Sunday, December 11, 2016

Finding Your Passion

During a conversation with a student the other day, she was struggling to come up with the right word to express how she felt about something. 

“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” she said. “I can’t remember a time without them. Everybody in my family grew up that way.  It makes sense for me to want a business with horses. I guess you’d say it’s my hobby.”

I shook my head. “Sounds like more than a hobby.”

“Yeah, but what is it?”

“I think it’s your passion.”

That response drew a big smile. “That’s exactly what it is!”

Finding your passion isn’t easy. Some people will try different things, whether it’s a series of jobs or activities.  At one point along the road, they might stop for a moment and say, ‘damn, I really like doing that’.  Others might recognize it quickly. And there’s no rule that says you can’t be passionate about more than one thing at a time.

I’ve got at least a couple. Writing is definitely one. Teaching is another. There are some characteristics that appear in both. I thoroughly enjoy writing a story, no matter the length, that will engage or entertain the reader. Part of my challenge has always been to create characters people can identify with. Maybe some of their actions or behaviors remind the reader of themselves or someone they know. I want them to get familiar with my people, to wonder what it would be like to perch alongside them at the bar and hoist a cocktail or two.

It took me a long time to realize my passion for writing. But once I made that connection, I have no intention of ever stopping.  Because like any passion, the more you do it, the better you become at it. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, baking cookies or writing a great story.  So find you passion. And hold on tight.

Here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” where Jamie’s best friend Linda realizes she’s become the target of a stalker.

Linda was a little unnerved when we went to work out. But the physical activity, the pounding music, the noise of the other women grunting and groaning through the moves helped to improve her mood. We bundled up afterwards and were headed for the car. The lot had been crowded when we’d arrived, so we had ended up parking at the far end. Talking quietly, trudging through the clumps of snow and ice, neither one of us heard him.

“It’s getting to the point where I just want to stay home,” she said quietly.

“You can’t hide, Linda. If you become a prisoner in your own home, then he wins. And you are much too strong a person to let that happen.”

She gave me a wan smile. “I know, Jamie, it’s just…”

“Hey!” a gruff voice snapped at us from only a couple of feet away.

Linda let out a shriek of surprise. She lost her footing on the ice and crashed to the pavement. Looking over my shoulder, I saw a blocky shape, hidden in the shadows beyond the reach of the overhead lights, gliding close to the back end of a parked car.  He took a menacing step forward, one hand clutching something tightly, and he was extending it towards us.

“Run!” I screamed at Linda for all I was worth.
“Hey,” he snapped again, still reaching for us. 

I took a step toward him and planted my left foot on one of the few dry patches of pavement. Then I swung my right foot as hard as I could, as if I was about to nail a fifty yard field goal to win the Super Bowl.  Without realizing it, I braced for the impact. To this day, I’d swear I was aiming for his crotch. But I missed.

Maybe the pavement wasn’t dry after all. Or maybe suddenly shifting my weight to make that kick caused me to lose my balance. Or maybe subconsciously I couldn’t really kick a guy in the balls. Or maybe he sensed what was happening and he took a step back.  I’ll never really know.

In my peripheral vision, I could see Linda scrambling to her feet, already racing toward her car, clicking the remote control to unlock the doors. My leg continued its arc and just before making contact, my left leg shot out from underneath me. 

My foot slammed into the bulky guy. I caught him square in the chest. With my body going horizontal, it must have looked like some kind of ninja move. Whatever it was, it was enough to take him off his feet and he went down with a thud. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like his head bounced off the pavement.

I landed on my side and scrambled immediately to my feet. I was crouched in a fighting stance, anger and adrenalin churning in my gut. The guy let out a low groan. He made no move to get up.

Suddenly lights flared around us. Linda had managed to start her car and pull it into the aisle. She laid on the horn, a long deep-throated wail that cut through the night. A few people who had been moving across the parking lot came running over.

Illuminated by the headlights, I looked down at the attacker. He was an older man, with a couple of day’s worth of stubble across his face. His left hand was pressed against his chest, roughly in the spot in which I’d kicked him. Slowly he raised his right hand in my direction as our eyes locked.  His voice made a throaty rasping noise as he spoke.

“She dropped her glove.”

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