A Taste of Independence

I think the first time I felt independent was when I finally got my driver’s license. It took me a while to go to the DMV to actually get it because I was so afraid I would fail. When I finally did take my road test, the guy with the clipboard in the passenger seat did not help. He wanted me to pretend that I was parking going downward on a hill when we were actually heading up a hill. When I moved the wheels the wrong way, at least he didn’t mark it against me!

The first summer I had my driver’s license, my aunt let me borrow her silver Cadillac. My sister, cousin and I bounced into the car. We were going to the movies. As we drove, our arms loosely draped out of the open windows, we turned the radio up and sang along at the top of our voices.

Highway to the Danger Zone.

We were going to see the best summer movie EVER.

I feel the need…the need for speed!

That’s right. We were going to see Top Gun.

While the silver Cadillac didn’t accelerate using g-forces, that sense of freedom on a warm summer night was exhilarating. Sometimes being the oldest child in the family is awesome!

Sometimes, though, being the oldest child is also scary. I was the first to go away to college. I loved being away from home…and hated it. Those first few months were really hard. It was before cell phones and email, so I had to call my family collect. Will you accept the charges?

I don’t remember why, but I guess I thought I had to be independent and I held off calling my parents for 9 weeks. I was busy after all, hanging out with my new friends 24 hours a day, taking classes, doing homework, and going to the student union. We did send real letters to each other (you can read some of them here). When I finally heard my mom and dad’s voice on the phone, however, I remember feeling so happy and yet missed them so much that I burst into tears!

Independence; sometimes exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking.

When do you remember feeling independent?

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A Sensory View of Writing

That summer, the girl sitting next to me wore a “Frankie Say Relax” shirt quite often. We both sat behind large, green electric typewriters, learning how to touch type. If we made mistakes, we had self-correcting tape which left an obvious white mark on our papers. Learning how to type was very frustrating; it was much easier to just pick up a pen and WRITE.

Just a couple of years later I headed to college, my typing skills much improved. I was the proud owner of a slick Smith-Corona typewriter. It still left white correction marks on my paper, but the keyboard typed much more smoothly than the green clunker in that high school classroom did. That typewriter helped me hand in many papers on time; that typewriter helped my GPA. In just a couple of years typewriters became outdated, and I spent time in the computer lab using WordPerfect for my papers.

There’s something about getting the words down on paper; something about typing on a keyboard and seeing those black squiggles on a white background.

Later on, about a year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in a funk. I needed to climb out of my cancer-brought-on depression, so I went back to basics. I bought a journal and began to write a gratitude journal. This writing was not for a teacher; no grades would be assigned–I just wrote. Writing was hard at first. Finding things to be grateful for was more difficult than I imagined. Sometimes it was that bowl of ice cream I ate or a phone call from a friend. But the more I wrote, the more I kept on writing. My journals filled up with daily events.

The funny thing was, when my life became happier, I stopped writing. I was dating my husband, and my journals stop just about the time we were engaged. I had a wedding to plan, and a new job to find. I was so happy, but none of that happiness made it into my journal.

It wasn’t until I discovered the world of blogging that I began to write regularly again. This time, the tick-tapping of my fingertips was on my very own laptop. Back in college, I never dreamed I would own my very own computer…much less a computer that I could literally fit on my lap! Once again, I fell in love with filling up that white space with black squiggles.

So why in the world would I go back to pencil and paper?

Writing with a pencil is different than writing with a pen or a keyboard. The pencil makes a scritch-scratch noise as it writes. I feel the ragged friction as the tip presses across the paper. It is second nature to turn the pencil around and erase a mistake almost as soon as I make it. I can draw arrows, circle, underline. Writing with a pencil takes longer than typing does. It is more laborious, which makes the words more precious.

I also did something last week that I haven’t done since college; I wrote notes in a book. In a strange way, writing those notes made me feel more of a connection with the author; it was almost as though I was communicating with him. Communications he will never see, of course, but writing down my thoughts as I read made my reading a little more meaningful.

I love to write, not necessarily because I am filling up the page with words worth reading. It’s more a matter of the senses; seeing black on white; hearing the click-clack of the keyboard or feeling the scritch-scratch of the pencil; seeing paragraphs form and then having a sense of accomplishment.

What have you written lately?

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