This is a long one. Bear with me.
And because I’m me, this idea suddenly swelled up in my chest and took ahold of my imagination. I had to write it down, or else.
It was a TD Ameritrade commercial for the 2014 Winter Olympic games. It showed Olympian Patrick Deneen celebrating a win, then moving, backwards, skiing up a mountain, back through sloloms and up a hill during his first ski lesson. The tagline: “Behind every big moment, there are lots of small ones.” The hashtag: #itaddsup. (See the commercial here.)
Then I started thinking about what my small moments have been and daydreaming about what my crowning achievement will be. And I decided that for me, #itaddsup to writing.
I have no clue what I will do or where I will live. I can’t even promise that I will actually iron my clothes instead of trying to Febreze the wrinkles away. The only thing I am certain of is that I will write. No, I must write.
So how did my life add up to this? Let me share a few memories, some hazy with time, others crisp and new. It would be a cop out answer to say that I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I mean, I have, but I want to dig deep and specifically pinpoint the little moments.
My love affair with the newspaper began with Sunday comics. My family would always gather around the Sunday World-Herald before getting ready for church. I remember my mom explaining the jokes and my dad protectively curling a hand around his coffee cup which I was always precariously close to knocking over. (He still does this today. It annoys the heck out of me.)
As my reading skills increased, I started looking at the daily comics. “Fox Trot” and “Zits” were my favorites. Every breakfast became a battle with my sister over who got to read the syrup-stained pages first.
Then the newspaper became useful for news. (Who would have thought?) I remember my parents trying to explain ‘the bad guys,’ holding up the Kearney Hub, the front page covered with a huge picture of two buildings on fire. My sister didn’t really understand; she was young and too excited to go to Whiskey Creek for her birthday dinner. That was my first realization that the paper was about more than comic strips and Heloise’s household hints.
In the summer of 2002, it seemed to me that Kearney was mesmerized by the Tony Zappa trial. (Zappa kidnapped Anne Sluti, a 17-year-old Kearney resident, and led police on a statewide manhunt in the spring of 2001. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.) The Kearney Hub ran daily updates on the trial. I remember reading about Sluti’s testimony and being confused about what rape was. (Can you imagine a time when you didn’t know what rape was?)
The only other piece I distinctly remember reading was one of Rainbow Rowell’s columns. It was about a family that had its pet dog stuffed. The dog was arranged to look like it was sleeping. (I have literally spent hours searching the OWH archives for this piece with no avail. I even got advice from Ms. Rowell herself about how to find it. She does remember writing it, so I know I am not crazy.) I don’t even know how old I was when I read it. But I read that article at least three times. It shocked me. It made me laugh. It made me cringe to think about stuffing our own dog when she died. (For the record, Tess was not stuffed; she was cremated.)
This elusive column had a profound impact on me. It showed me that writing could be entertaining, like a book, and informative, like an article. It was an “Aha!” moment.
As I grew older, I kept up with the news and discovered more miracles of writing.
I read Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” and discovered the genre of non-fiction narrative reporting. Joel Stein’s “The Awesome Column” at the back of Time Magazine always made me laugh on the treadmill at the gym. Freshman year of college I would stay up late, annoying my roommate with the lamp while reading the NYTimes on my lofted bed. Their pictures of the toxic red sludge that flooded Hungary made me avoid ketchup for a week. Even now, the trio of Kelly, Grace and Hansen hold me captive in their stories.
In high school, I wanted to be a news anchor. People talked me out of it, saying I was “too smart” to be a journalist. What were they thinking? Journalists are some of the smartest people out there. They know a little bit about almost everything. They are masters of the English language. They search, dig, find and create.
I still buy the Sunday paper. Things are the same; I read the comics and peruse the Target ad. The only thing different is my crossword-completing abilities.
So here I am, standing at the top of the hill, with skis strapped to my feet and the finish line three months away. No matter what path I take, I know I will write. Maybe it will be for a paper, or maybe I will be composing tweets, or heck, maybe I will only write on this blog.
The future is scary, but it comforts me to look back and see all of the little moments that have led me here. TD is right; it does all add up.
Here’s to little moments, and the big moments that will become small as time marches on. Bring it, life, because I’m ready for you.