Many of us can look back and remember that defining moment when a person, event or experience inspired us to do what we do best. For me, it was a high school English teacher and a college professor.
I wrote my first poem at the age of five, and for months my parents hung it on our refrigerator. That was great encouragement, but as much as they appreciated my creativity and were pleased when I brought home “A”s in English, they looked at writing as something I could never turn into a career. You can’t earn a living that way was the message I got, but when my mother died last year at the age of 92, I found poems and short stories she had kept that I had given her for birthday presents along with books and articles I had written or edited.
When I was growing up, girls in my neighborhood were expected to go to college and major in something that, after we found ourselves husbands who would support us throughout our childbearing years, we could use as a fallback when our children were grown, or if our spouses died unexpectedly. That never made sense to me, and I chose to major in English. My parents were dismayed. I did it anyway, confident I would be able to support myself when the time came.
And yes, I’ve spent my entire adult years working in jobs that required me to write, and now I’m writing fiction. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the circumstances that inspired me. And what I realized is that, in some small measure, I do what I do today because of those two teachers who had faith in me.
The first was Mr. Oshry, my ninth grade English teacher. Relatively young, he was brilliant, creative, encouraging and fun. He demanded excellence and pushed his students, including me, to do our very best. Many years later our paths crossed, and I was able to tell him how much he had influenced me.
The second was Professor Taube. He criticized fairly, praised lavishly, and championed those of us who had a passion for the written word. He also was a hugely supportive. I was in my senior year, getting ready to graduate. I already had a job lined up when my advisor informed me that through a clerical error I was one credit short for graduation. I panicked. He suggested I contact a professor who might be willing to work with me to get that credit. I contacted Dr. Taube, wrote a thesis on the themes in the collected works of D.H. Lawrence and passed with flying colors. And I graduated with my class!
So, think of what gives you pleasure, what you excel in, and try to remember what or who inspired you. Hopefully we can show our gratitude to those who cared by inspiring others.