More Confessions From an Educated Fool
I took 40 years to come full circle as a writer, and I am a fool for taking so long
This is the first of a series of essays and posts that I am doing this month about my journey as a writer, an educator, and a fool over the past four decades, simultaneously between Medium and my blog. I hope to educate, to entertain, to make people laugh and cry laughing, but (hopefully) not to feel too sorry for me. I am who I am, a work still in progress, even as my knees and my neck ache, even as my mind and spirit are exhausted. Still, I want to fly. “Ain’t that crazy?,” to quote music artist Seal, this as his song“Crazy” turns 30 this week.
Serving as a contingent faculty member at two different universities with few benefits, few avenues for promotion, and having lived through one obsequious toad for a supervisor after another year after year? This was not how I imagined my life would end up by the time I reached middle age. I didn’t even think I’d make it to 30 when I was a fourteen-year-old, so there’s that. But when I was 11 in 1981, I did discover my first true calling. I wanted to be a writer, what kind of a writer, I wasn’t sure. But after two years of reading World Book Encyclopedia and more than 40 college-level or higher books on World War II — mostly by British authors — I was ready to write something. That spring, I wrote a 500-word essay as part of a city-wide writing contest in Mount Vernon, New York, back in the days when this New York City suburb had its own separate newspaper, the Mount Vernon Daily Argus. I don’t remember what they asked us K-12 students to write about, probably something civic-minded and somewhat trite. But I finished second overall out of hundreds of entries. The first-place winner was a high school junior. I won something, on my first try, too. Yay, me!
I got a note in the Daily Argus, along with an invitation to an awards ceremony at A. B. Davis Middle School that June, where a photographer took my picture and a representative from the newspaper handed me a $15 check. Technically, this was the first time someone paid me for my writing. This wouldn’t happen again until I was a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. Between that and me introducing the keynote speaker for our graduating class of sixth-graders earlier…