Last night I took my sons and my cute man out for ice cream at a local place called “Cool Licks”. It’s a mom and pop place that I haven’t visited all summer because of the Perpetual Diet, and I can’t go there unless I get something, too. I don’t have enough restraint yet… maybe when I’m 40?
The young woman working at the window looked about 19, and she was naturally beautiful in an undeniable way. I feel like everyone is so gorgeous at that age, but rarely did we let ourselves feel that way.
She was tall and athletically lean, with tan skin and long, shiny brown hair. There was a small tattoo of a lipstick kiss mark on her shoulder, which I’m sure makes a great conversation starter for anyone trying to keep her attention.
The reason I’m talking about her is because she was writing in her journal while she was working. I noticed that in between customers she was writing something in bubbly letters, but it clearly wasn’t a homework assignment.
As an English teacher and writing nerd, this obviously caught my attention and I was so happy to see it. I was thinking that my nineteen year old self would probably dislike this girl for a good amount of reasons that reflected my own issues with self-esteem at that age:
1. She’s tanner than I’ll ever be.
2. She looks like she’s probably good at sports.
3. She’s beautiful without makeup.
4. My body will never look like hers. She is tall and lean.
When I was 19, I was miserable with myself. I could see no beauty when I looked in the mirror, though now when I look at pictures from those days I’m pretty pissed at myself for being so critical. In order to protect myself from the pain of rejection, I built a wall of “cool” around myself. I would dislike someone because I already assumed they had a perfect life, where I was suffering.
I see my middle school students act this way all the time. Because we perceive ourselves as “outsiders”, we put on airs as being superior to the “beautiful people”. In reality, I just thought badly about myself because I didn’t have the desirable qualities I saw in others.
So what is the point in all this pontificating about a random girl that works at an ice cream place? Well, the fact that she was writing in her journal, which is exactly what I would’ve been doing if I had a boring summer job that allowed that kind of down time. And I didn’t even have a smart phone back then to distract myself.
So this person, even though she has enviable beauty and bubbly handwriting, might have some thoughts that run deep. It was not what I expected to see but I was happy to see it, and it gave me a bit of faith in her generation. Back when I was 19 I probably would have rolled my eyes and scoffed at her just because I would’ve been jealous of her beauty, but I have enough life experience now to see the value in a young person who still journals by hand when no one is paying attention.
Here I am 20 years later just mustering up the courage to start a public blog. In 20 years, if this young woman continues her passion for writing, she could be a New York Times bestselling author.
Writers are just people who consistently write. You don’t have to be amazing, and you don’t have to write literature. It doesn’t matter if it’s in bubbly handwriting or in chicken scratch. You don’t have to look the part. You just have to write.
This blog entry is kind of a letter of encouragement to myself. Maybe someday I can share it with my students. I’m on a roll and I can’t stop. I have wanted to call myself a writer for years, but I didn’t give myself permission to do it.
So now I am a writer because now I am writing.