Tag Archives: Mentors

To those who taught me to dream.

2 Jul

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a ballerina. Around Christmastime, my grandmother would take me to see The Nutcracker at the Koger Center. As I sat up in the balcony in my checkered dress and patent leather shoes, I stared with admiration at the character of Clara. I imagined myself twirling around in my own leotard with a toy nutcracker in my hands, lost in the music and a dance that was all my own. When I got home from seeing The Nutcracker, I’d put on my leotard and tutu, grab a favorite stuffed animal at the time, and twirl in circles to the music only I could hear.

It was in those moments, in the safety of my childhood bedroom, that I began to dream, imagining doing things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do in reality due to my disability. I imagined dancing with a grace I had seen only in ballerinas. I put on my ballet shoes and twirled until my unstable balance got the best of me and I fell to the floor in frustration. I even remember asking my parents if I could take ballet lessons, determined to learn how to create the beauty I had seen in the character of Clara. The opportunity never arose though, simply because I didn’t have the balance to be a ballerina. Despite walking on my tiptoes, twirling around in circles on those same tiptoes was out of the question.

As I got older and I filled my head with more realistic dreams, I never stopped imagining doing the things I’d never be able to fully experience. I thought of dancing to the music of my world. I imagined running down the street and feeling the wind on my face as I chased the orange and red sunset I saw in the distance. I pictured myself climbing the huge oak tree in my backyard, wanting nothing more than to find a sturdy limb I could sit on so I could rest my back against the tree’s broad trunk and escape into my favorite book. The creative imagination I possessed placed me right into the worlds I dreamed, though I knew I was so far away from actually experiencing them.

I am forever grateful to the people throughout my life who have encouraged my imagination and dreams. Though I was constantly reminded by other kids around me of the things I was unable to do, so many of the adult figures in my life understood the importance of believing in my creativity. Because of those individuals, I have learned what it means to still hope and strive for the things that still seem a bit out of reach. Through my ability to dream, I developed a determination that has propelled me through my life, despite stumbling again and again. While I may not have had the chance to be a ballerina who twirls endlessly with the grace of a perfect melody, I have sung my heart out at a voice recital, capturing an entire room with the simple sound of my voice. I have participated in theatre productions, achieving my moment in the spotlight by being Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I have written of specific moments of pain during the months following intense operations, creating the same tears in the eyes of my readers that I possessed during my moments of defeat. Though I may not have had the chance to live the experiences I longed for, I have continued to move to the song of my own life, continuously grateful to those who taught me to dream and create my own destiny.

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Almost a year ago…before the writing began.

24 Dec

Since tonight is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas, I thought I’d share a picture I came across today from last Christmas.

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It’s crazy to think how much can happen in a year. This time last year, the idea of starting my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy hadn’t come into existence quite yet, and in all actuality, that is hard for me to believe. I remember how, on a cold winter day in January, I made the quick and impulsive decision and said, “I’m going to write a book about my life!”

A few days later, after I had spent many hours just writing, writing, writing without even thinking of stopping, I emailed two very important people in my life: my writing mentor and my freshman English professor from my previous college, both of whom have always been incredibly supportive of my writing. Both of them have always been big supporters of me in general, and so I wasn’t surprised to receive positive reactions concerning my decision to write a book about my life. Though I did receive support from both of them, I sensed hesitation, and truthfully, I’m still unsure if that hesitation was just my own lack of self-confidence coming to the surface or whether it was something else entirely. Either way, at those very beginning days of my memoir, when only the first thoughts of it were being formulated in my mind, I never thought I’d reach the point where I could talk about my past with such ease. Granted, there are definitely memories that still cause me to pause simply because I haven’t quite gotten the guts to pull them out of the black box they have been hidden in for so long, but considering where I was this time last year, I’ve come very far.

Truthfully, it’s because of the support I’ve received from my mentors, friends, family and all you lovely fellow bloggers that I have made it to this point concerning my memoir. Though the amount of pages I have written is incredibly, incredibly slim considering a full year has passed since I began, most of my writing took more mental preparations than I anticipated in the beginning. Though I wrote like crazy in the beginning month of beginning my memoir, that “early fire” started to fade when the emotions of what I was doing began to fully set in. Since then, I have continued battling those emotions, and those battles have taken up more time than I anticipated….time that could’ve been spent writing. However, I needed to give attention to those battles…to all of the emotions that were being brought to the surface after essentially burying huge chunks of my life in boxes in the back of my mind. Therefore, though I don’t have very many pages to show for all that I have trudged through over the past year, if anything….I know what I have finally faced…and what I have grown from.

Therefore, I wish to say thank you for every single one of you who have been a part of the supportive hug I’ve been receiving for the past year. To family, friends, mentors, and fellow bloggers…thank you for sticking with me through the really hard writing days, the really good writing days, and all those days in between when I was either talking about my memoir or talking about a certain memory from my past. Though there is still a very, very long way to go, I know from experience that the beginning of a project…or the simple act of even starting it…is the hardest. Though there were many days throughout the last year that I either debating stopping or could no longer remember why I was putting myself through the pain of writing and reliving the hard parts of my life, I kept at it. I kept at it for you, for me, and for all the families and kids dealing with a disability who just need someone to relate to or someone who understands or someone who they can look to and say, “She made it through. So can I.”

As well as my many thanks and lots of love, I’d also like to wish all of you a happy holiday season. 🙂

To all my mentors, past and present.

9 Dec

After reading Arianna’s post on role models, I was inspired to write my own post regarding the numerous mentors I have had throughout my life thus far. Despite the fact that the mentors who are in my life right now are currently the most important to me, I know the mentors of my past also helped me during times in my life when I needed guidance.

Though I do not doubt that my strength and my drive for independence were two very important factors that got me where I am today, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life provided me with a level of support that not only acted as a cushion when I was feeling low, but also propelled me forward and taught me to reach for all the possibilities that were awaiting me. Even though I am naturally one of those people who makes sure to tell the people I care about how much they mean to me on a regular basis, I also believe that you can never say “I appreciate you” too many times. It’s a simple three word phrase, but it has the ability to hold an amount of emotion I can’t even begin to describe.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

There is something really special about taking note of the people in your life who have shaped you. Though I definitely know that my parents fall into that category, I’m referring to those people who shaped me without being asked. Those people who, though it was never asked of them, established connections with me because they hoped to influence my life in a positive way. Even though the concept itself seems like a no-brainer, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today with the mentors from my past and present. Each one of them has provided me with support, encouragement, love, advice, and best of all…their time. I don’t know what it is about establishing connections with people who want nothing more than to learn from you, while also hoping to positively influence you…but it has brought me more happiness than I can even begin to describe.

In simple terms, I thrive off of connections with other people. In some situations, those connections don’t lead to a positive result, but in the best circumstances, I have gained not only a friend, but someone who I am able to appreciate and learn from. I believe that my need and love of having general connections with others is very much related to my desire to work in the helping profession as a counselor. Since I have had mentors within my own life who have impacted me in ways I never could have imagined, I want the chance to impact others in the same way. I want to know that in some small way, I helped someone. Whether it’s helping them to realize that they are worthy of the love that others are showing them or helping them to see that the traumatic event from their childhood doesn’t define the person they are today, I want to be there through it all. I want the chance to help them discover who they truly are, even if that means uncovering things about themselves they’ve kept hidden for so long for fear of being ridiculed.

Therefore, to all my mentors, past and present (Mike, Tucky, Chuck, Dr. Cox, Mr. Richard, Miss Mary, Miss Marie, Mrs. Trish, Dr. Cahill and Mrs. Walker)…I appreciate each and every one of you. You each have helped me to realize something different, but equally important, about myself, which has helped me to continue to discover who I truly am. You’ve each supported me when I’ve been down, and have continued to support me through my successes. You’ve shown me what it means to be selfless because I know that none of you felt obligated to be a positive influence my life. You chose to fill that role on your own accord, which means more to me than you will ever know. In all actuality, there are not enough words in the English language to express how much I appreciate each and every one of you. If it means saying “I appreciate you” every day for as long as I live, then that’s exactly what I will do.

Thank All Of Your Writing Mentors.

14 Mar

After yesterday’s blog post Does Music Help Your Writing generated so much feedback, I thought I’d stick with the topic of writing for today’s post as well. However, I don’t want to focus on just writing, but mainly how certain people have impacted your writing…and the different ways that they have helped you broaden your writing experience. I’ll start with some of the writing mentors I’ve had over the years.

  1. My seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Trish: Though I enjoyed writing before I took Mrs. Trish’s English class, the belief in my ability grew when I entered her classroom. Not only did she encourage me to keep on writing, she helped me realize that I could use writing as an outlet, as a way to escape when reality became too painful. She was also the first person (other than my parents) who told me that I had “a gift.” Hearing that from someone other than my parents was a huge turning point. I remember when I let Mrs. Trish read the first article that I ever got published (Writing To Survive). She cried, telling me how proud she was of me and how she knew that one day I’d truly impact the world with my writing. I didn’t remember some of the great advice she gave me until reflecting on what I gained from her in terms of my writing, but I know that she was the one who first really supported me (besides my parents) in my love of writing. To this day, we still keep up, but not as much as I’d like since college keeps me busy.
  2. A previous co-worker, Mike: In my junior year at Salem, I interned at the Columbia Star (and wrote the article “Writing To Survive,” mentioned above). One of my co-workers there, Mike, had a huge impact on me and my writing. I interned at The Star for three weeks, and while I was there, Mike was constantly picking at me. Not in a mean way, but in a way that solidified our mentor-mentee relationship. When my internship was over, Mike wrote me a letter (that is still one of the most honest portrayals of what it means to be a writer I’ve ever read) and gave me Stephen King’s book, On Writing (which has been extremely helpful through the process of writing my book). I met Mike back in 2009, and I’m happy to say that we keep up a regular email correspondence, which I’m grateful for. He is one of those writers who I know will give me completely honest feedback on my writing. He knows what I’ve been through, and so he also knows that I can take the criticism, especially since he also points out that the criticisms he gives me come from his heart since he wants to see me grow as a writer and a person.
  3. My AP English teacher, Dr. Cahill: Between my internship with The Star and the start of my freshman year at Wofford College, I took a hiatus from writing. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have people supporting my writing. Dr. Cahill is one of the teachers that I’ll never forget. She loves what she teaches, and she makes that known to her students. Though I didn’t do much personal writing during my senior year (since I had so many other responsibilities like college applications and being the editor-in-chief of my school paper), I still had support. For every literary analysis that I wrote in AP English, I went to see Dr. Cahill in order to get her feedback before turning in my final draft. Though she knew that I was an anxious student, she always made a point to try to lift me up. I remember one day when I was in her office she said: “Amelia, you’ve got to believe in yourself a little more. You’re a great writer. Can’t you see that?” It was in that moment that I realized how hard I was being on myself as a writer. To this day, I’m still hard on myself in terms of my writing, and I think it’s something that all artists face when trying to express themselves. However, having Dr. Cahill point it out to me was an important realization in terms of growing as a writer.
  4. My Freshman English teacher, Dr. Cox: Beginning in August of 2010 (my freshman year at Wofford College), Dr. Cox had a huge impact on me. She’s a writer herself, and one of the truest writing professors that I’ve known. I remember one specific assignment we were given during the fall semester of 2010. The assignment was to write a short story in which we held a specific belief and then over time our position/opinion changed regarding this particular belief. I put a personal spin on my story. I wrote about how as a kid I thought that I only had friends because I thought they pitied me. This opinion changed when, in seventh grade, I befriended my first true friend, Lauren. She showed me what it meant to be a true friend, and she helped me realize that I shouldn’t automatically jump to the assumption of pity when it comes to friends. Anyway, Dr. Cox helped me so much with this story. After a short conversation with her after class, I realized that she knew me better than I knew myself. I remember the end of that conversation because Dr. Cox said: “Amelia, writing isn’t true unless it costs you something,” and I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget that. In my case, this meant showing my vulnerability to Dr. Cox as well as my English class, and I was scared. However, I got positive reactions from my classmates, and on future writing assignments I noticed that my classmates were sharing stories that were more personal for them. One day, I came out of class smiling because after having numerous classmates share personal stories, Dr. Cox pulled me aside and said: “It’s because of you, Amelia. You broke down the wall of fear that people had built around their personal experiences and made it known that it was okay to share them.” That is something that will always stick with me because it’s a reminder that my words have the power to impact others around me.

I have no idea where I’d be without these 4 people. Well, yes, I do. My writing wouldn’t be as developed as it is at this point. I wouldn’t have grown so much over the last few years. Thankfully, I still correspond with all 4 of my writing mentors, and every day I am happy to have their support and love. As writers, we all need guidance, whether we care to admit it or not. As it turns out, the people who guide us may be some of the most influential people in our lives, because they’ve taught us not only what it means to express ourselves, but how to look within ourselves to find our true inner voice. I know from experience that it can take a while to find your inner voice, but once you’re able to find it, a strong and life-long connection to creativity, and ultimately, to ourselves and those around us, emerges.