Where My Words Took Me

This is me, standing outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, all set for the American Library Association conference at the nation's capital. It was a huge event, with seminars and workshops and famous authors and publishers big and small. And there were books, tons and tons of books. Oh, and my book was there too.

It’s kind of hard to believe...

I barely graduated high school, without a clue as to what was next. It wasn’t college, that kind of thing just never came up. For the most part I roamed. I bounced from one job to the next, hung out with friends, drifted through summer into fall and so on. For two, three, maybe four years I tried to make sense of things. I hung out at the beach, I played basketball. I dreamed a lot, but nothing fell in my lap.

Here’s a some of my writing from that period, when I was eighteen or nineteen, living in the unfinished basement of my mom’s townhouse.

Man, that’s deep, Younger Me. Clearly I was confused, and dramatic. I think most of us are in our late teenage years. When I look back, I recognize those days for what they were, a time of great freedom and opportunity. But back then it didn't feel that way. I was overwhelmed by all the adulthood out in front of me, struggling to find my place.

I tried a few college courses and dropped out to wash cars (yeah, you read that right). I loved to read. Steinbeck was my favorite. I liked to doodle. I loved music and movies and jotting down terrible rap lyrics. I was always searching for a good time. I bought cars for a few hundred bucks that lasted a few months at best. Responsibility was knocking, but I wasn’t answering the door.

It’s this period I draw on most when I write. I slip into that misguided angst, the heavy blanket of confusion when I realized I was no longer a kid but hardly an adult. I remember feeling as though I’d been lied to, like there was some big secret no one had bothered to share with me.

Why So Melodramatic?
I continued bouncing around, job to job, cutting grass, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms and sweeping up at a factory. I pulled files, worked in an office, and continued to read and wonder and view my future as some blurry desert road I’d never reach.

But it came, and it took me a while to find my place. Eventually I got a more permanent job, stuck with it and bought a house. I met my wife and then one day, for no good reason, I started writing.

And writing.

And now I’m here, at this huge convention center with big time authors and publishers. Me, the kid from the basement, the kid who was invisible to teachers. The kid who wrote terrible poetry, who dreamed in a haze of grass clippings and sweat. I wrote a book, then another, then plenty more. I'm writing one now.

For all those kids without instruction manuals, or plans, the ones who roam and wander and stumble into adulthood. Keep on. It will come. Have fun and be you.  Whatever your passion, don't let anyone or anything steal it from you. And when you're ready, do it. 

The rest is...

Man, I really couldn't draw...


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