I grew up in the small farming community of Floresville, Texas during the 1980s and 90s. We had a library with a wonderful selection of books and reference materials and we had a museum where you would occasionally go on a grade school field trip or something. But really there wasn’t much. Yes, we had a school, but it wasn’t much back then.
Sadly, many schools in rural Texas and America exist for the sole reason to help you understand why you should live in somebody else’s “hand-me-down” boots. I know because I have been there, too. If your dad was a farmer, the community expected you to become a farmer. If your mom was a homemaker, then that would be your job. I understand that this is not always the case and it might be the exception to the rule, but it is a reality for some of us who are “of” those places.
During my childhood, I had a teacher who was a closeted poet and songwriter. She spoke of love, life and the struggles of living in rural Texas during her generation. I don’t think she lasted all that long there because “they” really didn’t want her to last all that long there. Around town she considered “too educated” and a “misfit” in our community. Their only justification for that was because they saw her wondering the streets each night, collecting her thoughts in a journal. How dare she, right?
I guess it had to be her last year in our tiny town and it was my last year in elementary school. The last day of school she bent over and whispered something in my ear. “Never let them make you into something that you are not.”
Those words have stuck with me over the years and have helped me through some tough times in my life. It always helped me to remember my roots and keep in focus the notion that the folks there aren’t terrible people, they just know nothing else.
That is why I became a journalist, writer and quasi-educator. Because I believe that every child and adult in rural America should have the opportunity to achieve their real dreams and potential.
I had to teach myself how to write, and guess what, I am still learning to this very day. In rural Texas during the 90s, computers were still very much taboo and misunderstood. I still have to learn new software, new skills and new tricks every single day and I am glad to say that my rural Texas upbringing had something to do with my ability to be a problem solver and overcomer.
My writing is generally short, to the point, and I try to be creative with my fiction. There is a reason for that. Because for one, I understand that you have things you have to do. Two, I have want to keep your attention. And number three, I want to give your imagination room to grow and practice writing your own story.
Whatever you want to do with your life is perfectly fine with me. If you want to be a farmer, then be a farmer. If you want to play in the band, then play in the band. If you want to be an artist, then be some sort of artist. But by all means, never let somebody else set an expectation for what they think you ought to be.
I understand you, and I hope we understand each other. Because that is how it should always be.