Last summer, at residency, I met this woman. She came as an alum and shared her words and I laughed and laughed and cried and cried. She was a student in my program’s first class. She read from her application to the MFA program, which she had written 13 years prior. She called it a plea for life.
While she spoke, I scribbled down notes, my eyes blurring with tears. Here is my favorite part:
Eventually, to the surprise of many including the Groom and myself, I married—beginning that phase of life many women refer to as The Lost Years. As often happened to intelligent women of my generation I busied myself by robotically performing the duties expected of me whether they made sense or not. I said “yes”a lot; smiled, nodded in agreement, changed diapers, learned to cook,
learned to clean, WANTED to clean, learned to drive and transport kids and things and stuff, gained weight, hated suburbia, lost perspective.
I had no options. Write—or shrivel up and die.
After her speech, I went up to her. I am introvert who fears talking to strangers but this woman was so incredible, I had to know her. She told me she wished she had a magic wand to tap each student with while she said, “be honest.” I kept thinking of that last semester, while I wrote my letters to my daughter. This isn’t honest enough, I thought to myself, and I revised until snot poured from my nose and the honest things I didn’t say before found homes in words.
Last semester I got to know Tonie as we shared emails and FaceTimed about the website she made. She said, “Holly, I’m 76 years old. I never thought I’d make a website,” and yet she did it. She is the most amazing woman. When I started writing my thesis preface, I emailed her asking if I could quote her. Because when I went to write about what I’ve done these past two years, I realized I haven’t done that much on my own. It’s people who brought me this far. People like Tonie who helped me recognize my need to find my own voice.
It was my pleasure. I'm more than blessed by that chance meeting. Always know how much you mean to me and how you've helped me “become.”
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