Mistakes Aren’t Embarrassing…wait, what?

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

As much as I love writing, I have to admit that the path I’ve taken hasn’t been easy so far—and I’m not even out of school yet. To be honest, I didn’t even start calling myself a writer until last year when I started taking writing classes. And since then, I’ve had to learn exactly how far I need to go in order to follow my dream.

It started with my craft of writing class in the fall. I thought I was good at poetry until then, and I stopped when I realized that I didn’t understand it as well as I thought I did. In the spring semester of that year, I found myself in a fiction writing class. In addition to writing three short stories, we also had to construct scenes based on an aspect of storytelling like description, dialogue, etc. While I left the class feeling a little encouraged, I spent the three months before that point feeling frustrated with my work no matter how good or bad it was. I started to question my abilities as a writer and my sense of belonging in the career I had chosen.

Cut forward a bit to last fall semester when I took a journalism class and a nonfiction writing class, both of which—once again—made me question my value as a writer. One of the assignments I had for nonfiction was a book review…and I hated it almost as soon as I finished it. I hadn’t assessed the source as well as I thought I had, and as a result the final draft of it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth just thinking about it (in fact, note to self: reevaluate The Social Code).

Journalism class, in comparison, was seven levels of hell that I don’t think Dante ever took into consideration. We had to write seven articles for the school newspaper, and for nearly every article I wrote, something went horribly wrong. Six of them were published online, four of them in print, one of them never got published at all, and only one of them doesn’t leave me feeling unclean just thinking about it. After that, I was done with journalism and decided to stick to fiction and blogging.

Or…so I thought.

Midway through January, I received an email from one of the campus news editors inviting me to be a staff writer for the spring semester. I felt so outraged and confused, and I almost emailed back to say no. But then the next morning, I remembered a moment with my family during Christmas break, when we talked about the only time my brother Matt ever played goalie on the little league soccer team. The story is that he accidentally scored a point for the other team. My dad said he thought Matt would’ve been a good goalie regardless of his mistake because—unlike the other kids on the team—Matt stayed focused the whole time. Instead of sitting on the ground picking at the grass when he had nothing to do, Matt kept his eyes on the ball, preparing himself for when he had to prevent the other team from scoring. Regardless, Matt was so embarrassed that he stuck to the field from then on. He never played goalie again.

That was when it hit me: I had a habit of giving up when the going got tough. I sat down and I thought “What the hell am I doing? How am I supposed to improve if I keep running away like this?” Then I started to seriously consider the offer I was being given. While there were definitely moments where I questioned my need for mental rehabilitation, there were also moments where I felt genuinely excited about the assignments I got for the newspaper. Each assignment gave me the opportunity to connect with people individually and as a community. Every question I asked and every person I talked to gave me another understanding of the way things are and the way they could be. And even if my work is the worst, that doesn’t mean I can’t improve.

Adulthood is going to be tough, no doubt about it. Working a job or two, paying bills, maintaining stable relationships, and keeping your sanity in check? They say life is no picnic no matter what you choose to do with it, and honestly, I wouldn’t doubt it. But there’ve been billions of people throughout history who didn’t give up on living life and following their dreams, no matter how bad the storm raged. So what gives me the right to throw in the towel? A lot of people get criticized doing something they like. Everyone makes mistakes at some point. And chances are, you probably will too. The key is in learning how to handle it. You can run from it or learn from it. The choice is yours.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

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