Depending on who you speak with, we do or do not have any say in our birth. Depending on who you talk to, we do or do not have any say on when we die or that our “worldly” death is “real” or “the end.” I’m not going to make a call on either of those, mainly because my view is just as viable as anyone else’s.
That in-between part, though, is something to deal with. Imogene Coon died a couple years ago. I just learned of this recently. I am saddened as I remember her as a vibrant 6th-grade teacher at Dunbar Elementary School. She was wise, kind, and an excellent teacher. At twelve years old I never dreamed I would be thinking of her 46 years later, much less that she would be dead.
Our lives intersected for that one year. That was it. But now, in a manner of thinking, they’ve intersected again. I wonder what went on in her life. I wonder what joys and sorrows passed through her heart. I wonder if her years of teaching were rewarding. Yes, I do wonder if she remembered me at any point, or was I lost in the hundreds and hundreds of students who passed through her classrooms.
As the title states, I’ll work hard to not make this about death. But what I will do is make this about time and accomplishment. No matter what perspective you have on birth and death, while in this mortal body, we own expiration dates. The question becomes, in my mind, what are we to do? What am I to do?
This morning I picked a book up off my bookcase a began reading. This is a book I have not read in 50 years. Yes, that places me in about the 2nd or 3rd grade. The book was written in 1936. I remember adoring this book as a child. Something about the stories in it captured me and planted seeds of the joys of reading in my soul. Somehow the book survived a half century of moves and opportunities to be destroyed or lost by my own children growing up.
I realized this morning that none of my children ever got the chance to read it. I wonder if they would have loved it as I did. I am saddened they missed the opportunity. I’ve read the first 51 pages and I am enjoying the experience once again.
This is a writer’s blog, and yes, I am getting to my point. A good number of my teachers and even classmates are no longer with us in this life, at least in the tangible, mortal bodies. Did all these people whom I cared for and intersected with, accomplish their goals? Did they keep striving throughout their lives? Did illness rob them of their final years? Were they satisfied with their scope of accomplishments or were there many things left undone.
I’m sure my good friend Humberto, who died young in his thirties, did not accomplish all he set out to do. I look at my life, and if I live to be 100, I could never accomplish what I desire to accomplish. This can cause debilitation. Depression. Demotivation. A sense of hopelessness.
What I personally do with what time remains in my life I own. No one else. I either step up and make things happen, or I waste away in apathy and slothfulness and underachieve. Does this matter to the world? Absolutely not. 100 years from now, no one will care. Hell, I likely will not be mentioned or thought of again on planet earth. I will be lost among the uncounted humans who lived and died in the century after my death.
But this does matter to me. And possibly some of the folks around me with intersecting lives. Imogene Coon impacted me all those years ago. So did my friend Humberto and so many others. So did Professor Pat Urbas who encouraged me to take on “writing as a vocation” in 1979. I cannot discount the fact that I am intersecting with people daily. As do you.
What are we passing on, and are we actually helping people? How much of what I desire to accomplish in the days remaining me will I actually pursue?
My view stands that we each own a story. Most likely many stories. Many of us get to the place where we desire to pull these stories out from within and share with the world. I know I like to think of writing as somewhat of a form of immortality. This most likely will not happen in the sense that 100 years from now no one will even know I existed, but the key factor for me is that I know, and I have something to say.
Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. Countless millions desire the same. Should you be one of those people, take heart. You will most likely reach a point where you realize you will never be able to accomplish everything in life you desire. This is no cause to give up or surrender. This is every reason to step out, bold, intent, and motivated to make as much impact on your life and your words as possible.
After all, Imogene Coon taught me that peer pressure and honesty are two very powerful aspects of life and I need to heed this knowledge and make excellent choices. Humberto taught me many things, as I hope I taught him some as well. Humberto taught me a level of integrity at around fifteen-years-old that I strive to carry with me at all times to this day. And Pat Urbas. She inspired me. She breathed a dream into me that last day of the semester at WV Institute of Technology in 1979.
I had a bit of a college crush on her. She was beautiful. Intelligent. Then, to top it all off, she loved the first real short story I recall writing. She loved it so much, she told me to pursue my talent. She was able to feel the passion I developed writing “A Race Against Love.” She saw something in me and took the time to pass on her observation. She will live on in me as long as I possess the breath to tell people.
Those 100+ people who’ve written books through my help actually perpetuate Par Urbas even if they do not realize it. Even though I mention her in most every writing workshop I facilitate, they never met her and won’t remember her name. The seed she planted, however, lives on through me and I have been able to plant 100’s of seeds so far with hopefully 1000’s to come.
The book I’m reading from my childhood is titled, “If I Were Going” by Mabel O’Donnell and Alice Carey. They planted seeds. They blossomed in my young self and delivered a joy for reading. Imogene Coon and Humberto are dead, yet they live within me. Part of who I am grows from them. Pat is still here and so am I. I’m not sure what she is doing, but her teaching and encouragement live in me as well.
Most writers I know, hell, all of them, struggle to write at times. We suffer from all manner of psychological and emotional issues which vex us and work to deter us from our desire to write. My most fulfilling work of my entire lifetime is spent helping people overcome these issues and get their books written. This is my joy, my passion, and one of my primary motivations in life. We each possess the ability to make our choices to write. Most of us need some help, motivation, inspiration and encouragement. That’s one of the reasons I’m here.
I challenge you. Whatever your beliefs about birth and death to me are immaterial. What about where you’re at right this moment? What about your LIFE? What about your dreams and aspirations?
I encourage you to get your stories out of you. Share with the world. Help build something through words. If you’ve made it this far through this post, you must be a reader and most likely a writer looking for something to hold on to. You can write your book/story/essay/poem/screenplay. The question becomes, will you? If you need help, that’s what I’m here for. Check out my site. Michael Ray King
Whatever you do, please make certain you don’t leave your best undone. That’s where I’m at. I may not be able to accomplish everything I desire, but I will not leave my best work undone. Whether that work is mine or helping someone else accomplish their best work is immaterial. Write your stories and thrill to their highs and lows, their ebbs and flows, and have them sing to the world in the manner that pleases you. You can do this.