On Monday, some simple, ordinary things happened. I dragged myself out of bed for an early work meeting. The skies were gray and the rain drizzled. I called a friend from my car while waiting in traffic. And sometime during the morning, a delivery service put thousands copies of a magazine in stands, offices, and on shelves throughout my city and other cities. Another delivery person brought several hundred copies of this magazine to the office where I work.
Then, something extraordinary happened. I took an issue from the stack brought to our office and flipped hurriedly through the pages to find…my essay. In print. In an actual magazine—one that I love and have loved for years. A magazine founded and edited by someone whose writing I love and admire. My essay, The Suitcase, was published.
For the last ten years, I have followed a ritual: on December 31st, before midnight, I always make a list of my New Year’s resolutions. In the first years, the list was long and more than a little daunting. I crammed all my hopes and dreams on a slip of lined paper, each aspiration numbered according to priority. As I look back, there was no way I could accomplish all those things in five years, much less one.
So, as I got a little older and wiser, I pared the list down to 3 or maybe 5 things, more realistic, maybe less daring things. I probably saw the reality a little clearer, and sadly even began to want less—to wish for less.
But every year, without fail, the number one resolution has been: Get published. Somewhere, anywhere.
And then last year, on the eve of putting a painful year behind me, I changed the channels on my television in time to see part of a segment on a local news station about New Year’s resolutions. The advice was this: only have one resolution each year. Otherwise you get lost in the list, and give up on too many goals swimming in your vision, and you accomplish few, if any.
So, the idea was to choose one-the one. The most important thing. And it was the same number one choice from all the other years. Get published. Somewhere, anywhere.
And it has happened.
I don’t completely buy into the fact that narrowing my list down made this happen. But what choosing that one thing did was make me realize of all things, all my hopes and dreams, this was the most important one.
It has been the most important one from a day in third grade when I handed my teacher a story I had written as part of an assignment. She stood next to my desk reading it as she had read all the others. I had watched her walking from desk to desk, breezing through story after story, making corrections or a final red check mark on all the other papers. She grabbed mine with the same movement and then, I saw her face change. I saw her slow down, her eyes following the words. She looked at me over the top of the page, made a check mark with her red pen, and as she handed the paper back to me, told me to come see her when we were done.
She told me my story was good--very good. I had a talent, she said. And from that moment on, she and the other two teachers that worked in my room encouraged me at every turn. They gave me special assignments just to keep me writing.
That moment was when I realized that even at such a young age, this thing I loved to do was more than just the way I passed time or finished a classroom assignment. This was something special, and it made me feel… found…when I felt lost most of the time.
For any writer, getting published for the first time is always a landmark, a celebration. Seeing my essay, my words, my name in print, was definitely reason to celebrate. But it was also a moment of rekindling hope for a dream that I have held close to my heart since that day in third grade. And after years of successes and wrong turns, happiness and sorrow, and ultimately getting lost along the way…a little ink and newsprint has made me feel found all over again.