• Shea Kropiwnicki

Brave Enough to Set Sail

It was October.

I was nine years old.

Fourth grade.

Mrs. Dillard’s class.

A contest was being held throughout my grade level where students were tasked with writing a persuasion piece on the upcoming Fall Festival. Being the aspiring teacher’s pet with a competitive spirit, I wrote with all my nine year old brainpower about the delectable treats, the unrivaled entertainment, and the sheer jubilee of spending time with family and friends at school on a Saturday morning. Even my alluring illustrations of witches, jack-o-lanterns, and candy would have put the party-pooping Eeyores in a festive mood. Roll out the red carpet because I just knew I’d be catwalking that commercial-grade carpet, through those beaming aluminum desks, and right up to Mrs. Dillard to receive what was rightfully mine.

Speech, speech, speech, speech!

I felt so confident until I walked down the tiled hallway and caught sight of the first place ribbon hanging on the tack of someone else’s poster. I was bewildered. I remember Mrs. Dillard reading the winning writing out loud to our class. As the words reached my ears, I realized she had made no mistake. I had been defeated. And I knew it. The way in which Diana Salvatore wrote her essay made me want to cancel my whole life and do nothing but attend Canongate Elementary’s Fall Festivals until my dying day. It was good. Not just fourth-grade-good. Like really actually good.

From then on, I never considered myself a writer. I never talked about it. I only occasionally thought about it. And I surely did it in secret if at all. My peer was better than me, which led me to the conclusion that she was one thing, and I was not. It wasn’t as if my teacher or Diana Salvatore had purposely taken the wind out of my sails. It was that I subconsciously beached myself because she was a better sailor. Dry land was safe, and I wasn’t brave enough to test the writing waters again.

It has been two decades since Mrs. Dillard was my teacher.

I’m not on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I haven't authored a book. And I certainly don’t walk around introducing myself as a writer.

But I am a writer.

I like to write.

I really like to write.

I like reaching for the keyboard, feeling the subtle bumps on f and j, and clicking out all the thoughts in my head. I like sitting down way past my bedtime and thinking about bigger things than doing laundry. I like persuading people that plain ole ordinary life with laundry is actually something extraordinary. I like that letters turn into words, and I like how thoughts are made from those words, and I like that thoughts turn into actions all because of f and j.

Occasionally I still think that life is a contest where adults are tasked with persuading others that they’re good enough. I wonder if I am a good enough writer to share it with others. But I don’t have to be good enough. I don’t have to be better than anyone else to be a writer because we all have different stories to tell. I just have to be brave enough to tell mine.

It is June.

I am thirty years old.

And I am a writer.

I may not be Christopher Columbus, but I’m brave enough to set sail.

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