My birthday has come and gone.  At least from your point of view as you read this.  It’s still to come from my point of view as I type it.  Which means we’re both time traveling in a way, and that’s awesome!  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I read a blog from A Penny for my Thoughts the other day that reminded of a few things.  As my birthday was approaching, another tradition of mine made this a pretty great opportunity to talk about two very key moments in my life.

12_19_13_DWhen I was about 8 years old, I saw my favorite movie for the first time.  Krull is the story of a man who must rescue his princess from a mountain castle that moves each time the sun rises.  I often say if anyone wants to understand me, watch that movie (and another I’ll mention briefly below).  It explains everything from my fear of spiders to my affinity for fiction.  It was quite formative for me as I think back.

I recently shared a video on Facebook talking about the Top 10 Fantasy Movie Weapons.  The cool weapon in my favorite movie was number eight.  I watch this movie and Valley of the Wind every year on my birthday.  It’s my way of feeling like a kid again.  So let me go back to those days…

As a boy, watching what has been my favorite movie ever since, I sat crying as my favorite character dies.  My biodad wasn’t a nice person in any stretch of the imagination.  He gave me a scoffing laugh and said, “If you don’t like it, write something better.”

You see, in my family, we don’t take kindly to challenges.  I had “small kid” syndrome, “picked on” syndrome, and a huge case of the ego, so when he threw down the gauntlet.  I picked it up.  I marched into the dining room, sat down and scribbled away some 10-plus pages of a sequel that explained how my favorite character did not, in fact, die.  I did not know what copyright infringement was.  I will of course also take full credit for creating the genre known as fan fiction.  You’re welcome.  (*Note…I probably didn’t invent fan fiction, but who can blame a guy for trying?)

(NOTE:  The years start to blend together.  I’m pretty sure this all happened my freshman year in high school, but there is a chance it happened in junior high.  I’m fairly certain it was high school, but in the interest of honesty and integrity, I felt the need to disclose that fact.  Aside from what year of school I was in, this story is accurate.)

scribbling-152216_960_720I’ve been writing ever since.  I didn’t finish that sequel.  But I fell in love with storytelling.  It also gave me a love for attention.  Well, if I’m being completely honest with you, I’ve always loved the spotlight.  Which brings me to my Freshman year of High School.

I’m a proud graduate of Yuma High School.  I was number 35 on the football team, and let me tell you I single handedly kept the bench from harming any of the other players!  That first year though was quite an experience for me.  I was egotistical, arrogant and still getting over some adjustments in my life.  I was a little shit.  I actually planned out a series of skits and pranks to take over class.  I once interrupted finals for the semester by pretending my left hand came alive to kill me.  I had not yet seen Evil Dead 2.  The next semester, my English teacher  tried to do a lesson on metaphor using Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I, of course, made it my mission in life to correct her on every account and pretty much just continued to make an ass of myself.

Evil-Dead-2-you-bastards-You-dirty-bastards-e1331538533608So the funny thing is that teacher had every right to do anything from give me detention to enforce stronger behavioral medications.  She didn’t do either of those things.  Despite the fact that I was indeed a trouble-making instigator, the records for both high school and junior high school say I was a model student.

I was so unruly, that this teacher put her faith in the other 20-something 14-year-old freshmen in the class more than one of me.  She’d stop class whenever I started, um, drawing attention to myself.  She’d take me for walks.  She’d ask about my day.  She’d ask how I was.  She invested in me.  Then she asked what I wanted.  I said I wanted to be a writer.  So she made me a deal.  If I kept my work and grades up (which was never a problem), I could write my first book during class, and she’d read it.

man-857943_960_720So there I was a kid crying out for help in all the wrong ways, and she heard me.  I’m such a horrible human being, I don’t even remember her name, but I’ll never forget she gave me a shot.  I never finished that book either, though I still actually have what I did write of it.  She gave fuel to a passion I’d already fired up to a substantial degree.

Not too many years later I’d become a substitute teacher.  I ran into that teacher’s husband while subbing at a local high school.  He knew me on site.  I apologized for being the worst human ever, and told him how much of an impact his wife had on me.

Now I’m a teacher.  I’m a writer.  Even better!  I teach about writing.  Those two events had such an impact on me.  At work, I tend to gravitate to those students who aren’t doing well.  I’m excited for those with high potential, but I want to be the guy who helps students who could make it, if only they had the same chance my teacher gave me those many years ago.  I write fantasy books because I want people to feel that same sense of wonder and I I feel every time I watch those two movies.

Life is funny in the way that it shapes a person.  I have a pretty sharp memory.  These are the ones that I tend to focus on.  One stokes that competitive fire in me.  The other memory refuels my passion to be patient and teach even when I have every right to punish.  Don’t let that fool you.  There are a great many MCs out in the Navy that will tell you how quick I am to hold people accountable.  That’s true.  I’ll never be as patient or understanding as that teacher of mine was.  Also, I teach young adults, not high school students.  I’d like to think, however, that even when I hold a student accountable, I still look to correct the issue.

I thought I’d share those little stories.  What moments helped shape who you are?  What people influenced you most in your life?  Don’t be afraid to share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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20 thoughts on “Origins: Two Moments That Changed My Life

  1. Thank you for sharing. I found this very interesting. A big moment that changed my life was probably when my 3rd grade English teacher encouraged me rather than punishing me when instead of writing my spelling words like I was supposed to in my notebook (homework as it were) I wrote short stories instead.

    It seems silly, but that is the short version. She definitely encouraged me to write often and was quite pleased I was writing short stories back then. It was hugely inspirational to the 3rd grader me at the time and something I still remember today.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I couldn’t agree more. Teachers don’t get paid enough. They are very critical in a child’s development. I think people underestimate the impact (positive or negative) a teacher can have on a students entire life.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love an origins story. The fact that it’s yours makes it even tastier! You have always been an inspiring instructor and seeing the impact you have on young military minds on Facebook makes it apparent you are still a powerhouse.

    “…I still actually have what I did write of it.” If one of us becomes a best seller, I want to see this book. Deal?

    “Okay Corey, deal!”

    Thanks bud. I knew you would see things my way. Seriously though, I really enjoyed reading this whole thing. Another layer of Matt has been peeled away.

    For me I was an only child, living on a 100 acre farm, in the middle of nowhere. Books, stories, comics, and word of mouth storytelling were my escape. I would synthesis the stories I consumed into my own versions and tell them to my parents as if they were fact. I spent my days in the woods beating briar patches with sticks pretending to be a knight and my evenings with a flashlight reading Tolkien, Lewis, Axler and Watterson.

    I would trace my Calvin & Hobbes books and rewrite all the dialogue. I then would show it to my parents and tell them I did it all freehand. They knew the truth, but they let me have the false glory. I also would take the different stories I read and lump pages together. Like literally. I would rip pages out of some books, find transitional pages that would work, and add pages from other books (my dad would get boxes of books from the library when they were getting rid of them, so we had surplus). These were my first Frankenstein creations. I thought I was super clever.

    I don’t think it was until maybe 5-7 grade (somewhere in there) that I wrote something anyone cared about. I wrote an essay about veterans for a memorial day competition held by the local VFW. I won a little scholarship, had to read it at a town parade thingy, and my parents were super proud. From then on, it didn’t matter if I was terrible at everything scholastic – “Corey is good at writing.” I guess that was my origin and first taste of “fame.”

    Thanks for sharing this Matt and sending me down memory lane. Happy birthday too, you sneaky devil.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the interest of honesty, my birthday was DAYS ago. I only mentioned it in regards to Krull.

      I can totally see you hacking away at a bush like a toddler Quixote. I’m glad you stopped by to share your story, too.

      I never canabalized books (couldn’t ever bring myself to hurt a book, at least not on purpose).

      I’m not sure of the impact I have on my students. I tend to find myself wishing I did more, but they’re out there succeeding, so that’s what matters.

      I’m glad to learn a thing or to about your younger days. I wonder how many of us have those days of imagination like that. I was constantly pretending I was an X-man. Even now when the Sandman is being stingy I imagine I’m fighting with Rand or flying my own dragon on Pern. I love going off in my imagination.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm, I guess my defining moment in was when I was very young. My dad was a sailor, away taking extra sea duty so we could stay in the Hampton Roads area and not move around as much as other military brats did. I was assigned a mentor, a sailor who volunteered at the local elementary school to be there for boys who were geographically fatherless. In one of our outings, and I can’t remember where we were or what we were doing, I asked him why the ‘government’ and the ‘navy’ had to take my dad away. He looked at me, taking an elementary school boy way more seriously than he deserved, and told me my dad was away protecting his family and his country from ‘bad guys.’ He kept it age appropriate and avoided larger discussions on geopolitical concepts I couldn’t possibly understand. I followed that with the predictable ‘why me’ question, demanding he tell me why it had to be MY dad. He was gentle, I remember that, and asked a question in reply. Who knew the US Navy were fans of the Socratic Method? He asked me “if not your daddy, arguably one of the best mechanics in the world (because every boy should think of their fathers as gods among men), then whom should we send?” I didn’t hesitate, I answered “send me” because I knew if Dad was home my mom and sisters wouldn’t be sad. That mantra haunted me, followed me throughout my life. When 9-11 happened, I volunteered to go. I wrote the poor fools in the Pentagons office that handled unit assignments and deployment orders every day requesting to deploy. They finally sent my commander a cease and desist order, but I never did. Ultimately it bore fruit and I did two tours in Mesopotamia. When I was given the chance to go home early, I couldn’t do it. If I left, abandoning the fire team I was responsible for, who would take my place? Would that sergeant be as good as me? Would he care as much about them, their families, their ambitions? Could he bring them all home? Instead I extended, my gun truck crew Charlie Miked (Continued the Mission) and most of us made it home more or less in one piece. When I was being medically discharged a crusty old Sergeant Major was going throw my records and asked me why I’d extended since it was during this period that I was hurt enough to be finally declared medically unfit for continued service. I didn’t even have to think of my answer, “if not me, then who?” I know the sailor wasn’t a teacher in the strictest sense, and I couldn’t even tell you his name, but I know that at that moment the course of my life changed. Was it for the better? I guess it depends on whom you ask, but my mom certainly wasn’t thrilled with the two years I spent puttering around in a war zone. But for me, I knew I would never have to tell my grandkids that when America called I chose to shovel shit in Louisiana. (Patton was a god among generals)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think most service members have that “Country Before Self” concept of the world. I know I do. I never want someone to have to serve because I didn’t. That’s honestly a beautiful story. Let me thank you for that service. My time was a little later in life, but I’m grateful every day for those who chose to serve before, alongside, and after me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true, when people tell me I’m a hero for getting wounded in Iraq I have to correct them. I’m not a hero, but I served with a few. As writers, we know words matter and somehow our society waters down the good ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Another defining moment for me came in high school, in a history class. I was taking AP American History and it was the first day of school. The class was filled with your neurotic type-a academics who lived and died by three letters, GPA. When the teacher was late coming in, we got worried… we’d all been screwed by a hiring dispute that ended with our AP Psychology class going the first four weeks without a teacher (*relax, we had substitutes*) which set us behind in the rush to prepare for the AP Exam. If we passed this test, we got college credit for our high school class. We didn’t want a repeat of that, so we were on edge. Suddenly, the teacher ran into the classroom screaming like a loon. He swung from the overhead projector screen and jumped on his desk and danced a jig. Yes, a by-god Irish jig. He was wearing grey Nike sneakers, khaki slacks, a grey polo shirt with a Nike logo and sunglasses. Suddenly, in mid yell, he stopped as calmly as if he was in church and told us to write what had just happened. When we were done he had us read our reports to the class. The same event, told 24 ways. All of them were so divergent from one another that they couldn’t possibly be the same event. The less on we took from this was how your perspective could impact everything. When did you wake up and pay attention? What angle did you see him from? Where you in the front of the class (*I was*) and able to see the logos or in the back and making assumptions about what the brands might be? He was known for his love of all things Aeropostale, so many students just assumed that was his attire that day as well. He gave me a love of history, of telling stories that include multiple perspectives (POVs) which irk my editor to no end and showed us the dangers of assumptions. I still remembered those lessons when I do research on historic events or watch/read the news, it is the curse of being able to see both sides.

    PS: Sorry for writing a novel twice on your thread…. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never be sorry for contributing to a great discussion. I’d be happy if everyone shared their origin stories. It’s how we gain a better understanding of the world.

      I constantly like to do little things in my class to shake things up. I recently did a Tapeman performance to show my students that communication doesn’t equal talking. So talk away, man; I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your teacher is awesome! And you’re awesome too 🙂 I think next to parents, educators are the most important people in our lives, yet somehow there’s very low entry requirements for such a job (at least in my country) and lots of nasty teachers influencing kids.

    As far as I could remember, I always had the urge to tell stories and create worlds. I mean, I never played World of Warcraft but I read the history. But I always had the idea that writing is not worth pursuing, because it’s an unstable business and even if you do publish something, it’s not often that you can live off your royalty checks.

    And then I watched a short video of Brandon Sanderson. He talks about how he had a crisis after writing twelve novels that where rejected by publishers. He wondered if he would be okay if on his death bed, he had a hundred unsold books in his closet. That simple thought inspired me. So I decided to take writing as a hobby. Publishing is on the edge of my mind for sure, but I decided to readjust my perception of writing “success”. As long as I was able to tell the stories I wanted to, I would be one happy fellow.

    So I’m a writer now. An unpublished one but a happy one. I try my best to hone my writing skills and I think I still suck after three years at it, but I’m finally writing down the stories I want to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always seen distinctions. I’ve been a writer for years now. I’ve been a published author for almost two years. Will I ever be successful? I don’t know. The game is, you keep fighting for what you want. If I die and go to the pearly gates, and I ask, “Why didn’t I ever make it on the NYT Best Seller list?” If he answers, “It wasn’t meant to be.” I can take that. I could accept God himself saying I’m not meant to be a best seller. But I’d have regrets if I were in the same scenario, and Peter, or Paul, or whoever monitors the gate says, “Dude! You were supposed to be the best selling author ever! But you quit after only 12 books!” You fight until you die. You fight for everything you believe in until you’re ready to quit, or God calls you home.

      If writing makes you happy, you don’t need that other stress. That’s a good plan.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good way of putting it. Ultimately, I think every individual has their limits, how they confront their limits will differ. Personally, I might never fight to get a book published, but I’ll keep writing until they nail shut my coffin 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Isn’t it amazing how you remember those that touched your life when you least expected it and what a big impact they left behind. I’m glad and honored my blog allowed you to walk down that memory lane. 🙂 TY for the reference too. As for holding your students accountable, that’s a sign of a good teacher! Someone who doesn’t just let their students become what is referred to as “also ran”. Even young adults such as the ones you educate want to have someone to look up to and guide them. TY for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure how many of them look up to me. I’m more worried about them having everything they need for the course and the next five years of their lives. The Navy can be a real challenge, and I take being one of those to set them on the path seriously. I knew the moment I read your blog that I’d be posting my story soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hopefully in time they will. Who knows, maybe 10 years down the line, they might be writing a similar blog. 🙂 You are doing must justice to your job as a teacher by being the best one. The rest is a bonus!

        Liked by 1 person

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