This morning, I went to another mentoring session with my K-8 school in Harlem. Because there was some misunderstanding with the kids regarding today’s session, most did not show up, resulting in approximately two mentors being paired up with one mentee for activities today. Another mentor and I sat with a girl as we discussed goal setting. She shared a notebook with us of a story she had begun to write. The story started with “Once upon a time…” and included some drawings.
As I’m looking at her writing and smiling at her misspellings, I suddenly remembered an “assignment” my mom would give me in my first few years of kindergarten through elementary school. When I first began writing, my mom encouraged me to read and write as much as possible. Because she worked full time, I wouldn’t see her until she’d come home from work around 6pm. At the beginning of the day, she’d walk me to school and drop me off, and she’d remind me about what she expected of me when she came home from work. She said that in my notebook, I had to write her a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and that she looked forward to reading it when she came back. When this first began, I literally would write silly things like, “Once upon a time, there was a girl with long pigtails. She had a cute dog she played with. And they lived happily ever after in the fields of roses.” Well, I guess I had to start somewhere. I was just 5 then. But as the years went on through the end of elementary school when I was 10, these writings would evolve into full blown stories with complicated plots and surprising endings, and the length would be in excess of ten to fifteen pages on 8″ x 11.5″ binder paper. In third grade, I started sharing these stories with my classmates and teacher, and during silent reading time, the kids would fight over my stapled binder paper stories. Once, a story got torn up in the fight. Our teacher had to get involved to stop it.
I guess this is where my love of writing began, and it’s also how I started developing these really long sentence structures that the average person never writes in. My sixth grade English teacher was the first person to say this to me, that I have a gift of expression and a gift of writing. How do you know when you are different or have any type of talent? Someone usually needs to point this out to you. Some idiot I once met told me that my sentences were run-ons because they were so long. I responded back that I don’t even know how to write a run-on sentence, and that there’s nothing “run-on” about my sentences; they are just complex, unlike him. I never even realized how different my writing was from the average person until around 6th grade, when I read someone else’s writing in a peer review. And I thought their sentences and general expression were crap and completely inferior to my own. I guess that’s also when I started becoming a more confident person. 🙂
What struck me during this mentoring session, though, was how after all this time, I had completely forgotten about this “assignment” my mom gave me. I had a weird moment looking over this girl’s notebook and remembering my past. I usually pride myself on remembering these types of details. “When I was your age,” I thought to myself, “I was writing crazy stories to entertain my class.”