Sometimes, the greatest influences in our lives come from unexpected people or places. Take Lillian Bartholomew, the middle-grade English teacher I credit with changing my career aspirations.
So there I was at Winfield City High School in rural NW Alabama, this shy and
uber-cool geeky 15-year-old who kept a green notebook full of bad poetry, liked to draw pencil illustrations of rock stars, and wanted to be a doctor so I could be like Marcus Welby’s young partner, Steven Kiley, riding a motorcycle to and from house calls.
“Write a book report,” says Mrs. Bartholomew, assigning me James Michener’s mammoth Hawaii. So I did, learning a couple of things in the process. First, I like big, massive sprawling books (which explains my love of book series). Second, I realized I could write more than bad poetry.
I didn’t learn that lesson because Mrs. B praised me. On the contrary. I was called into the guidance counselor’s office and told she’d turned me in to both him and the principal for plagiarizing my book report. As a 15-year-old, I was told, Mrs. B felt I could not possibly use phrases like “traumatic experience” unless I had copied them. Fortunately, the guidance counselor knew me better than the teacher and leapt to my defense.
Man, was I pissed. Forget being a doctor. I’d be a writer. I’d show her a traumatic experience.
Oh, I probably would have wandered in this direction anyway. But Mrs. B gave me the push I needed without ever knowing it.
Ever have anyone provide “backwards inspiration” you in your career or avocation?