Letter to Rose

Monday, December 20, 2010 5:12 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
Rose, your email came at just the right time!

Because here it is, a new year. And I’ve been at a loss. What can I possibly write that captures its essence? Everything “new year” has been written before. I have my doubts as to whether I can find a fresh angle to any of it. When you become a writer, you’ll understand this dilemma, I promise.

Your saying you read my work is the finest compliment, believe me. Sure, your mom and I know each other. Still, knowing her, knowing you, I infer no female in your home is deciding what the other female reads, period.

What I need to tell you, readers, is that Rose wants to be a writer. When she shared this information with her guidance counselor, she didn’t get quite the reaction she’d hoped for. In Rose’s words, “My counselor thinks I need a back up plan. But I really want to be a writer.”

Rose, trying to do the jigsaw of maturing is no easy feat. But, trust me, if you have already found work that makes you happy, a huge piece of you will not go missing. I will go so far as to say your passion for writing may turn out to be your truest friend in life. This might not be an easy thing to hear in your BGF world, but no friend, especially no boyfriend (doubly hard to hear, sorry), will be able to fill that place inside you that longs for so much. Only you can fill it. And writing will help.

I was thrown into a tizzy with all the remembering that came gushing up. See, in the seventh grade, I once called my Home-Ec teacher by my English teacher’s name and, humiliating me in front of my classmates, she yelled, “PAY ATTENTION, Mary Lou!”

I was mortified. I know how important names are. I’m just so bad at remembering them. But ask me anything, anything at all about what she was wearing, the ever-changing color of her hair, and I knew. I knew.

Even then, I could enumerate, interpret, elaborate. But retrieve someone’s name, I go blank. I soak up the visual but I’m resistant to names the way some people are to colds. In this area, I have what my mother would call “a strong constitution.” Until I get to know someone, I’m porous to their name. It leaves me.

Just think how much time I could have saved if my guidance counselor had picked up on my wordy, descriptive babbles (I had quite the reputation for them) and leaned me toward writing instead of laying the secretary/nurse option on pretty thick. Vulnerable me might have left high school with hey, I’m going to be a writer! Instead of a vague I have no clue how to fit in.

I look back at the two of us sitting face to face in her office trying to come up with what I should do, who I should be, with fifteen minutes for her to study my file, and all that she was able to help me with was…absolutely nothing, that’s what.

Here’s what she said to me: You can make more money as a secretary. But if you go to nursing school the benefits for your family are better.

Benefits? Family? Death to a seventeen year old.

She certainly said nothing that helped me perceive my peculiarities as the very traits a writer needs. Gradually, through the years, I learned this on my own. There are amazing guidance counselors, I’m sure of it. Just as I’m sure the word “guidance” affixes the word “counselor” for a good reason. But I knew, even then, that the woman before me was going to be of no help to me whatsoever.

High school, for me, bristles with so many of these memories.

Luckily, in time, all the lost little parts of me came together, together enough anyway (there are still plenty of holes), to make me see how I really had no choice about what I was meant to do in this world because I was already doing it.

Just as you are, Rose. And it’s terrific, isn’t it?

So keep following the swerving stretch of road onto the next page. And more than anything, insist on passion.

Mary Lou Sanelli

Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends. She is a featured speaker at the 2011 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. For more information, visit Mary Lou Sanelli’s website at www.marylousanelli.com
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