How often do you get asked to say something nice about yourself, or to promote your best attributes, and find it one of the most difficult subjects to talk about? Granted, not everyone will find the subject of promoting themselves difficult, but many, including myself, find it a route full of potholes, bumps and barriers, because of the monsters we are born with.
Deep down inside, I’ve always wanted to be on a stage, the spotlight directly on me, in front of a room full of people focused on nothing else but me! It’s a desire I’ve had since one of my first school teachers, without asking, told me that I’d be playing the part of The Mad Hatter in the school’s Christmas production of Alice In Wonderland. My heart sunk when she called out my name, yet inside of me was a feeling that I’d come to a well-maintained part of the road that I would later go on to call life.
One by one, Miss Banks told us to read out a part from the script she’d written. The Mad Hatter appears during the middle part of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and I was relieved that I had time to get myself together and to do all I could not to stutter when reading out my lines. Often, for no reason, I would start to stutter when talking face to face to somebody, or when in a group, but I’d never been asked to stand up and read out loud from a book or a script in front of an audience. In my mind, while taking little notice of the other children reading their parts, I went over and over reading the lines Miss Banks had chosen for me to say.
When I stood up that day and started to stutter, a group of children in my class started to snigger and laugh. I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up, or my Mother to suddenly arrive and take me away from one of the worse first experiences of my life. However, Miss Banks was having none of it and, after giving the children who were laughing a stern look, she told me to take my time and to pretend that she was the only person in the room.
Fast forward to the evening of the school production, not only had I experienced my first bit of stardom, but I overheard my mother thanking Miss Banks for giving me the part of The Mad Hatter.
“No problem at all” she told my mother. “I wrote the part especially for Hugh. I’m not sure if you’re aware or have noticed anything about the way Hugh writes or reads, but he seems to get a little muddled up sometimes. He’s told me that some of the letters get mixed up and that he can’t pronounced some of the words. I’ve not seen this type of thing with any other children before, but I have mentioned it to the Headmistress.”
Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it and, later in my school life, many of my school teachers would tell her that they put it down to me being a slow learner or that I was not a very intelligent child. My mother never spoke to me about it, yet I somehow knew that she and I knew that what they were saying was not the case. Why? Well, because even when some of my teachers dropped me down to classes with children a few year’s younger than me, I was still experiencing the same problems.
Fast forward again, this time to 2014, and I found myself starring at a website called WordPress. Over the years, since playing the part of The Mad Hatter, my desire to write had grown and I’d secretly written a few short stories that nobody else had ever read. Now, right in front of me, here was a chance for me to finally allow my passion to become a published writer to be unleashed.
Pressing that ‘publish’ button was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. I had the same feelings I’d had the day Miss Banks had asked me to stand up and read out some lines. Then the sound of her voice telling me to pretend she was the only one in the room came into my mind. I had more flashbacks of not only the day I stood up in front of my class and read out some lines Miss Banks had written especially for me, but of the evening of my first school play. I saw my parents standing up in the audience clapping their hands and cheering along with all the other parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives of the school children who had just put on their first school play. I pressed the publish button, walked away from my computer and went for a walk.
The day after I stood up in front of my class and read out the lines of The Mad Hatter, the monster I called ‘stuttering’ stared to retreat. I was starting to find confidence in myself and in talking directly with other people, yet in class the letters still got mixed up and I found certain words hard to say.
The day I pushed the ‘publish’ button on the first post on my newly created blog, I started to conquer the monster I called ‘Dyslexia.’ Even to this day, I still cannot pronounce the word ‘dyslexic’ properly; yet today I have a self-published book of short stories under my belt, and a successful blog which attracts thousands of readers every month.
My monsters may still live with me and be with me until my ‘best by’ date comes up but, when I do walk over the rainbow bridge, one of the first people I am going to look for and thank is Miss Banks.
From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Hugh (and to Miss Banks) for reminding us that we can put our monsters behind us and achieve things that we never thought possible! Please join us again next week when we welcome Liesbet who will inspire us with a life less ordinary!