I Remember Putting My Hand On That Paper

I sat in the classroom.  A student once more.  I had not gone directly to college from high school.  I didn’t think, or know, or understand, that it was an option available to me.  For me.  When I did return, I felt removed and unsure.

The instructor gave us a surprise quiz on punctuation and grammar.  Diagramming ‘stuff’.  I failed, miserably.  Though embarrassed by that performance I knew I didn’t write to follow rules or standardized expectations.  I didn’t want to appear ignorant.  I had been taught all of these things but they never seemed to work for how I wrote.  So I didn’t pay much attention.  But it still felt like a blow to my ego, and my intelligence.

We left that class with an assignment for the weekend.  A writing assignment.  I spent the weekend writing.  I enjoyed the ‘have to’ of it, the purpose of it.  I wrote freely and passionately.  The first class of the next week was this same class and I turned in my assignment.  At the end of the week the instructor passed out copies of 3 different essays to all of us.  These were essays that impressed her and she wanted the class to review them together and to discuss them.

My essay was not one of them.

I was heart sick.  I went through that class with a weight bearing down on me and how I thought of that essay.  The piece I had written was, to me, personal, strong and well written.  I knew it.  How could others not see it?  Grammar and punctuation be damned.  That essay was good.  But I couldn’t deny that heavy weight of disappointment that someone else hadn’t seen the value and depth.

At the end of class the instructor said she had something to read to all of us.  It was the last paper she had read and hadn’t had time to include it in her lesson plan for this day’s class.  She prefaced the reading by saying the grammar and punctuation were not great.   She started reading.  I knew with the first two words it was my paper.  After a few sentences she stopped and said “oh-reading it out loud – okay – I get it”.  She then read my paper completely, fully, to the class.  She read smoothly and eloquently, using my punctuation and grammar the way I wrote it.  She read it as close to how it was heard in my own head when I wrote it, as anyone could have come to my own voice.

She put the paper down, in front of me, on my desk.  Smiled.  And said “that…..is good writing.”


I know that not everything I write is of that caliber.  I know that not everything I try to write comes that easily.

I know, now, to trust what I know.  That when I write and it is right that it is right.

I know, now, it’s okay to want validation.  It’s okay to need validation.  But it’s also okay to believe in myself.

I remember putting my hand on that paper.  Owning it.  It was mine.

I knew it’s value.

And someone else saw it too.