There are so many things I should thank you for: your unconditional support, your boundless patience, all those years of Chicken Paprikash… If I started listing everything you have done for me, I would never write anything else.
On this day, in front of this audience, I want to thank you for two specific things. The first thing is a bit of advice you gave me when I was a sophomore in college. The second thing is something I may not have told you yet.
As you know, I used to be a terrible procrastinator. (Aside: If you’re one of my students or players, stop reading RIGHT NOW.) In college, putting off my writing assignments got so bad that I would work myself into a deep state of fretting then totally freeze.
One day, I did my usual pre-writing ritual — stuffing no fewer than three pieces of Dubble Bubble into my mouth and thus grossing out Aa, my long-suffering but awesome roommate — took a long, steadying breath, and then… immediately got up from my desk to pace the room. (Note: Facebook was a mere glimmer in M. Zuckerberg’s eye, Mom, so I didn’t resort to aimless stalking. I’m glad you don’t really know what that means…)
As I paced, I thought about how painful writing the paper was going to be and how badly it would turn out. Eventually I psyched myself out so thoroughly that I couldn’t type a word. With the deadline on the horizon and only getting bigger, what was I going to do? The only thing I could think to do: call you.
When I finally came around to telling you what was really on my mind, you got to the heart of it all with one question: “What are you so afraid of?”
The depth of my desperation and the pain in my jaw from chomping all that gum had made it so that I couldn’t come up with anything but the truth: “I’m afraid my writing’s going to suck.”
Do you remember what you said? It’s only the best writing advice I have ever received: “Well, now is the time in your life when you need to suck — and it’s always going to be ‘now.'”
You were so right that I scribbled your words on the nearest bit of scrap paper and taped it to my desk. It now lives on an index card that I look at every day before I sit down to write.
And the second thing I want to thank you for:
The term “soccer mom” gets thrown around too much these days, and it has acquired a certain flavor of contempt, which makes me uncomfortable. You did your share of soccer mom-ish things, if making sure we got to extracurricular activities [mostly] on time and in [marginally] clean clothes counts. Your efforts to encourage my interests do count — a lot. But you didn’t just encourage me by carting me around or cheering from the stands; you modeled and you believed.
Remember the parents vs. players game during my sophomore year of basketball? Recall how you ran our asses up and down the floor and handled the ball so well that Coach said he’d cut me if he could have you. The thing is, he meant it.
You never told me that girls could play sports — you just played. You never told me that I should stand up for myself — you just stood up for yourself. You never told me that working my tail off doesn’t always garner recognition but it does produce opportunities — you just worked your tail off.
Today Z finished pharmacy school. He’s a doctor! All along, you believed he could do it. You believed W would make it in Manhattan, and she has. Big time. You believed that I would write stuff somewhere someday, and I am. How lucky we kids are that you believed in us with no reservations. How lucky we are that you are you.