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My first foray into the world of writing, though contentious, was also the most rewarding in terms of skills imparted. For the few years I freelanced as an academic writer, I learned a great deal from conducting online research to writing in different styles and subjects while maintaining impeccable industry standards. Compounded with absurd deadlines, the burn out was overbearing but the experience divine.
Away from the methodical writing described above, writing essays -- creatively and freely -- is a whole new ball game.
After trying different methods and guidance, I settled on the dictum of Sy Safransky, the Sun Magazine's editor and founder: He looks for that clueless but passionate writer whose mind is a blank piece of notepad without direction but bravely upon placing pen to paper, words and patterns come forth leading to a creative journey that will be confounding to self as well as others.
This is my journey.
I wasn't always great; but, who was anyway? In sixth grade is when I would discover my greatness. I remember vividly the sequence of events that culminated to this revelation. It was in 1998 on a much awaited visiting day. All boarders would crowd by the school's gate waiting for their parents and guardians to arrive. My dad's red Datsun came into view and slowly made its way into the school yard but came to a sudden halt. I excitedly ran towards it wondering what was wrong. A small rock stuck on the left front tire was to blame. I kicked the rock and jumped into the back left side of the vehicle. From the window, I noted by the mouth-covered chuckles that everyone had seen this embarrassing spectacle including Margret. Awhile later, I was seated across my dad with my grades in the palm of his hands. He was fidgeting -- clearly disappointed – looking for words to express his dismay. "You know Felix, the problem with you is lack of passion. Without finding passion in whatever you do -- success will elude you. Do you understand?" "Yes dad." "Also, try to love your teachers. You can't learn from someone you hate." I don't know whether it was the advice or the empathy of seeing my dad this downtrodden but something opened up. Like a blind man whose vision was restored, I could now divinely understand the intricacies of middle school education. Mathematical formulas didn't seem like punishment anymore. By leaps, the rest of the subjects followed suit and became my slaves. Overnight, I became great. In a stream of four classes and 200 students, I was king of the blackboard. Mrs. Wamy, my then favorite teacher, would come with goodies in the form of bananas and avocados for whoever who would crack some mathematical problems she would write on the blackboard. Guess who would get a daily dose of fruit salad? My conquests endured till the end of the 7th grade. Why does life send some people your way? Like many other students, Margret sought me out to explain some concepts. I had seen her on a daily basis and her beauty couldn't go unnoticed. For some reason, I didn't pursue after girls. Maybe it was the fact that I had started school early and was therefore younger than most in my class. Seated on a bench, Margret came and sat beside me. She then proceeded to grab my thigh to position herself within earshot -- our thighs side by side. It was so close. Something weird was happening. My whole body shuddered and tingled. An electric tenderness left my nape caressing my shoulders collecting an army of goosebumps that were spread -- like butter on bread -- across my back and as they dissipated just as they were about to start the ascend of my derriere, I felt a warm mess deposited on my thighs. I was now an adolescent, a proper teenager. God bless you Margret. Thereafter, it was downhill for me. I was now spending my whole time and mental acuity drafting love notes -- meticulously hidden below protractors and set squares inside Oxford and Staedtler geometry sets -- to be passed on in class. During lessons, I would day dream of Margret -- in her blue and white checked tunic -- swaying majestically to the tune of Mariah Carey's Heartbreaker song (her favorite song) across space. On one of these depraved episodes, I was jostled into reality by a question directed at me. Not knowing what was asked, I sought help from my desk mate by stamping his foot. Barely audible, he squeezed out from his lips two words. Confidently, I answered. "Fallopian Tube teacher." The class roared into a delirious howl and for the remainder of the lesson, the spasms of laughter pressed on. There was no way this group would be teachable and the teacher left in defeat. With an expressionless grin I asked what the question was. She had defined an appendix. At this time, my small sister who was two years my junior had joined me in school. During visiting days, we would all sit together in the car. We were now back to where we were two years ago -- with my dad holding my grades wondering what would have gone wrong. I had no answer but my small sister did. "It is a girl called Margret dad."