In 1986, there were three things I loved – my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Cronin and her creative writing class, Edward Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure books and Young Talent Time.
As a sprightly 9 year old, I loved the creative freedom Mrs Cronin provided in her class. I have no idea how many times a week we had creative writing. Nor do I remember how long the class lasted for.
But what I do remember is her brightly coloured clip-on parrot earrings and her endless encouragement and enthusiasm for my first feature length story about important things in a 9 year-olds life – aliens.
I remember the extra time she spent with me. I remember how she encouraged me to use more full stops and less of the conjunctive adverb “then.”
She was the reason I wanted to become a journalist and those early words of encouragement provided focus right up until my second year of a Bachelor in Communications, when I realised I couldn’t write whatever I wanted. It would always be up to the “editor’s discretion”.
Fast forward twenty five years and my career trajectory couldn’t be further from the fertile creative training ground I was provided. There were also no ballet or jazz eisteddfods, I don’t think the bump & grind after several vodka & oranges at 2am count.
There was no creative writing, my distraught scribbles into a diary were never the best example of grammar, and in fact I was being crafted into a rather effective policy and project manager. The power of plain English. With no room for fluff.
But when the leaky bucket fell apart, I started to reassess what I was doing and had to determine what I actually enjoyed; my memories of Mrs Cronin came flooding.
It was a time in my life where I thought I could do anything. When I was encouraged to try anything. Where a mistake meant I could pull out the rubber and fix it. Where I has time to sharpen the HB pencil and think about the next twist in my plot. I would have done anything for Mrs Cronin.
Thankfully the emergence of social media and blogging has reignited the spark. Anyone can write, everyone has a story, even if you’re not that confident.
For me, the opportunity to write provides healing and joy.
I feel like I’m nine again, without a care in the world.
Looking back I wonder whatever happened to that creative streak. The joy from dancing in sequins, fishnet stockings and $2 Kmart makeup caked up. The hours I spent pouring through each Choose Your Own Adventure book from cover to cover, with all the options explored.
Did it disappear? Was it simply a phase? Had I found more something I was better at? Or did the encouragement stop?
The real question is, does it matter?
I’ve spent so long trying to answer questions – reflect, reject, regurgitate. There are many questions that remain unanswered, particularly when trying to manage the auto-immune rollercoaster, and valiantly searching for answers doesn’t always provide reassurance or peace. It really doesn’t make me feel any better or more satisfied.
But this is what I do know. The power of encouragement.
Whether you’re nine or forty-nine. Whether you’re the giver or the recipient.
The power of self-belief and self-confidence. And the pleasure of reconnecting with joy.
In 1986, Mrs Cronin provided a spark that although temporarily shelved, has been reignited. She taught me that to be good at anything it takes time, trial and a good rubber.
And I’m also pretty sure she let me look over her shoulder to win the Year 4 spelling bee champion, when I was on a tie-breaker. Encouragement of a different sort.
So thank you Mrs Cronin, and thank you to all that provide encouragement, that light a spark. Even if you don’t realise it.
Because whether you’re teaching someone their first letters of an alphabet, or cheering for your loved ones on the sidelines. Your gift is tremendously powerful and rarely forgotten.
So tell me, who was the first who encouraged you to believe?