January 2. Write about a time someone said no.*
*from “A Writer’s Book of Days”
I’m a junior in high school.
My father is The Authority — God — in the home comprising me, my younger sister and our mother. My mother who maybe twice in our lives until that point ever stood up for me. That really had less to do with her being a doormat to my father most of the time. Had more to do with her pretty much hating that I existed and wishing me into oblivion.
I’d accomplished something great in my life. My life. Not my father’s. Or mother’s. Mine. Had to do with my destiny, calling, my life purpose and reason I was born – despite my mother’s wishing I’d never been.
I’d been elected editor of the high school paper. A position I was to assume my senior year, starting a few months from now.
It was summer between my junior and senior years. I’d been on the school paper for all three years. As a reporter, then a page editor and columnist. The column bore the name I’d given it and a little mugshot and everything! I’d always known my destiny. Even in utereo. Words. Words. Words. Glorious magnificent words.
Being given the editorship by newspaper staff vote was more than a high school achievement. It was a life achievement. A marker, in a sense, on a compass pointed to: writing and journalism.
Enter my father.
NO, he said. NO.
My father had decided to move from southern California to northern to start a business with a longtime friend. A move that required, in his mind, the entire family to move. A move that, in his mind, required me to go. In the summer between my junior and senior years.
My mother, she did something extraordinarily unusual. She spoke up on my behalf. To God-in-the-home himself. She, unlike my father, understood the emotional attachment I had to high school. My high school experience was a very positive one.
She wanted, as I did, for me to remain in southern California. To live with a neighbor for my senior year. The option was present.
My father: “NO. She’s part of the family. She’s going.”
And thus it was that I was forced to move between my junior and senior years.
Thus I had my heart stomped on, yes, moreso completely overridden. The editorship that meant so much to me — not in any ego sense, rather in relationship to my calling as a writer and journalist — was gone. Poof! More like boom! Taken out of my hands. By the word NO.
By one man’s word. NO.
I’ve never really forgiven my father for that. It’s not just because he took something from me that was OF me. It’s because he was being a hypocrite. He who my entire life had drilled into me: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” My father, bless his soul, could be a son of a bitch.
He impressed, nee imposed upon me, a work ethic that was cruel slavery. Intertwined was a work ethic very characteristic of the Germans (which he was). I admired and respected my father for that, very very deeply, to my core.
In that context and within our family, no one should’ve or could’ve been prouder than my father for my achievement. An achievement not given — GOD he denied that word, given! — rather EARNED. EARNED EARNED EARNED.
Makes me such a lousy candidate for Obama’s socialism!
Anyhow, rather than celebrate my achievement — the editorship that meant everything to me and that I had EARNED — he snatched it away.
With one word. A simple yet powerful oh so powerful word:
My life’s never been the same or gone the direction it could’ve, nee was intended to go by destiny and God Himself.
One word can alter another’s course, change a life, for better or worse.
On the upside, decades later, I’m learning to teach myself the word Yes because I know the word No.