I thought I’d share a personal Throwback Thursday this week. My #TBT as it were, is a group photo of my grade 11 Journalism class at Centennial Sr. Secondary in Coquitlam BC from 1986.
This is where a great many enthusiastic students got their first taste of what being a writer was all about. I was just 15 in this photo.
At the time, I loved creative writing, much time was spent writing poetry and reading. I loved to dig into a project -- research and I became fast friends.
In a time where many things were uncertain in my life, somehow writing helped to make sense of everything. It was a part of me, and I couldn't imagine a time where it wouldn't be. Journalism and Band were the first two entries on my student form that year. I just couldn't wait to get started!
Oddly enough, I loved English, adored Creative Writing and Journalism, but English Lit was not my cup of tea. Why couldn't they just me the story in plain english without all the flowery prose? Ugh!
It wasn't until I moved to Ontario and attended my first Shakespeare Festival performance that I began to enjoy Shakespeare. I will always be grateful for those that made a very old man come to life before our eyes. To this day, it is my favourite way to enjoy Shakespeare.
I can still remember how excited I was to be chosen to attend an evening concert and interview an area band that had come to our school and done a show - They Melloyds they were called, an Acapella group. I was one of a hand full of students from area schools that had been given the opportunity to be able to go to their show and interview them afterwards. I don't think I'd ever been so nervous about anything in my entire life.
I was active on the yearbook committee and the school paper and had been learning to develop film, but even still was thrilled when our advisor let me take one of the school's big expensive cameras home for the occasion.
Going home that day I was beyond excited - Dad almost didn't let me go, he was so sure that I was up to some other shenanigans since school wouldn't send me out to a concert at night. LOL Dad -- always the worry-wart, always my protector. I didn't appreciate the humour in it then, but as a parent -- I totally get it. You just want to bubble wrap your kids and save them from everything -- including themselves.
It wasn't long before I declared that feature writing was my chosen spot. A step beyond the traditional 5W principle it gave a forgiving lattitude that resonated well with me. I was a chatterbox, even back then - I still hear Barry McDell's exasperated voice when he'd look at the length of my subsmissions and try to teach me about the fine art of brevity.. he had a tendancy to come down pretty hard on me, but in hindsight he was the first teacher I'd had that saw something in me that I hadn't yet seen in myself.
I knew way back then I wanted to write, but it took me a long time to find my voice; I guess there's a certain confidence in the whole process. Teenagers - the only time in your life when you are pretty sure you know everything, but in truth you don't really know anything. You're uncertain, you're fragile and you're scared to death -- but holy hannah you're not going to admit that to anyone!
In the end I think I discounted myself more than anyone else could have. In comparing myself to the perceived picture of everyone else, I set out on a course for mediocrity before I even set a foot out the door. It is true, we are our own worst enemy.
Even still it would be a great many years before I'd get past myself, and everything else and set the creative spark free in spite of the many trials and tribulations - some medical, some not, on the way to today.
A few of the faces in this photo are still very good friends, we'd actually talked about visiting the old office when I was in Vancouver a while back. There just wasn't enough time -- perhaps someday we'll get that chance.
I looked up Barry McDell a while back, I'd thought it would be fun to send him a copy of the new business cards I'd just received, listing me as an Associate Editor. Somewhat nerdy in hindsight, but it made me smile. I'd also sent a card to my Dad that day - a card that I found in plain view on his china cabinet when we were out at his place.
Among his last words to me, he told me that I was the best thing he'd ever done, and that seeing me with my teddybear did his heart good. He said he knew if anything happened to him, that I would be OK; and told me that James was a good man, and he knew I'd be taken care of. Then he laughed and said, you're MY kid - you'll take care of yourself. From a man whose praise often come only indirectly through others, those words resonated to the core of me. I will never forget them and will never stop being thankful that I got to hear them while he was still here to say them.
I will never forget how truly blessed I am, just to be here.
Thanks for joining me.