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.
When 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.)
I’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.
So 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.
So 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,