When one of my favorite bloggers,Nancy White tagged me to participate in the " 5 Things Meme" I immediately agreed to play in the sandbox. Then, I panicked. In her post Nancy promised that I would be funny.
Where that off-handed remark led me is to think about the impact that a single comment or action can have on our lives.
Recently, my 17 -year-old daughter took me to task for something I said to her last summer. I hurt her feelings. I don't even remember saying it. To me it was just an off-handed remark. Something I said without thinking about . I walked away from that conversation completely ignorant of what impact I had on her.
It's one thing to hurt someone's feelings intentionally and then make amends,but when you have no idea that your words or actions are changing someone's world, it is daunting indeed.
So here are five comments ( or actions) that changed my world.
Five comments that are a mirror into who I am and why I do what I do. Five comments that the people who delivered them probably have no recollection about. To them, it was a moment in time. Something to say. An off-handed remark. To me, it was life altering. Funny how that works.
1. " You are such a pretty little girl." The first time someone other than my family told me that I was pretty was on a Sunday afternoon in the cafeteria of the state hospital in Marion, Virginia. I distinctly remember twirling around in my dress and feeling so grateful that I was pretty. Even at five,the power and importance of being good looking was not lost on me. It was a belief I held for the next 6 years.
2. " You're not pretty enough to be a majorette." I was first chair clarinet. The last chair was held by the most beautiful girl in the school. Our band director, Mr. Azzarra, paid a lot of attention to Brenda. Not so much to me. When he was talking about the auditions for majorette he specifically targeted his message to Brenda and a couple of the other girls. But I wanted to be a majorette. I wanted to twirl the baton and I definitely did not want to wear the hot band outfit and march with a clarinet stuck in my mouth. Twirling seemed a lot more fun than marching. And so I said, 'I'd like to audition too.' That's when he said it. "You're not pretty enough."Who knew? I was relying on old data. I was relying on the lovely lady in the state hospital cafeteria who had told me I was pretty. Until that moment I thought I was pretty.
3. "Elana got the only A." The year was 1968. Honors English. Miss Pinkleton's class. Douglas Southall Freeman High School, Richmond, Virginia. She was handing out our graded term papers. She was one tough teacher. This was the only A --actually A- that she gave in any of her classes. All year I had either gotten a B- or C+ on my papers. This was different. I didn't have to write a creative piece on sidewalks. This was a term paper on Sinclair Lewis. Getting that "A"made me believe that I could be a journalist. It gave me a confidence that I had never had before. One grade. One paper and I was off to the University of Missouri School of Journalism. What if she had given me a B+?
4. "You're not attractive enough." You'd think I would have learned the first time, but there I was again. This time sitting in my news director's office at WWBT-TV in Richmond, Virginia. He was explaining why I couldn't be a weekend anchor. His explanation, " You don't look like a TV anchor. You're not attractive enough. Your hair is wrong, your makeup is wrong." So that's why I decided to leave TV. Not the lousy pay or the ridiculous working conditions, I left because I was told I wasn't a looker.
5. "They laughed at my book report." The year was 1969. I was in Ms Sanders English class. She was having us do oral book reports. My book was "Of Mice and Men." I didn't intend to be funny but somehow when I told the class that I could never been as good a friend as George was to Lenny because I didn't think I could kill my best friend, the class laughed. Instead of being embarrassed, I got in a groove. And made them laugh some more.
I don't think I have thought about the importance of that book report until Nancy tagged me the other day. Sharing a serious concept in a funny way felt right. It still does. I don't necessarily think of myself as a funny person. I think of myself as someone who sees humor in the world and hopefully on a regular basis I have an opportunity to share that humor with you.
My tags are going to family (I come from a family of talented bloggers) and a couple of bloggers I've communicated with but don't know that well.
Image Credit: The mirror is from Sticks.com. Their furniture makes me laugh.
Update: Today is December 18,2006. I stumbled upon ProBlogger and decided to throw my post into the ring for a fun project called The Group Writing Project. More on that later.