“I sort of what to punch you right now. Seriously.”
So began an email I received in January of this year from one Unlost reader, Miss Jody Lamb.
“But then I’d probably hug you and give you a big high five. You really majorly stuck a pin in my behind to move forward with a huge project, actually a life endeavor, I’ve been thinking about for years but putting off because of fear and other mumbo jumbo like having an insanely consuming job.
A little about me: I grew up with a loving family but I felt the detrimental effects of parental alcoholism early on. I was constantly covering up for my family and holding everything together so that no one ever really saw that it was out of control. There was no one to talk to about it. So I held it all together and on the outside, I was just about as well rounded and accomplished as a young person could get. Inside, I was a mess! I had self esteem issues, MAJOR anxiety problems and was completely ashamed that I had such an abnormal life. I had no idea that alcoholism is a common problem and that about 1/4 of my classmates were probably dealing with the same crap at home as me.
As an adult, I became as knowledgeable about alcoholism as I could be and discovered something super, super disturbing:
1.) It’s so common and
2.) There is soooo little outreach and education about alcoholism for kids. On the internet, there’s hardly anything. Kids don’t talk to their teachers or counselors for fear of them “telling” so their only source for info is in the internet and there’s nothing really.
This bothered me. A lot.
At 26, I was beyond lost, got zero satisfaction from my day job and had accidentally moved up the corporate ladder in an ill-fitting career. For an escape, I started writing fiction like I did as a kid. I wrote a middle-grade (tween) novel manuscript based loosely on my life with parental alcoholism and coming of age stuff all mixed in. I realized that I very much wanted to talk to kids about my experiences and what I learned and hopefully inspire at least one kid the way I wish someone had done for me. But talking openly about something I’d worked so hard as a kid to hide was scary.
Nonetheless, I spent two years on four drafts of it and gave up most of my non-working time to learning how to write for young people. The big NYC publishers told me it would have been published quickly 8 yrs ago before vampires and wizards. The realistic fiction market isn’t very profitable so they don’t have an interest in publishing it. In 2011, I received 30 rejections for the novel from agents and publishers.
At that point (last fall), I almost gave up. It would have much easier to just say oh well, I tried. I’ve been sitting on the manuscript. Lost.
Then I read your posts and thought about how if you knew about my life and how I have this calling and about the book and everything, you’d smack me in the face and tell me that 20 years from now, I’m going to be 49 and if I don’t do this, probably a miserable, sad cat lady full of regrets.
More and more, I lay in bed at night and think back to how I felt as a kid and how much I learned as an adult about coping with alcoholism and how much I could have benefited from the info as a kid. And I picture some kid googling “what do i do if my dad’s drunk all of the time” or “what’s an alcoholic” but all he finds are the archaic websites of the associations dedicated to the cause (they’re all old and stuffy and clueless about how to reach kids in the 21st century). And this kid is scared and he thinks his family problems are unique to his.
Damn it. So you see, I’ve got to do something. I must self publish my book and get it out there and get into the schools and talk to those kids. I need to make a resource-packed website with videos, contact info to get help and interviews with experts so they can learn everything I learned, only way earlier.
Because if I don’t do it, I don’t know who will. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. See what I mean? I want to punch you…”
A few months later, I received an update from Jody.
“I wrote a letter to a small publisher. I broke every single query-letter rule there is to break. What did I have to lose? Nothing.
One month later, I signed the contract for the book deal with that publisher. My novel will be launched this fall.
And this book is just the beginning! I’m not even at 2% of my goal but at least it’s 2% further than where I was a year ago. I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT GOING AHEAD AND REGISTERING A 501(c)3, creating the resource website for kids and applying for grants to make it what it should be and changing the world.”
THE OFFICIAL DAY OF MAKE A DIFF
Guys, I want you all to become more Jody Lamb-like.
I want you to stop making excuses– to stop waiting for the perfect situation, the perfect circumstance, for that day far in the future when you’ll have more “time” or energy or when your ambitions will become more “reasonable.”
Instead, I want you to get off your butts and do what you can do right now to start making a difference.
It doesn’t have to involve doing something “big”– it might be as small as smiling at someone in the hallway or really listening to a customer. It might be as simple as making a burrito with love.
But whatever your contribution might be, start now.
Not tomorrow, not next week, but now. Today.
Because if not now, when?
And if not you, who??
And so by the power vested in me, I hereby declare today (along with every single day of the year) to be THE OFFICIAL DAY OF MAKE A DIFF.
To kick off this very special day, I’ve invited Jody Lamb herself to share some inspiring words of her own. (Be forewarned: she’s been known to flick people in the forehead.)
JODY LAMB THE AMAZE
* * *
Jody Lamb: Grownup, usually. Writer. Former super worrier. Friend to kids with alcoholic loved ones. Believer in the power of hope. Fan of life.
Creator of JodyLamb.com and author of the soon to be published tween novel, Easter Ann Peters’ Operation Cool.
* * *
Confession: One day, I sort of wanted to punch Therese Schwenkler, creator of this brilliant, brave unlost movement. But if I’d actually seen her in person, it would have surely turned into a hug and a high five instead.
You see, those sharp jabs at my inner compass are hard to take sometimes. Often, her words are like that one bumper sticker quote everyone loves: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Oh so motivating but overwhelming and exhausting at the same time.
Come on, be the change? I used to think, yeah, maybe I’d be it, if I could. Yes, I would if only the perfect circumstances arrived on my doorstep topped with a sparkly bow.
We do not determine our purpose, we detect it.
– Viktor Frankl
If you’re fortunate enough to have put the pieces together enough in grownup land, maybe you’ve detected your purpose, your calling. Maybe you’ve recognized a problem and you know you could help solve it, if only those perfect life circumstances arrived.
And so it nags at you – that one project, maybe even that rest-of-your-life endeavor that you’ve been thinking about for years. You know, the one you’ve been putting off because of fear and other mumbo jumbo like having an insanely consuming job (been there) and dealing with family drama fit for the worst of the reality TV shows (been there) or maybe you’ve not yet won the lottery.
You swap your grand if-only ideas with your buddies across a sticky table at happy hour after a long day in cubicle land, don’t you?
Pardon me for a sec.
(Pretend I just flicked you in the forehead for real.)
I’m sorry, but you needed it.
Great news, pal, buddio, fellow grownup seeking unlost status!
You can do something meaningful now. It’s not all or nothing.
You don’t have to quit your job. Or leave your life behind and get on a plane bound for the other side of the globe. Or spend a gallizon dollars trying to win the lottery.
Your first move toward doing something big doesn’t have to be epic. In fact, most epic things begin teeny tiny.
Most grownups are stupid. They’re full of regrets. They give up on dreams. They ignore their inner compass and their purpose for a variety of reasons.
Count. Me. Out.
Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.
– Clint Eastwood
I found my inner compass. I realized I was meant to talk to kids about my experiences and what I learned and hopefully inspire or give hope to at least one kid the way I wish someone had for me.
Some days, I only have 10 minutes to give and I let myself be satisfied with that.
You should, too.
You’re living for yourself, aiming for a higher plane and contribution to something bigger than yourself.
That is amazing, you un-grownup you.
It may require a bit of sacrifice. Give up some of your TV watching or news feed reading. Ask other people to help you out from time to time. Maybe you can devote just 10 minutes a day to do it. But that’s 3,650 minutes a year toward your purpose.
You’re here for a reason. Your talents, your experiences and your opportunities are not by chance.
Your inner compass will keep pointing in the direction you need to go, wherever it is you are today or tomorrow.
# # #
Also, if you’ve been impacted by loved ones’ alcoholism or other addictions, consider shooting Jody an email. “As I get that website going, it’d be amazing if people shared their ideas about what would be most effective or what would have moved them when they were young. Who knows, maybe someone would even agree to be my first interviewee on the subject,” said Jody when I asked how people can be of help.
Also, here are a few of my fave Jody Lamb blog posts for kids. Check ’em out!
[Image by nickb_rock]