This first blog post goes out to Mrs. Queen, one of my early believers…
On every path to success, there are three types of people you will encounter:
Naysayers - Nah, your dream is unrealistic.
Soothsayers - Beware of this, that and the third.
Yay’ers - Go ‘head with your bad self!
I want to talk about the importance of Yay’ers. These are the people who keep you going in times of doubt, particularly early in your career. Most of us couldn’t have done “It” without them. Yet, some of us tend to forget the part they play, especially after too much time has passed and we’re further along the way.
Other successful folks fear to look back, and I’m feeling a bit salty about that.
I pulled up on this pillar of realization while crafting my website. I needed to find past speaking gigs. So, in the crates I dig. To my delight, I came across a familiar name and Googled her current whereabouts. Come to find out, she had become a CEO of a noteworthy non-profit.
Miss CEO had afforded me my first opportunity to speak in front of a large group of 5th graders. She needed volunteers to come in and talk about financial responsibility; and she was short on folks willing to take the day off from work. I was more than willing. In fact, geeked!
No pay? No problem! I came through. Miss CEO thanked me profusely. I, in turn, thanked her. The students’ enthusiasm was catching, and I had caught the motivational speaker fever. Their “thank you” letters confirmed that I could officially pop my collar. I was hot on that classroom stage, relating with the kids, basking in the after-praise. I had found my true calling.
But back to the present. Years passed. Phone numbers changed. When I reached out to Miss CEO’s organization, I got her Assistant and dropped my name, explained my purpose. “Future speaking collaborations, perhaps?”
“Miss CEO would like you to try back after the holiday season,” the Assistant replied.
It was the official tone, though. The fact that Miss CEO didn’t hit me directly with a quick, “Long time, no hello!”
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t shed a tear. But this incident prompted me to check myself. Grab my own ear. Man listen, have I ever treated someone familiar, strange? Or, have I ever let someone down who had once lifted me up?
The answer hit me like a ton of books. My book. “Hot Girl” to be exact. What about Mrs. Queen, the elementary school teacher who always had my literary back? She was the one who distributed the first chapter of my novel to the entire seventh and eighth grade in her school to get their reactions. I had asked for her help because I wasn’t sure if I had an authentic “YA” voice. The feedback I received from her children was fire! So dope and phenomenal that the principal asked me to speak at their eighth grade graduation. What’s more, months later, when those publishing rejection letters came knocking on my door, those student letters were fortuitously unearthed in my apartment.
“Keep going,” was the resounding answer.
Additionally, a chorus of loved ones and professional acquaintances helped me push through. Ultimately, St. Martin’s Press came forward and made this journey all worth it.
After the publication of my book, Mrs. Queen had asked me to visit her school for Career Day…um…several times. And each time, I was either in the job market, or out of it, and stressed beyond belief. I promised her, “Next year,” every year.
Mrs. Queen has since retired.
Now I can either kick myself hard in the shins, or vow to do better next time. In hindsight, I should have made it my business to get to Mrs. Queen’s school - by any means necessary. Ain’t no mountain high enough. But you can’t cry over spilled opportunity. And to be clear, nobody owes anyone, anything.
I just understand the importance of remembering.
And not forgetting.
Frame these thoughts.
Looking back at Miss CEO’s action, I have to ask myself: is she on that intentional amnesia trip? Or was this just a glitch? You never know what’s going on in a person’s private life at any given time.
Shucks, I remember the lady who approached me after my book talk, leaped over my stack of fresh new novels waiting to be purchased, and asked me for a list of agents and the best way to get published. She then told me she might just check out my novel at the local library. Gee, thanks? Authors don’t eat air; royalty checks rule our pockets.
On that evening, my face tried hard to hide its disappointment, its shock. But this “Leaper” may have viewed me as a fool who “forgot” how to give back. Then again, maybe this was payback for my younger years, when I was the aspiring author doing the leaping without supporting the author.
I’m reminded of the teacher who asked me to pay her school an author visit. Of course, I will! I’ll even cut my fee in half. But ut-oh, she was expecting a freebee. I get it. But she doesn’t.
Having been on both sides, what I’ve come to realize is that you never really know why someone can’t be there for you, as you may have been for them. And assumptions are for the birds. So fly fiercely. Flock humbly.
They say the definition of success is about the number of folks you bring along with you, not the ones you leave behind. So I will keep this in the forefront of my mind as I continue on my grind.
Directly after posting this message, I received word that an old friend - one of my early believers, is experiencing family difficulties at this time. So I plan to call her. No, in fact, I’ll pay her a visit. Between me and you, today is not a good time. I’m supposed to be headed to an important book networking function. I’m in that same job market. Behind in my book promotion…subway carfare is a bleep! But ain’t no mountain high enough.
See, there would be no book if it weren’t for this particular early believer. Her daughter’s eyes were the very first to meet my heroine, “Kate.” The first parent to tell me that she appreciated my ability to catch the attention of a reluctant reader. She was the first step toward publication. The journey of a million miles begins with your earliest believers.
So going forward, I strive with pride, purpose and my memory in tact.