The Things I Used To Long For

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I wrote an essay in 2002 for an English class at Pierce College. It was the complete opposite of what I was “supposed” to do for the assignment. The assignment was to put an image to what we felt in regard to any piece we’d read over the course of the semester, I believe. Being that I didn’t follow the directions, I don’t remember the details exactly. What I do remember was the look on my professor’s face when I showed her that I hadn’t exactly been following the assignment.

See, this was the final assignment. We were to present during the last class before the final, so in order to make sure we were on track with our assignment, the professor had us check in with her at the half-way point between giving us the assignment and when it was due.

I read and reread and reread again Alice Walker‘s The Place Where I Was Born. I knew from the moment the assignment was given I would present my piece on this body of work. I didn’t know how to create the image I formed in my head as I read through the words, the soul, the spirit of Walker’s essay/poem. I only knew how to write.

I sat down at my coffee table, pen in hand and scribbled on the page. My thoughts were coming so fast, I could hardly get the words down before the next wave would come. I misspelled words, left words out, wrote illegibly, and felt myself flowing from body to hand to pen to paper. And then a tear dropped on the page. I didn’t realized I’d begun to cry. I gave no pause and continued until all the words that wanted to be heard came out.

I took those two hand written pages into my professor at check-in time. Palms sweaty, heart pounding, I set the pages on her desk. I began with something like, I know this isn’t what the assignment was, but I didn’t know what else to do. She read the two pages and set them down. She looked across her desk at me and said something to the effect of: I don’t care what the assignment is, you have to finish this, this is beautiful.

I was shocked. I hadn’t followed the assignment. And what I did was beautiful. And she wanted me to finish it. So I did. I got an A on that paper. When my professor gave it back to me, she did so with a note that suggested I submit it for publishing, and included a list of submission opportunities that might be interested in my essay.

I submitted the piece to one online publication. It was accepted and published with some minor edits. The site it was published on no longer exists, which makes me sad. But remembering my first published piece makes me proud.

What makes me proud about it is that it was me. All me. Only me. What poured out onto the page was the inside of my soul, and she’d been screaming to get out. With that piece and the process I went through in writing it, I learned that writing really isn’t so difficult. I just have to remember to be raw. This is the same in life.

We’re at our best when we’re raw and unfiltered. When you can let out your soul, let her run free, be it on a page or a canvas or through a lens or a spoken word or a song…when you let her be herself, you rise to the beauty of who you are meant to be.

If you find yourself following the rules just for the sake of following the rules, ask yourself what you’d do if there were no rules. And then allow yourself to release yourself from those rules, one at a time. You know what you’ll find? YAY! That would be… Your Authentic You.

What one rule are you willing to throw out the window today?

Oh, and if you don’t want to do it on your own, I can help. You deserve your authentic you. And she deserves you, too.

You can read my original essay, The Things I Used to Long For, on my writing site.

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Arleen Armantage January.29.2010 at 8.19 am

So beautifully said! Thank you for sharing and inspiring, and do keep writing! (Bravo for your professor, as well!)

Arleen Armantage January.29.2010 at 8.19 am

So beautifully said! Thank you for sharing and inspiring, and do keep writing! (Bravo for your professor, as well!)

Arleen Armantage January.29.2010 at 8.19 am

So beautifully said! Thank you for sharing and inspiring, and do keep writing! (Bravo for your professor, as well!)

Arleen Armantage January.29.2010 at 8.19 am

So beautifully said! Thank you for sharing and inspiring, and do keep writing! (Bravo for your professor, as well!)

lemead January.29.2010 at 5.31 pm

This is so wonderful, and so true. If only I could summon more often the courage to do what you did, to lay my soul bare … that ability to do that comes and goes, flickering with its impermanence, pernicious in its randomness. At least for me.
I'm off to read your essay now.

emma January.29.2010 at 6.35 pm

I say YAY, YAY, YAY! Well said, and so true!

Dian Reid January.29.2010 at 10.12 pm

Thanks, Arleen =)

Dian Reid January.29.2010 at 10.13 pm

I tend to be in awe of myself when I'm able to do this…it's less than I'd like it to be, but I'm finding that with mindful practice I get better and better at it all the time =)

Dian Reid January.29.2010 at 10.14 pm

Yay for YAY!!

whollyjeanne January.31.2010 at 12.41 am

well, you know what i've always said: know the rules so you can break them intelligently. i agree wholeheartedly – when we turn our soul out and give it free rein, scary as that is, that's when we create something we're proud of and others relate to.

AlanaSheeren January.31.2010 at 5.52 am

This is lovely. I am someone who lived to please those that made the rules (or at least told us what they were). I have spent too many years stifling the voice of my soul in order to color within the lines. I'm in recovery – but will remember to ask more often what I would do if there were no rules. I always amaze myself when I break them too. Yes – Yay for YAY!

laurengroveman February.1.2010 at 2.50 am

Dian, you so beautifully illustrated the pivital moments, for all of us, as potentially creative beings. So often, when we get “assignments” (be they internally or externally based) we become filled with worry: the desire to (and fear of not) measuring up, of fulfilling expecations (both, our own and those that we percieve others have of us). When you sat down with your pen and paper–filled with both, the uneasy feeling of “un-knowingness” and yet the overwhelming determination to let your internal light shine, you stumbled on one of the greatest secrets to human growth and happiness: When we choose to push past fears (new or habitual), we continue to gain deeper access to our greatest treasure; our authentic truth. Thank you, Dian, for sharing yourself so honestly and beautifully.

Square-Peg Karen February.2.2010 at 7.48 pm

this line: “We’re at our best when we’re raw and unfiltered.” Could we have that tattoed on the world? OH!

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