26 March 2017

Prompt 3 - A significant object

The keys to the world
In this, the third installment of 'What did I do in that writing class,' I share with you our third prompt of the day. Our instructor asked us to write about an object that had significant meaning in our lives. As soon as she uttered those words, I knew that I would be writing about my passport. I've written about what my passport means to me previously here in the Den. It has literally facilitated opening my eyes to the amazing world in which we live and I truly cherish it. Given that I'm about three more Tweets away from the Trump Regime yanking my passport, or at the very least making sure that when I come back from London in a couple of weeks that my welcome back shake down will make my colonoscopy seem like the tickle of a feather, I knew I needed to write about this little blue book. So I went with it - my passport:

In a quiet, darkened movie theater, a deep voice has the ability to transport you. "In a world," the disembodied voice somberly intones and you are instantly carried away to an adventure in a strange land, a crime spree from a time long since past, or into the agony of someone's heartache. From a young age, seeing that world that voice spoke about, that strange, faraway land, had always been a siren's call that I knew I would one day heed. A passport was going to be the lynchpin in that plan.

I have not been without a passport since my 15th birthday. Those little blue books, some bursting with colorful stamps and surly visa photos and others with just a few pages marked, have been my entry into a world far different than my own. My passport has allowed me into the home of a Turkish family in Istanbul, showing me the meaning of extending hospitality to a stranger. Through the permissions granted me by my passport, I have seen what it means to have hope in the face of nothing, watching the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India, work with those who have truly been downtrodden. My passport has introduced me to the joy that is the laughter of Filipino children as they dash through the traffic-choked streets of Manila. It has also shown me darker things, like the toxic impact of Western culture on Bangkok, Thailand.

There is so much beyond our own neighborhoods. There is so much to see and enjoy in this world. With my passport, I have seen the inherent goodness of people no matter where I've been in the world. That goodness gives me hope.

If it seems like that came to an abrupt halt, it did. Such is the nature of being given a limited amount of time to craft a brief personal essay. This is one I'd like to continue to refine as seeing this world has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Get out there, if you can. This world is still an amazing place.

18 March 2017

Prompt 2 - First Time In Your Life

In another installment of 'What did I do in that writing class,' I'll share the second prompt and what I wrote that day. For our second prompt, we were asked to write about the first time we experienced something in our lives. I was initially tempted to write about what it's like to live under the pseudo-authoritarian regime of a thin-skinned, mysogynistic megalomaniac and Grade A pathological liar but that seemed too fantastical, too unbelievable and this was a course in non-fiction writing (and yet here we are in Trumplandia, but I digress). So I went with something I know - on becoming a dad for the first time:

I became a father for the first time 27 years ago. I was young, some would argue that we were too young to become parents. We were barely out from under our own parents' roofs. The thought of becoming a father, though, was mostly exhilarating, until the day of our daughter's birth. It suddenly became an all-consuming terror. As my wife labored to deliver our daughter that day, I was filled with an overwhelming paralyzing fear, with questions assaulting me at every moment. The pain I was feeling had to be on par with the pain that gripped my wife with each contraction. It wasn't. But doubt plagued me with each of those contractions. How could I care and provide for this little girl who was about to be born when previously one of the most pressing questions in my life had been collar up or down? How would I handle this? How was I going to care for her needs?

Once she arrived, the nurse placed my daughter into my trembling arms. I took in a long, deep breath and looked into her tiny eyes. I, for better or worse, was one of the first people she was seeing. I wanted her to know she was in good hands. As I looked into her eyes with a growing sense of awe, something in me snapped me into our new reality. I touched her little hand and said, "Hi. I'm your dad. And we're going to figure this out all together." That's been my unspoken motto as a dad ever since. 27 years later and two more children, I'd like to think I've figured a few things out about being a dad. It's still a work in progress.

I don't think I've ever been more scared of anything in my life than I was the day I became a dad for the first time. Writing about it a few weeks ago brought back a flood of feelings - fear, awe, excitement, terror, joy. The funny thing is that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.


12 March 2017

Prompt 1 - Your Name

I recently wrote about my first class in writing in many years. Since that post though, I've been reading more than I've been writing. Rereading George Orwell's "1984' in our current political dumpster fire, regime, environment has me transfixed, wound up, and terrified all at once, which is never a good mix.

Taking a break from Orwell's eerily prophetic and unsettling writing, I've been reviewing my notes from that class and the things I wrote that day. For better or worse, over the course of the next few posts here in the Den, I'm going to share them with you.

In the first few minutes of the class, we were given our first writing assignment. As we would quickly learn, each assignment that day would come in the form of a prompt. These prompts were meant to kick start our thinking and writing. Our first prompt that day was to write about our name - first, middle, last, or nickname. I chose my middle name and here's what happened when I put pen to paper:

Wade is my middle name. I'm named for my mother's family. My grandfather, Mac Wade, was a sheriff straight out of an old Hollywood studio's central casting office. He was also a legendary story teller. The stories he told at one point must have been true but as he aged and retold them time and again, details morphed. With each telling, some details became more fantastic, while others simply disappeared. No matter how they changed though, it was clear that that these stories meant something to him. With each story he told, he was teaching me about the power of personal stories. Our stories are who we are and our stories matter.

Writing these few sentences was simply exhilarating. They may not seem like much but I was sitting in a class with a dozen strangers, who like me, weren't quite certain about what lay in store that day. Would the writing stack up? What if I have to read this aloud? What if I can't think of anything to write? As that first prompt was given to us, I knew instantly what I would write about and I wasn't going to worry about my writing stacking up. I remembered what my late grandfather had taught me about stories. Stories matter. It was time to start sharing mine.