The Birth of An Idea, Part 2

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2009. Less than a quarter of the way into my Senior year of high school, yet the desperation and longing to be as far away from that school building made me feel as though I would be trapped there forever. The phrase “anywhere but here” was etched into my skin- I had to get out of there, and I had to get out fast. Lost under a pile of pressure, I quickly forgot that it was a year I was meant to enjoy. Seminary applications, SATs, and college brochures quickly made their way into my fragile hands. The mounting pile of decisions were only greater enhanced by the on going fears that took over my body whenever I allowed myself a moment of thought: What next? Who would I be once the diploma was in my hands and I was out of this place forever? It was an exhilarating feeling, yet one that kept me awake for nights at a time.

I’m sure that the feelings that I had towards the environment that had shaped the early version of my adult life were feelings known by most students who had once stood in my place. And yet, for some, high school was all about glory. I had friends who truly believed that the best years of their lives were their years set in the hallowed halls of their high schools…If high school was meant to represent my “glory days,” then the rest of my life was guaranteed to suck.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression: I did enjoy school, to a certain extent. Academically at least, I thrived. I was never happier than when I had a book to read, an assignment to complete. It simple words, I was a geek, a nerd, a bookworm. It would be nice to say that I thrived socially as well, but such was not the case. I had my somewhat solid group of friends, although they too teetered back and forth throughout the years. And, as we all began to map out our futures, I watched them slowly but surely gravitate away from me. As if the future wasn’t scary enough.

And all the while, the dream of my almost forgotten idea lingered in my mind…I needed to create something of it, I just wasn’t sure how.
The day before Thanksgiving break, I decided to go out on a limb and ask for help. I had questions, I had ideas, and I needed someone to turn to. There was no one better fit for that position than my English teacher, Miss Alison Schulman. I was timid and shy as I approached her desk with the idea.

“I think I have an idea for a novel,” I blurted out during our conversation. Just like that, the idea formed into something else. “A novel.” I had not thought of it that way until then. But, that is what it quickly became.
I shared my ideas with Miss Schulman, and expressed my confusion on how to begin. How does one write a novel, where do you even begin? And, who would listen to the mindless babblings of a high school student, of all people?

She looked me straight in the eye and gave me the most sound piece of advice, one that I had heard my entire life, but never quite understood the meaning until then: “If not now, when? Why not begin now, when the idea is fresh? Why let it sit around for the next 10 to 20 years? Eventually, you’ll become too busy to think about it, and move on with your life. It may never formulate past twenty pages, or it could become something much more important than that. But, if you don’t try now, you may never get to it.”

And just like that, I was hooked: It’s now or never.

It was after completing my first (and only) seminary application that these thoughts began to manifest. I had been scared until then, but nothing prepared me for the panic that would take over once the application was out of my hands. It had been a long time dream to attend this seminary, although when I look back at how my life has played out since then, I believe it was a dream implanted in my head by others. I had heard my friends’ older sisters speak of their year spent in Israel, and to me, in sounded like a dream come true. A year spent in Israel, learning and living? What an incredible thing it was indeed. Eventually, it became a social thing. The seminary that you would attend would determine your social status for the rest of your life (I have to laugh at the sheer insanity of that sentence).

True, I craved the sense of environment and belonging that the school had to offer, but I knew that I would never fit in there. I hoped to prove that I would fit in there, and in a sense, by applying there, I was in fact implying that I would have liked to be typical. What a shame that I was too scared to see the beauty in being different then. 

I sat with the application in my hands for hours before sending it off. My mother, father and virtually every relative that had come through our household for our version of Thanksgiving Dinner had looked it over and given me advice. From the time I had completed it until I sent it out, it had been edited at least 20 times. I was confident that I would be called for an interview…I was confident that I would impress the principal and surely secure myself a spot in their class list for the upcoming school year. In fact, I had never been surer of anything in my life….And then, I thought back on the conversation I had had with Miss Schulman earlier that day.

If not now, when?

I could hide behind my dreams for the rest of my life, or I could charge ahead and try. What was the harm in simply (again, because things could in fact be so simple) trying it out? There was a chance that I could fail. There was an even bigger chance that I would give up before I even reached to point in which I could determine it a success or a failure. But, how would I ever know if I didn’t give myself a push? I left the world behind, closed myself into a state of mind that I had never been in before, and tried to focus. How could I make my vision, my characters, my world come to life?

I felt almost as though I was doing something wrong. I had no idea how to write a “novel” or even conceptualize a story in such a large scale. I had been telling stories my entire life. Everything I had ever seen or done had led me to the moment where I would be able to put my passion to paper. And yet, I sat in front of my computer screen, trying fruitlessly to say what I felt needed to be said. I knew what I wanted; I wanted to bring the lives of complete strangers together by a string of Divine Providence. In a sense, that was what my entire life had been, a string of Divine Providence- the Hand of G-D constantly moving me in the direction that I needed to go, whether I understood (which I didn’t) or appreciated it (again, I didn’t). The story was somewhere inside of me, the ideas were at their boiling point, and I had to get them out.

I don’t have a recipe with which to demonstrate what happened next. I stopped thinking too hard, let go of my insecurities, and began to type. I wanted to bring life to my dreams. And suddenly, almost systematically, a “plan of attack” was formed. I began to brainstorm, the words and ideas began to manifest, and within a few hours, I had a rough (very, very rough) outline of a novel.

Four strangers, strung together helplessly by a series of events that take their already miserable lives by storm. Four people, though from different worlds, who share a common ground of which is usually shared only by close friends or lovers. They would come together to avenge a lost life, not by means of revenge, but by means of healing. They would play out as victims, time and time again- the murder they would end up witnessing would indeed be the least of their worries.

Suddenly, these characters had names, they had identities. Families, friends and lives that were real, almost more of a reality to me than the life that I knew to be true outside of the walls of my bedroom. 

That night was the beginning of a journey that would take my life by storm and change the whole meaning of who I was. I just didn’t know it yet.