Thursday, January 6, 2011

Curing the What Ifs...? (or: How I Learned My Insomnia Could End), Part 2

Last time I talked a little bit about how I see my day-to-day routine.  Little things make me go, "What if...".  I realized after I wrote it that I may... perhaps... seem a little paranoid.  I want to assure you, I'm not paranoid, I'm just curious about alternate possibilities.

Here's a fun example.  Yesterday I opened at work.  We prepare our onions, cut by hand, every morning.  They are fresh and yummy (and a big pain in the butt to do).  I was peeling the paper skin off when a cloud of white dust poofed out of the onion in my hand, startling me.

Here was my thought process:
What was that?  What if that was anthrax?  No, that's silly, there's no anthrax in these onions.  Wait, are these foreign onions?  Are onions in season in the States right now?  What if it's a foreign onion?  What if it carries the seeds of some strange, buried prion or something?  Holy crap, what if that turns me into a zombie?  Do I feel like a zombie?  I wonder how many people I'd infect before being taken down.

From there, it was an experiment in how I think a zombie outbreak would look, with the epicenter being my sleepy little Ohio town.

I think you get the point by now... basically, I feel like I'm always considering what could happen, and in thinking about it, I entertain myself.  Greatly.

Until middle school, I was always able to fall asleep on a dime.  I could close my eyes and I was gone.  If it was bedtime, I was asleep. I didn't argue or ask questions, I simply laid down and that's all she wrote!  As for what I wrote - whenever the mood struck me, on any topic and for any length of time until I was bored/done with it.

In middle school, I made the worst decision of my young life.  I joined Power of the Pen.  It was a competitive writing group (we actually went to competitions!).  You'd be given about two hours to write, and everyone would be given the same topic.  Some competitions, you'd do this two or even three times (yes, six hours of writing by hand).  We also met weekly to talk about writing, how to improve, et cetera.

My writing was deemed not entirely acceptable in this setting.  I am just not good at being given a topic and told to write on it - especially on a time limit.  I made the team... barely.  I was second alternate.  Basically if someone got sick, I still wouldn't write.  If two people got sick (inconceivable!) I might have a chance to get into the competition.  However, I was assured, this had never happened in all the history of PotP.  (Be ready to hear that more, 'in all the history of PotP')

So, of course, it happened with our last writing competition.  I had gone all year glumly cheering my team on from the sidelines.  I didn't want to cheer, I wanted to write!  It was why I had joined in the first place.  I smiled as best as I could, but my heart was heavy.  When I was told that for the first time ever, the second alternate would be permitted to join the competition, I literally bounded about, an unbridled source of joy and energy.  I thought my heart would explode, because it was far too small to contain my happiness.

I wrote with all my fervor that day.  I remember my topic, "Write a story based around the idea 'Just wait 'til your father gets home!'"  I wrote a story about a kid finding a little alien and causing a lot of mayhem with it.  The boy took credit for the alien's misdeeds.  The mom got angry and made the exclamation.  It was unpolished, unfinished, maybe a little ugly, but I wrote with everything I had.

At the grading ceremony, our team was all set up to win the whole competition.  Story after story was rewarded with stellar marks.  Then, my story, graded last.  How apropos.  I received the worst marks in history, for our club.  We lost the competition.  We didn't go home with any awards.  I was devasted; my team was furious.  My friends would not longer speak to me.  I cried like any heartbroken child would.

The next week at school, my English teacher (Vice President of PotP) approached me about my scores.  "Your writing is terrible," she informed me.  "You received the worst marks, ever, in the history of our club.  I don't even want to look at you right now.  You will never be a writer.  Never.  You should give it up.  Do something you're actually good at, like math.  Spare yourself the embarrassment, and don't write anymore."  Then she walked away, red tresses flowing behind her in the cryptic winds of the hallway.

My heart was in my shoes.  It was beneath my shoes.  It was dripping in rivulets down through the dirt to burn up in the core of the earth, never to be recovered.  I cried, right there and quietly through the rest of the day.  I swore off writing.  I packed up all the stories and ideas I was working on, clenched my jaw and gave up.

Less than a week later, the insomnia started.


  1. Wow, Medrick, that is an absolutely BRUTAL story and yet the redemption of the whole thing lies in the fact that you're writing about it, and writing it very well in fact!

    Writing as a competition like you described is absolutely destructive. I'm sorry you went through that as a kid, but funnily enough when you picked yourself up, dusted off the jeans, and kept trucking, THAT was when you truly became a writer.

    To be a writer is to be rejected and continue on. That is the definition in my mind.

    Great story!


  2. Wow! I can't believe that those people were so mean to you! That is terrible. The happy ending to the story was the way you explained it. And you did it fantastic! I go around reading a lot of indie author's blogs, and this has by far (IMHO) shown the most promise as a visual writer that I have seen! I mean, I can only pray that one day I can write sentences such as these:

    "My heart was in my shoes. It was beneath my shoes. It was dripping in rivulets down through the dirt to burn up in the core of the earth, never to be recovered."

    The world is a better place with your written words in it!

    Scrittore- Italian for writer

  3. @Aaron: Yes, bad teachers are incredibly destructive to children. I think the competition aspect of it would have been fine. I could have lived with myself if my teacher hadn't come down on me.

    @Melissa: First off, I worked 10.5 hours yesterday and was dead tired and a little discouraged when I got home. Your comment lifted me right up and put a smile on my face. Thanks so much!!!