Being fifty-something, I love to scrutinise the past for “pivotal” moments – those points in time when something changed. Or you changed. Or the world changed.
There are the biggies you can draw a line beneath and from then on everything (Every. Thing.) falls above or below, before or after. But sometimes the moment is more fugitive: an ephemeral kind of flashback that holds you intermittently hostage until you realise its significance. Finally.
This is my fugitive moment …
When I was eight, on a chilly July morning, I stood towards the back of an all-school assembly, staring down at my skinny purple-with-the-cold legs. I was painfully shy (yes, it actually hurt) and I almost always looked down. It was my default view of the world.
When my name was called to collect a prize for a story I’d penned about our family dog, I blushed. Deep red. With such force that my purple legs possibly shaded to pink.
My head shouted “no” but something deep inside pushed my body to carry me to the front of the WHOLE school where the principal pressed a tiny cardboard package into my palm.
Back at my safe spot, I allowed myself to glimpse down and see in my hand a petite packet of coloured pencils. You know the ones … mini-sized, half a dozen to a packet.
I could smell the freshness of the pencil wood.
I took a chance and prised open the packet so I could run my fingers over the six sharp points.
Each one in turn.
In that single, fugitive, ordinary moment, I decided to be a writer.
That’s when I first connected writing with feeling good.
It took me another twenty years to do anything about it and another twenty years again before I recaptured my fugitive moment as part of exploring my “why I do what I do” story.
It took another story to tie it all together.
I still blush.
I’m still shy in a crowd.
I still love the fresh, woody smell of new coloured pencils.
And I still want to be a writer.