I can clearly remember being in high school and dragging my inchworm-green, spotted-with-silver duct tape bean bag chair out the window of my bedroom and onto the roof of the front porch. Like a bird in a nest, I sat there, head tilted up to the stars, so full of yearning that I can still recall the sensation today.
What I longed for was far less specific than being an author—I simply wanted to be somebody
. I wanted to matter in this world. I longed to make a difference. I ached to have an impact on others the same way my heroes had had on me. And I can still feel the sensation of running through a list in my head. What things might I be good at? What talents or traits did I have that would put me within shouting distance of my heroes—people like Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Annie Sullivan, Lois Lowry, Karen Carpenter, the POW's from Vietnam, Gandhi?
Thoughts flew through my mind and when I was done with the self-analysis, I crumbled like a saltine cracker in the fist of a toddler. I had nothing to offer the world that would ever fill the yearning that I felt inside. Right then I knew that I would never be somebody
and that revelation defined me for almost the next twenty years of my life.
As you might suspect, two decades ago, I had only touched the surface of my own potential. But I didn't know that then.
Delving deeper has been a journey. The need to stretch and venture outside of my box has mostly been forced upon me by circumstance, but since I'm a better me than I was at seventeen, I'm going to cut myself some slack and give myself a little credit for finally deciding to grow. And I've discovered some amazing things along the way. All of my heroes were ordinary people just like me. What made them exceptional was their heart, their tenacity, their need to defy adversity, their desire to grow. They were not people immune to fear; they were people who acted bravely in spite of it.
It finally occurred to me that they did not wake up one morning, prepared to change the world, but rather they rose to their own occasion. In realizing this, a seed of hope was planted. Perhaps if I worked on myself hard enough—there really would be something inside of me to offer the world. Something amazing.
It also occurred to me that the things we push away and hide, because they make us feel different, are likely to be our biggest gifts when we decide it's time to honor who we are. It was this revelation that made me realize I have a voice, and if I continue to grow, someday that voice might be big enough to fill the spaces of my yearning.
I've discovered that two very powerful things happen when people speak their truth. Honest words have the ability to create amazingly intense connections between people, but they also have the power to illicit fear. Fortunately this is an exercise in intermittent reinforcement. Thank goodness for the highs that come with those wonderful connections—without them I don't know who would have the courage to keep putting their naked, vulnerable parts out in the world. I know that every time I run into someone who guts me with just a few sharp, well-placed words, it makes me want to curl up like an armadillo.
But here's the thing—I've had a taste of what it feels like to be somebody
. I've had a little bit of practice at rising to my own occasion. I no longer crumble as easily as I used to. And I have it in my mind that the people I write for are staring at the same stars that I did. They are filled with the same longing to be somebody
. And more important than anything else, I write the words that the seventeen-year-old me needed to hear. Yes, it’s too late to change her journey—but it just might make a difference for the company she keeps. Kimberly Sabatini is a former Special Education Teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom and a part-time dance instructor for three and four year olds. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and three boys. Kimberly writes Young Adult fiction and is represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency. Her debut novel, TOUCHING THE SURFACE (Simon Pulse, 2012), was released yesterday.
© 2012 Kimberly Sabatini. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. In Other Words: Sometimes, Reading Isn’t about Reading at All In Other Words: Emily Jenkins (Invisible Inkling series) Finds Her Protagonist