The words we say to each other are powerful. They can destroy the dreams and passions inside of us or nurture them to thrive.
Many people who know me know that I love to read, but not many people know that I also secretly wish to be a writer. But that desire was crushed one day in my 10th Grade Burmese class. My teacher was giving feedback to our stories and some of my friends were given very positive feedback. When it was my turn, she asked me to give her a glass of water. Then, in a dramatic way, she took a sip and started with a “positive feedback.” She said the story was interesting. But, it was not beautifully written. Sentences were too choppy that they ruined the whole story, and she felt like she was running a marathon after finishing my story. She said it while acting like she was running and trying to read my book and that made my friends laughed. I tried not to lose my cool in front of my friends by laughing with them. If you understand that Asian thing called “losing face”, I lost my face by her comment so I tried not to lose my face again by my reaction. I thought “Well-I-suck-at-writing-so-who-cares” attitude would help me not to lose face again; so I acted like I didn’t care. But, inside of me, my heart sank. Well, may be writing wasn’t for me.
But I still kept journaling and creating stories in my head. That’s why I could totally be in my room staring at the wall because I was making up stories inside of my head.
For college, I went to the States to study Elementary Education with the emphasis in English. For my emphasis, I had to take 4 classes in English studies. Since English is my second language, I couldn’t appreciate Shakespeare nor Chaucer. But, I totally enjoyed children’s literature, adolescent literature, and Africa American literature classes. For my fourth class to finish my major requirement, Creative writing sounded appealing but the fact that I’m not a native English speaker made me doubt. And I still couldn’t get over the comments I had from my Burmese teacher. If writing in Burmese, my native language, could make my teacher felt like running a marathon, writing in English, which is my second language, could make my professor probably feel like having a heart attack.
But I really liked the professor and I had taken a class with her before. She was a very cool, kind, and encouraging professor. And it would be my last chance to take the class as it was my senior year. So I took a big risk and decided to try out. I could always change the class or dropped out if it wasn’t for me.
First day of the class was hard as she gave us a prompt and asked to write a story right away. I wasn’t prepared for that and I felt out of place among all English and Journalism majors who were avid writers. I asked myself what I was doing with my limited English among all these sophisticated Shakespeare lovers and friends of Milton. Part of me wanted to drop out while part of me wanted to persevere and learn a thing or two about writing. Every time my feet led me to the Registrar’s office to drop the class, I saw Dr. Hurlow’s face, who was just so encouraging, that I had to U-turn and got myself distracted not to drop out of class.
Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy semester, but my professor was just so sweet and encouraging that at least I tried and put my best effort. For the final paper for the class, she actually dropped my graded paper off at my dorm with a comment “Zarni, this is fantastic! After polishing your story, you should publish it.” Dr. Hurlow had given me encouraging yet constructive feedback before. But, it was my first ever feedback that meant the world to me. I showed it to my roommate and asked “did she really mean it or was she just being so kind?” My roommate replied, “Dr. Hurlow is nice but why would she say it to you if she didn’t mean it.”
The truth was I already knew the answer; I just wanted to hear from another person. I didn’t try to publish that story as she suggested but that day Dr. Hurlow’s comment made my dead dream of wanting to be a writer alive again, and I will forever be thankful to her for that.
Of course I put my desire to write at the back of my mind again after I graduated and moved to Thailand to start my teaching job. I started this blog way back in 2009, but my inner low self esteem part made me questioned that who cares about what I have to say. Who’s gonna read my blogs? So why should I blog if no one reads? Then, there was another dilemma. What language do I use when I blog? Burmese or English??? Another sad reality hit me; I still don’t know how to type in Burmese on a computer keyboard until now. I tried once and it took me over an hour to type a few sentences. Again I wasn’t putting enough effort to learn how to type in Burmese. Is it possible? Absolutely! I just need to get rid of my excuses and find time to practice my typing skills in Burmese. So blogging in English, my second language, or in Burmese??? I thought…and thought, and thought some more…for 5 years!!!!!!
To my friends I often mention that when I retire as a teacher, I want to open a small cafe. Then I will start my writing. That’s my dream. While I still write on a regular basis on my own, I still contemplated about blogging. A few months ago, my friend Gloria casually mentioned that I should start a blog. I couldn’t remember what I responded to her, but in my head I cried out “that’s what I’ve been thinking for last 5 years.” And I just realized that I was stopping myself from doing what I wanted because I was afraid of what others might say…. That’s ridiculous! I need to stop it.
Shortly after that, I did! I had my first post!!! For 5 years I talked myself out of not blogging. I gave myself many excuses of why I shouldn’t blog but just waited for an “opportunity” to come.
Now I realized that I don’t need to wait for an opportunity to come because it was given to me a long time ago. Blogging is free! It’s also not about who read my blog or not. It’s about giving a chance for my stories to survive rather than keeping everything in my notebooks for only my eyes to see. I’m releasing all my thoughts that I’ve been holding on for many years. I feel free finally.
People may or may not read my blogs. People who read my blog might feel like running a marathon after reading. Well, if so, I’m giving you a big favor. Running is a good exercise anyway 🙂
But, I will continue to write because I want to and I can. No one stopped me from writing but I stopped myself from writing. But not anymore!
Do you also have dreams that you want to pursue? Let no one stop you, including yourself. Take a step and start chasing your dream today.