About a week and a half ago, I opened my new blog email (firstname.lastname@example.org! Write to me! As long as you are not trying to sell me things - like in the second comment here! That’s annoying!) and saw that the first message in the inbox had the title, “Interested in writing for Wondertime?” Opening the email, I found that it was from an assistant editor at Wondertime who had happened to come across my somewhat equivocal mention of her magazine. Rather than taking offense and saying, “Well screw you too,” and pouting, as I would have done, she sat down and read the rest of my blog. Miraculously, she decided it would be a good idea to ask my smart ass to write for her magazine, which is what her email was about.
I remember an acting teacher I had in high school saying, “No magic fairy is going to come down with a magic wand and say, ‘You are talented!’” This is pretty much why I abandoned acting for academics, where every single report card is a magic wand saying, “You are talented!” Validation, in the form of getting what I want, has come very easily to me in the academic world. I am a good student, so I got into the schools I wanted to go to and got good grades there, which got me urban teaching fellowships, which got me all sorts of teaching-related work. But these are all things that I pursue with the continuously-reinforced knowledge that I am indeed one of the best candidates out there for the positions in question. When I send out a resume, transcript, and cover letter, I can be sure that they contain precisely the things that my audience is seeking – solid professional experience, good grades at reputable institutions, good grammar, good spelling, and buzzwords. The resume, transcript, and cover letter would tell me that I’m good enough, and whoever I happened to send them to would respond by agreeing.
On the other hand, when I self-publish a piece of personal writing on the internet, I have no idea if it is good enough. Maybe it is stupid. Maybe it is trivial. Maybe it is boring. I have no idea, and because the quality of writing is not objectively quantifiable, I never will. So publishing my writing here has truthfully been one of the biggest risks I have ever taken. It is also one of the only things that I have done for its own sake, with absolutely no expectation of any return, monetary or otherwise. I have been writing this blog solely for myself, for the pleasure, as I have said before, of making meaning of my own life, and for the satisfaction of having created something that is mine alone and would not exist in the world if it weren’t for me.
To have my efforts then recognized in a way that I had not even sought – to have someone out there decide that I am good enough and then decide to back that opinion up with the offer of money and a legitimate professional assignment – to actually have a magic fairy come down with a magic wand and say “You are talented!” – I was shocked into speechlessness, and I sat down and cried for a really, really long time. It is true that I have been very successful as a student and as a teacher, but I have finally admitted to myself that I have not truly enjoyed either of those roles. I have, though, found the profound enjoyment in birthing, mothering, and writing about my life. It almost seems like too much good fortune that I might be rewarded for turning away from the sure-but-not-happy in favor of the happy-but-risky. It almost seems like too much good fortune that other people might want to become part of what I am doing, and even help me along the way.