The day has arrived and it is time for me to fill out my application for Tehama Group Communications at Chico State for the fall semester. The application (all 9 pages of it) is not to be taken lightly, made up of 5 parts ranging from simply including my resume to a skills summary sheet, to a personal profile, to my sample work, and finally, an editing test.
Most of these are mundane and are to be expected, but what I wasn’t expecting and what I’d like to highlight here is Part 3: Personal Profile.
What’s that mean? I can hear you all asking that question in your minds across the interwebs. Well, simply put, I was given the task of writing a feature story about myself in third person. Wow. It became quite a deep and revealing exercise.
What really stood out to me is something that I never fully put together. I’d like to share with you all a little bit of my childhood growing up. A little bit about little me from so long ago, way back in the 90’s. Before I could even write…
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to tell stories. It didn’t matter if they were true, and it didn’t matter if I had all the facts. It didn’t even matter if I could type on a computer or even spell out words — I wanted to communicate through writing.
I can remember growing up at home in Westlake Village with my parents, and it seems so long ago. I would run upstairs with my dad, probably 5 years old at most, and dictate to him news stories that I’d make up there on the spot. We had this archaic word processing platform back in the days of Windows 95. An old DOS program called Corel Word Perfect that had all these nifty little newsletter templates that would be far sub-par to anything we could create now in a matter of minutes but I was obsessed.
I would sit there with Dad and I would ramble on and on about these ideas I had for sensational stories. Sometimes I was writing for the Los Angeles Times, “There was a fire in downtown Los Angeles today,” I’d dictate, “A lot of people died in downtown Los Angeles today.” I was never one for subtlety, and the repetition of the latter part of those sentences, ‘in downtown Los Angeles’, became a family joke still to this day.
Sometimes I was writing for the Desert News; my Grandparents lived in Palms Springs and I would visit them often. I remember one story I had my dad type out about a hot air balloon race across the California desert — my friends and I pitted against each other in a race against the clock to some location I can’t now recall. I didn’t win, but my old dog at the time, Bonnie, managed to take first place.
And it wasn’t just news articles I’d have my dad type up. It was the ads also. I liked to use those 90’s tacky, clip art images and would plaster them all over the newsletter as if someone would actually pay to have their company logo tossed amongst the vivid imaginations of a 5-year-old boy.
While other kids were drawing with crayons and coloring in coloring books I was upstairs in the “Bonus Room” as we called it, typing out newsletters and writing short stories.
I’d give anything to read those again.
I distinctly remember writing a book over the course of 6 years, starting from the time I was about 5 or 6 and ending when I was about 10 or 11. A murder mystery, chronicling the life of a 5 year old with an overactive imagination — the pets of my childhood coming to life, like real-world Scooby-Doo cartoons and visiting the places I went on vacations with my family. The story was almost like a diary before I even understood what a diary was, only it was chronicling my life in a much more elaborate and imaginative way.
It comes as no surprise that my entire life it seems as though I excelled at English and writing. When others were complaining about essays or book reports I did them with ease.
I distinctly recall a period in my life when an old, close friend of mine named Brandon broke his leg and, as a result, wasn’t able to play at lunch with the other kids for fear of further damage. He was told to spend the next few weeks confined to the elementary school library — a place I can promise you neither one of us would have wanted to be.
Being the good friend I am, I of course volunteered to hang out with him during this rather unfortunate predicament and, after asking the teacher if this was alright, I grabbed a notebook and walked across the quad with him to spend the rest of my lunch in “solitary confinement”.
About half way through the course of our stint in the joint, he looked over at me for I had been feverishly scribbling on this pad of paper nonstop since we arrived.
“What are you doing?” He asked. The teacher hadn’t given us any sort of assignment.
I turned the note book in his direction. In big bold letters at the top of the paper read the letters ‘S.A.’
“The teacher told that if I was going to be in here with you that I need to write an essay,” I responded.
I remember feeling so cool, although I wasn’t really sure exactly what the letters ‘S’ and ‘A’ stood for.
I’ll figure it out when I’m a 5th grader, I thought.
(Brandon then in turn asked me exactly what ‘S.A.’ stood for, and how badly I wish I could remember my response because it was undoubtedly witty seeing as how I’ve been extremely clever since day one.)
Now, the teacher obviously hadn’t asked me to write an essay seeing as how I couldn’t have been in more then 2nd or 3rd grade at this point in my life. But the fact that I was writing something so mature as an ‘S.A.’ made me feel like I was important. Writing has always been important to me and my ability to do it so well has always made me feel special — perhaps because I can more easily communicate my feelings and actions through words rather then verbal communication.
The realization that I had when writing up my personal profile piece could be described as nothing short of “full circle”. Here I am, 18 years later pursuing a degree in public relations and journalism.
Although it’s a far cry away from the imaginative faux news stories of my ever-so distant past, it’s astounding to me that as a 5 year old kid, I was able to see what I wanted to be, even though for years thereafter I had absolutely no idea.
I had loved writing news stories as a child and my father, a news aficionado if you will and a stickler for doing things properly, would type up my stories in the proper format. Being a psychology minor, I won’t bore you with the scientific studies but it should be important to note, as I’m sure we are all aware that when you’re a young child, you absorb information like a sponge as your brain continually makes new connections and then prunes away the unused neurons.
This is the reason babies and young toddlers learn languages with ease, although parents I’m sure don’t see it as such a simple task. It’s true through, that babies can pick up multiple languages and become bilingual or even trilingual with very minimal effort. I can only assume that my odd ability to write so well must stem from the fact that I began doing so at such a young age, and must be due largely in part to my father, for he always made sure my writing was correct. Writing became my second language.
I ran the course of life like many boys did, and for the longest time I remember wanting to be a police officer — for years in fact. I thought I’d figured it all out, I’d go to high school, go to college, join the ROTC. Then I’d get out and be in the army. After that, join the LAPD then excel at that and join the SWAT team. Those were my dreams – and if you knew me now you’d fall on your ass laughing at the thought of any of that, much less me joining the army.
I also remember not to long ago, stepping into my first journalism class at Moorpark Community College in Moorpark, not sure of what I wanted to. But as soon as the class began, I knew it was this.
Even after I spent my entire childhood writing mock newsletters, I still never made the connection until this very morning that it’s been my life’s calling from day one.
I don’t want to be a newspaper reporter or a newspaper editor, but one thing is for sure: I want to write. I want to persuade. I want to change the way people think about the world through the stories I tell.
I remember seeing a movie back in 2005 called “The Interpreter” starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Kidman stars in the film as an interpreter who over hears the plans to assassinate an elected official from a struggling country in Africa.
During a heated discussion, her interpretation of what she heard is being held in question. After being patronized, and then accused of a misinterpretation, Kidman shoots back, “Countries have gone to war because they’ve misinterpreted one another.”
Countries have gone to war and people have died over the misinterpretation of words. SIMPLE WORDS.
And it’s so true. I think we all forgot how important words are to everyone who reads them. How powerful letters on a page can really be.