"This is really, really..." At that moment I stopped listening to my professor and began hearing in my head, "Wonderful! Brilliant! I love your perspective of Hamlet as he wades between the recurring theme of damnation and redemption. Well done! Do you mind if I keep this in my file to show future students?"
But, as he cleared his throat, I came back to the present moment and heard, "...really, really bad. Perhaps the worst paper I've read all day." He removed his glasses and began rubbing his eyes in frustration. I sat there and started to chuckle, thinking he was kidding...but the look on his face and the slight pulsing from the vein in his balding forehead said otherwise.
My smile faded as my ego deflated like the air leaking from an oversized balloon. I nervously picked at the fibers of the worn blue office chair I was sitting in. I was only days away from graduation, and my professor was telling me how my dissertation totally stunk to high heaven. I just spent four years in the English department with high-hopes of becoming a technical writer, moonlighting on the side as a novelist. At this rate, I wasn't going to be shopping a book anytime soon. I was told I couldn't cut it. It was my style, my topic, everything.
He gave me a passing grade, and I graduated, but my self-esteem took a major hit. He was right. Looking back, that dissertation didn't necessarily fit the mold of what was coming out of the English department. Some students seemed to write at a level on par with brainiacs I couldn't even touch.
After graduation, I worked a few years as a mediocre grant writer and did a few brochures and newsletters for a company in KC, but my heart just wasn't in it. I lost my passion. I packed away my journals along with my goals. I completely lost my confidence and began taking different career paths. It was a little late to be rediscovering myself, but there was no way I was going to write again, let alone allow others to read my writing.
A couple of years ago, my husband asked me, "What's your passion? What do you really love to do?" I couldn't answer him. It used to be writing. But I didn't feel that was an option for me any longer. He encouraged me to begin journaling again, just as a way to feel more connected to God during my quiet time. I dug out my dusty journals from a box in the basement, and slowly eeked out a couple of paragraphs here and there. After a while, it seemed like everything was coming back to me. The words began to pour out of me and onto the pages of the tattered journal. It felt comfortable. Familiar. Fun.
I wasn't writing earth shattering literature...I was keeping it simple and writing about life. What I knew. Then, I did something that was a huge stretch for me. I started to blog. I knew no one outside of family and a few friends would read it, so it was just a little spot out on the Internet to make my journal come alive, and document all the craziness of being a parent. It was fun and freeing, and a place to capture all of my swirling thoughts.
Selfishly, I suppose I blog for myself. It's a place for me to practice being open and writing what's on my heart and mind. I don't have a 'blog theme'. I'm not a crafter, or a photographer (as you can obviously see by my subpar camera skills), or a fashionista or foodie blogger (though I do eat food). It's my journal that I hesitantly open, and then turn my head and hide my eyes so I won't see anyone reading it. Some posts may be good, and others are just horrible and I think to myself, "I can't believe I posted that!" And, try as I may, sometimes my grammar and punctuation is atrocious (like my overuse of ellipses...). But, I've made a promise to myself, that the goal is to 'just post.' To keep writing, and writing, and writing, because I love it.
If 32-year-old Nikki could go back and pep-talk 22-year-old Nikki, I would ask, "Why are you so quick to throw in the towel? Why does one critique negate all your writing efforts?" I would venture to ask, "What are your dreams? Goals? What is that little thing you love to do, but you keep burying it, because you don't think you're good enough, talented enough, or smart enough? Get out of your comfort zone and do it...pass or fail."
Now, this is not where I step up to the microphone, give it a good tap and declare that I am biting the bullet, 'going pro', and releasing a book. Not even close. Sharing this story is simply a reminder to myself (and maybe you) that God has given each of us something that He wants us to use to give Him glory. In doing what we love, we may stumble, fall, flub, or even fail. It's not about me, or whether I receive accolades, or pats on the back, but rather, using the talents and gifts to point back to Him and give Him the glory.
Why do we do the things we do? Because it's our passion? Because it's who we are? Because it's what we love? My challenge to myself (and you if you'll let me) is to not scrap something you love (or avoid what God is calling you to be obedient in doing) because you think you will not succeed. Or for fear of not cutting it. It's less about your success and more about bringing glory to Him.