It is a good thing I hadn't found time to sit down and write a blog today, because I found something I had to write about almost instantly when I saw this image on tumblr this afternoon:
Did you know there was a time when I was all set to go to art school and become an art teacher? That I spent all but one year of my high school career trying to build a decent portfolio? Even then, senior year final project in painting class was a giant mural tile -- a map of Middle Earth.
This isn't by any means my life story. It just is part of the path I'm on, and paved the way to where I will eventually be.
When I was seven years old, my uncle gave me two books that he had. One was an old, battered copy of "The Hobbit" and the other was a copy of "The Silmarillion" with a cover that was ripping at the binding. He told me one day, they would be important to me. Turns out he was right. Eventually I did give him his copy of "The Silmarillion" back -- I was too young to really understand it. But I read "The Hobbit" so much, that by the end of that next year, my parents felt bad, or something. They replaced it with a boxed set of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit."
I began writing in those early years, and I think my parents and Grandpa still have some of the stories I wrote. I won a young author's award twice while in elementary school. Both for poems -- and how else would I have been introduced to poetry at such an age? Think about it. I once got my entire class involved in a story -- they were all characters. I'm sure some of the more mean girls weren't actually as thrilled as my close friends, but nevertheless, they couldn't be left out. I never stopped writing. My first art works were in relation to stories I had written -- they were my characters, only painted or drawn out.
As I moved through the tough year between being utterly unable to attend art school and getting into SUNY Oswego, I stopped with art. I stopped meditating. I barely glanced at my own altar, which had gotten shoved off into a corner to make room for the art supplies. I was depressed to the point where I barely enjoyed coffee. I would go through the robotic motion of getting up, going to work, coming home, eating, showering and sleeping, only to rinse and repeat. I didn't read. The worst of it was that I didn't write. Not a word for months. I was a shell of myself, looking down at her and screaming. Only my body wouldn't listen. She was listless, walking and talking -- maybe laughing her then-insincere laugh or smiling with that deadness in her eyes. She felt nothing. She was numb to the concerns of other people. Her feet hurt, and that was about it -- she was a cashier. A lowly cashier at the local grocery store, and that was all she would ever be ... even though I screamed down at her that she was more than that, she wouldn't listen. She felt stuck and couldn't see past that darkness -- not at first.
With some great effort I decided doing nothing was not enough for me. I remembered that I was bored -- that there was more in life I was missing. That I was probably destined for greater things at one point. That maybe my old ways weren't delusions of grandeur. I began reading "Lord of the Rings," (mostly because I knew the story well and could so easily lose myself in it,) and decided I should be remembering to meditate again. My after-work time ceased to be spent watching stupid television shows or scrolling aimlessly around the internet. The friends came back from college -- their words reminded me just how important I actually was -- how much the world needed me to be me. I came out my daze bit by bit and returned to my body, and applied to school -- and with my applications, I sent in the first poem I had written in so long. I applied not for Art, but for English. I wrote with shaking hands, but the words never left me. I hid them, but they didn't leave. So I wrote, and I read, and I kept my head above the water just a bit.
I got rejected from two colleges, (even though they responded to me before February,) and was starting to slip again back into hopelessness. My friends' winter breaks were over, and I was alone again. I was a number punched into a time clock -- and the only attention that was ever paid was if I went over fifteen minutes on my paid breaks or not. This was still during the time where I would look into the mirror and wish that it was all just a terrible nightmare. That I would wake up and be someone else who wasn't that fat or that ugly or that useless or that unimportant.
But in early March just after I had turned 19, Mom handed me a letter marked SUNY Oswego. I remember the day like it was yesterday -- not because of any one thing, but because I KNEW by day's end, that I had reached some sort of turning point. Something finally gave. So, I had just finished reading "The Two Towers" and was walking in to pull the next book off of my shelf. I sighed, because small letters usually meant a resounding "no" in terms of college. The acceptances always send along big packets. I felt my stomach twist up, and tears burn. At least there were tears there. Last time, I had only torn up the rejection and stormed away. But I opened Oswego's letter. And there it read "Welcome to [SUNY] Oswego! Congratulations Kathleen!" among other things on that heavy, off-white, important-looking paper, with the dark green ink -- and I remember my hand flying to my mouth as tears blurred my vision. I hugged my Mom, who wondered aloud if it was another rejection. When I told her it wasn't, she cried too. I was accepted, and finally, I was enough.
So things changed -- and I changed. I was reattached to my body and steered her in the right direction. It has taken years to recover from that rock bottom. It is one thing to say "I am a positive, optimistic person who believes in radical self-love" and quite another to exemplify it. I feel as though I have gotten so far in the nearly four years since that day. I got to college, and started working on my major -- and the words were still there. I wrote. But I never was serious about my artwork the same way I had been ever again -- and still, though I paint and draw on occasion, I shy away from that sort of expression in favor of writing. In my second semester of college, I added a Creative Writing major. A year later, I took an English class that centered around Tolkien's work. I still haven't given up, or backed away from this obstacle -- this "college thing." And I never will, not with how hard it was to get here to begin with.
I grew up with the imagination and reading skill of someone much older than me, I think. It started with "The Hobbit," of course. I can thank Tolkien for his work a million times, but he will never know the true extent and power of his words. In subtle ways, he can be thanked as the reason I grew up as well as I did. He can be thanked twice for inspiring my work that got me into college. He can be thanked time and again for inspiring work that I've written for those college classes. He can be thanked for using Norse Mythology in his works in such a noticeable fashion that even I was intrigued to research it, and thus change my perspective and pagan path just so. But most of all, I can thank him for writing no matter what was going on around him. He went through times where people were not on his side. Where his genre and work were all but scoffed. Where times were so tough that in order to continue his craft, he had to write in the trenches during WWI. Despite whatever darkness, he still managed to continue being creative. And I can't think of a reason why that isn't inspiring, even just a bit. Did he himself pull me out my of depression? No. I did that part. But reading and writing helped so much. And when I was a child, I read and wrote because of his work. I am on this path now because of his subtle heroics. Though I can type "thank you," or cry at images like the one above -- I can never thank him enough. Where would I be now if not for all of this?