I hate you. I disrespect you. How dare you?
Those were my initial thoughts. You’re the one who’s supposed to teach me. You’re supposed to mold me as a writer and encourage me. And yet here you are telling me that I should consider my options. “Have you thought about going into a different field? Those were your exact words. And yes, I still remember them. I didn’t know what to do. Here’s a respected professor telling me that I’m doing the wrong thing. I was a freshmen in college. You knew that. You knew how easy it would be to influence my life. I had all the time in the world to explore my options. But you know what?
I didn’t want to.
I walked out of your office with my end of year portfolio in hand, a frown on my face, and tears that I was fighting to hold back. I was going to call my mom and complain, circle the campus a little bit, and then walk back to my dorm and think. But what did I have to think about? I knew what I was going to do. I was going to open my notebook and grab my favorite pen. I was going to take a deep breath. I was going to keep writing.
Fast forward over 5 years and here I am. I’m not the best. I’m not well known. But I’m putting words on the page. Part of me wants to say “thanks to you” sarcastically but honestly? It is kind of thanks to you.
You could have told me my mediocre work was excellent. You could have sat me down and given me an A and let me go. There are so many words of positivity that have played through my head since that moment, each and every one of them making me feel better about myself. But I don’t know if I would be here if it had played out any other way.
Your doubt drove me to be better. I was going to prove you wrong. I was also going to prove to myself that every small sign, every gut feeling, and every part of my heart that said this was right was, indeed, right. No one was going to steer me off my path. The only changes since that talk with you is that I’m more confident and I work a hell of a lot harder. That’s what writing is, isn’t it? That’s what anything in the arts is. It’s doing the work. It’s promising to never settle. It’s commitment and self discipline. It’s passion.
So to you, the professor who told me that I should change my major, I can say now that I don’t hate you or disrespect you. In fact, I’m grateful for you. My hope is that when the next semester ends and you have the portfolio of a new student in hand, you tell them exactly what you told me. Maybe that was your plan all along. Perhaps you knew it would get me here. Or, you know, maybe you just really hated my work.
And to that new student, the next me, I want you to let his words sink in. I want you to think about everyone who has ever told you “no” before and forget them because this is the most heartbreaking and life changing “no” you will ever receive. I want you to be angry but don’t you dare give up. Take those ideas in your head and put them on paper. Type out some words and don’t stop. Who cares if they’re not completely put together yet? You’ll edit, you’ll learn, and you’ll grow. I want you to take his words and turn them into a story you won’t be afraid to tell one day rather than the story you think back on when you’re full of regret. I want you to write, paint, sing, dance, create. Most of all, I want you to take a second and ask yourself “Do I want this? Do I need this?” If the answer to both is yes, then I want you to do it and never look back.
My answer was yes.
Since then, the words haven’t stopped pouring out of me.
I am a writer. And no one has the power to change that.