of you can change your life, especially at a young age. I never heard those words. My wife tells me, and that's probably the person I want to hear them from the most, but to know my mom was proud of me would have given me faith in my abilities and raised my self-esteem. Even now, I still yearn to hear those words.
My mom died in 2012. Two days before her 69th birthday. My twin boys were born 2 and 1/2 months later. Grandsons she never saw. She passed in her sleep. Heart attack of some sort. 2,000 miles away. I miss her very much. She was strong and funny and held her convictions. I love her! And after all the stuff she went through and survived in her crazy life (another post for another time), I can say...
I am proud of you mom. Wherever you are. Keep driving.
Because I'm still writing. Still driving. You'd be proud of me.