Monday, February 1, 1999

Picture This

My mother once told me that she always knew I'd go into journalism because it was in my blood. Her brothers were in the newspaper business. For me the lure was in the writing. I began keeping a journal when I was in third grade. I fell in love putting into words what was going on inside. To use and play with words, to write something another connects with, to get a smile or a tear from somebody just by something jotted on a piece of paper, that is a drug I've been addicted to ever since.

The big step came when I began writing for my junior high school's newspaper. To see my words printed out and distributed to so many- to see my classmates reading something I wrote- made me realize this was something I not only wanted to do- I needed to do it. It indeed was in my blood.

Not that sharing yourself is ever easy in any manner. I used to get queasy the days I knew the newspaper was going to come out. What if they didn't like what I wrote? Worse, what if no one read what I wrote? Over the years, on my high school's newspaper, on my college's newspaper, on the local newspapers I interned with, and now with the newsletter and another job where my writing actually goes worldwide on the Internet, that anxious feeling still remains. It may not be as intense but it still hits me with every issue of this publication and every article that I write.

A few years back I reached a dark and desolate place where even the words disappeared. It was then, more than ever, that I knew to get my balance back I needed to write. And it was then, I learned that my writing as important as it was to me, couldn't mean as much to others. That was a heartbreaking realization, yet at the same time it was a liberating one. I always wanted to write something that would change the world- just like a J.D. Salinger or F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, or Bob Dylan song did for my world. To accept that writing was an important part of me- to be able at times to write something where I had no idea where it came from- to at times accurately capture something inside- that in itself was world changing.

My mom has saved just about every article I've ever had published. So although at times it has felt like such a solitary endeavor, I know there are a few out there I've reached a time or two. It always feels good when someone tells me they liked something I wrote. It's great when that person is a complete stranger- it's heartwarming when it comes from the voice of a proud parent.

A few weeks back my mom pulled out the family pictures so that each of us kids could go through and take with us our favorite photographs. There was a period of my life when I began a project to prevent any further photographs of myself. I'm now glad I didn't succeed with that project. The premise was that the only evidence I wanted to leave behind were my words not images from a camera. I figured my words could leave an accurate picture of what was inside where photographs merely captured an outside shell which could be all too inaccurate of what was really going on at the time. But the problem with relying on the pictures inside your head is that they can became fuzzy real quick. The heart tends to influence their color. So the objectivity of the camera lens has its benefits.

It was fun going through the pictures of my family. It was fascinating sorting through the many images of myself- some which I remember being taken, some I stare at and wonder what became of the kid pictured. At the same time I was able for the first time to look through my parent's wedding album and pictures of them growing up. The youthful enthusiasm, the look of dreams in their eyes, was quite touching. It is hard to imagine that your parents were at one time your age, and were once facing some of the same things you now are trying to deal with. Being a self inflicted history major, I must admit sometimes I even can convince myself to believe I somehow managed to stumble across my destiny in college.

To sort through the years worth of black and white photos was to remember how it once felt to feel so secure; to feel that all of life held so much promise and the mere impatience of wanting to get to where you thought you were destined to go. There are pictures of me standing out in my parents' front yard. The trees which now tower over everything are just beginning to grow. The landscape looks entirely different than it does now- both inside and out. It is staggering to think of the many memories of days long gone, days never to return, and yet which forever remain a part of the person I now am. My mom and I over the last few weeks have been remembering little moments from the past- like in kindergarten how I had to decide what I wanted to be called, David or Dave- and how that was the first major decision I had to make. That my Mom asked me to make the choice says plenty about how I was raised. I'm never sure when I set pen to paper if I'll get it right. But sometimes it's more important just to get it out. The old adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes your heart needs both.

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