The Prodigal Returns

March 31, 2014
The first time I wrote a poem, I was in 3rd grade. And it was good, it was really good. I was astounded! Who knew such beautiful, wise words could come from the pen of my then nine-year old self?! So I showed it to my mom, bursting with pride, certain that she would be vocal in her praise. In my head, she declared that I was prodigy, pulled me from school and started me on my career as a Pulitzer-winning writer. In real life she read it in about two seconds (My mom’s a speed reader), smiled at me indulgently and said “It’s good!”

That was it.

She gently shoved the notebook back into my hands and turned back to her work. I stood there stunned, crushed that my mother could not see the genius before her. And to my horror, it continued on that way – for years. My mom would read my work, my friends would read my work, my teachers would read my work, and they all would praise it to a certain extent. They said they liked it, or that it was good, and then moved on. I didn’t get it! They told me I had talent, so why didn’t they make a bigger deal out of it? Then I discovered the magic of publishing online. Here, I thought, was my audience. Here was where I would gain my fame. I published hurriedly and sat back smugly, waiting for my laurels. People read them, one poem got an honorable mention but, once again, that was it. I was angry, no, resentful. I had worked so hard on these poems, I had poured my heart and soul on the page, believing the world would recognize that and pay me my dues. And the world had betrayed me. Disgusted, I abandoned the forums and refused to return.

I wrote angry poems, talking of how no one understood me, no one appreciated me, and no one loved me. Reading through them, I had a horrible revelation – I was a TEENAGER. Full of drama, trying to make my mark, convinced that the world was out to get me. I had become the consummate stereotype – that gave me some serious heebie-jeebies. As well as made me wonder if my vengeful vacancy of the literary world had been justified. Sneaking back onto the forums, I realized that it wasn’t that the world didn’t care about me, but that – frankly – the world didn’t know I existed. There was so much talent, so many fantastic writers who had writing and posting longer than I, how could I possibly expect to get recognition. I had published less than twenty poems!

And why did I need recognition so badly? I thought about it, and realized, that I didn’t want recognition, I wanted flattery. And that was the wrong reason to write. So now I return, sheepishly, to the forums. I do not ask for a feast and joyous outcry, because I haven’t earned them. I have resolved to read what others write, and share work I know is good, without asking for any ones approval. I swear that I will post my work, ignoring any and all cruel feedback, not apologizing for my work or questioning other writers’. And I accept that I may never get the respect and reactions I think I deserve. And that’s alright. That’s what makes me a writer.

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