When I was in ninth grade in junior high school the principal of our school sent word to my class that he wanted to see me.
"Oh," I asked myself, "what awful thing have I done?" I had no idea of what it could be. Though I do many naughty things, I usually know they are wrong when I do them.
His office was up a long staircase, and I had trouble climbing the stairs because I was trembling so much. I timidly entered his office to find him sitting at his desk with a big smile on his face.
"I want to congratulate you," he said as he handed me a plaque. I took it with trembling hands, completely confused with what was going on.
"You were first place winner in the WCTU essay contest," he explained, still smiling.
"Thank you," I said having been taught to be polite to grown-ups, "but I did not know I was in a contest."
"Well," he replied, "I think your teacher sent in some of the good ones your class members wrote. Yours must have been the best because that is a first place plaque."
I hurried back to my class to show the teacher what I had done, completely forgetting my feelings when I was going the other way. I decided right then and there that I was going to be a writer.
When I went up to high school the next fall I saw that journalism was included on the list of subjects. So, of course, I signed up for it. When I got to the class I discovered that I was the only sophomore taking the course. The others were all seniors. The teacher made no fuss over my lowly status so I remained and enjoyed the class much more than the Latin I was taking.
That summer the journalism teacher got married. She had to quit because married teachers could not teach in Indiana then. Since I was the only student in the school with journalism training I became editor of the weekly newspaper we published in the school.
Penrod (nobody called him Mister) was the shop teacher who was in charge of printing our newspaper and I got along just fine with him. I was excused from all my study halls so I could work on the paper and I edited it for two years because I was still the only student in the school with journalism training.
When I entered Earlham College the next fall, I was blessed with an English professor who spent more time working on writing skills than reading materials. I developed an enormous crush on him partly, I am sure, because he frequently read my contributions to the class.
All went well until the end of the year. He assigned us the task of writing a short story. I carefully thought through a plot, put it on paper, and turned it in. I waited patiently for him to read mine. He never did! He read many of them to the class but he never read mine!
I was disenchanted, disillusioned, and desperate. I paced the campus late at night with tears streaming down my face. I realized he would never read my story to the class! He thought I could not write! My grief was too great to tell anyone about it. In fact, I had never told anyone that I intended to be a writer, so there was no need to tell them this.
I spent a lot of time working with girl scouts in the town that year. I had some really superb training from National staff women who were spending time training local leaders that year. I decided I would be a girl scout professional instead of being a writer. Earlham did not have a sociology major at that time, so I changed to Indiana University for my sophomore year.
How tender are those teen age years! I made important decisions that led me into my adult life. I never even thought about discussing such an important matter with anyone. I had many friends at Earlham, but none of them were close. My roommate had two handsome boys competing for her attention and had little time for me. My mother had enough troubles of her own without me bothering her with mine.
Teenage is the time of rebellion to seek independence. Do others also tend to make such important decisions in their teen age years without discussing it?