Originally posted on the worldwisewriters.com

I was a bad student, folks. Not in a “this kid is heading for a life of knuckle tattoos and back alley shenanigans” kind of way, but more like “she may not pay attention, but at least she’s quiet about it.”

Daydreaming for a school play. 

Daydreaming for a school play. 

Yeah. The school year always started well. I was pleasant. I was polite. And hey, I wasn’t sniffing glue or wearing a cape and launching myself headfirst off the desk during silent reading time. So, for a time I’d get away with floating along in a calm sea of peaceful benevolence, watching the clouds roll by and listening to the muffled sounds of reality, ever so far away. I lived in my daydreams, and it was glorious.

But eventually the daydreaming came to an end. Maybe it was a zero on a math test that got me noticed. Maybe it was the lack of completed homework (my dog had a real hunger for textbooks. Seriously). Whatever the cause, eventually I’d hear the warning tone of the Jaws theme, and see the flash of razor sharp teacher-teeth.

This pattern continued through the end of high school—with one exception. I’ll call him Mr. B. He was my seventh grade teacher, and he was my pivot point.

Instead of being maddened by my hatred of capital letters, or my left-handed chicken scratch, or my absolute inability to remember I had homework, he somehow saw me for me. He encouraged me to not only explore those daydreams, but to put pen to paper and write them down. Managing to hold his gag reflex in check, he championed every simpering teen angst novella, every moody poem … every word.

And it made all the difference.

When I was twelve, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I took a circuitous route to get there; studying acting in New York, spending my twenties as a private investigator, running a business, having a family … but that twelve-year-old girl kept beckoning to me. She was pretty darn persistent, actually. She wanted me to join her for a bit. To let the water muffle the world and watch the clouds roll by. Eventually I did, and it turns out she had a pretty important message for me. One  I’d like to pass on to you:

Never let reality hold you back. And for goodness sake, thank that special teacher who championed your individuality.

I swear I smiled a lot as a kid. But apparently not for the camera.

I swear I smiled a lot as a kid. But apparently not for the camera.

Thanks, Mr. B.