“Writing Your Autobiography” is an SWS course I took with Katy Roberts once upon my time at Wheatley. It was 1993, my senior year, and along with the stress of college applications and SATs, I was going through a break-up. Except this time, instead of a broken heart over a boy, I was learning the pains of growing apart from a friend. In a word: drama. In two words: girl drama, which is way worse.
Each week we were assigned the task of handing in a chapter of our lives, painting a picture of our most defining moments. I struggled with which stories to write. I was seventeen years old. What did I have worthy of telling? Apparently, quite a lot (MOOSE, my second memoir is all about my life as an adolescent).
“Just be honest,” Katy told me when I approached her in a whine, fretting over what to include. That night I went home and wrote about the schism with my best friend. It was the first time I realized the power writing had, especially writing honestly.
“Cathartic, wasn’t it?” Katy asked when she handed me back my paper. “I knew you’d write about that eventually,” she said. She knew, before I did, how much the split bothered me, and she knew my writing about it would help.
In the following weeks, I handed in more chapters of my life, exploring my fears of becoming my mother, disappointing my father, and my own hopes for the future.
“I’m scared that I’ll end up like her—a wife with no real paying job, two daughters, and no money that she can call her very own, no independence. She plays golf and tennis, and Lea and I are her first concern. There isn’t anything wrong with the lifestyle she chose, nothing at all, right? So why am I frightened I might turn out the same way? It scares me to think it. I don’t want to depend on anyone financially, and I want a career. want to do something that makes me feel good inside. I want to make a difference.” (Taken from the chapter IN THE MIRROR from my Autobiography, age 17)
Katy made me realize that writing about yourself, and those close to you, can be a rewarding endeavor. I’m now a popular blogger, memoirist, and television screenwriter, where I write honestly about my life daily. And it all began with Katy Roberts, in her classroom, looking to her for guidance. She was the someone who encouraged me, insisting it was okay to put my life on paper without apology. Katy Roberts is someone who gave me the confidence to be fearless.
Katy was a teacher with whom I always felt a connection. I didn’t have to come to her confiding big secrets with teenage tears. Just day-to-day, it helped being around her. Whether she was painting sets for the musical or grading grammar papers, it always felt warm and comforting by her side. And I think that’s what we look for in our teachers, not just their ability to educate but to inspire.