I sat at my laptop in my house typing away next to an owl mug I bought in China Town. I was experiencing a “block.” Even though as a writer and a writing coach, I do not believe in blocks. I called my dear, longtime friend Lisa. She told me to listen to my own advice, the same advice she’d heard me give to countless writers countless times. “Don’t think,” she said. “Just write.”
It was the spring of 1990. I was sitting in the dining hall at the sorority house for Monday Night Meeting. It was the evening of Senior Wills. The graduating class of seniors got to bequeath funny items, ideas, and inside jokes to each of their underclass sorority sisters. The gifts came from the senior class — you didn’t know from whom exactly. It was meant to be anonymous and funny and a celebration. All members were required to attend.
I was twenty years old and finishing my second year at UCLA. It had not been easy. I was from Florida. In those days, most students at UCLA were from California. It felt like everyone knew each other from home. After the first year, I applied to transfer Back East. But I didn’t. The second year, I liked UCLA better.
The dining hall in the sorority house was full. After dinner, groups of two and three seniors came forward and announced the Wills, telling each member what the seniors were “bequeathing” to them, in alphabetical order.
When it came to F, three women came forward. They said to me, “We hereby bequeath you the following: tact and taste, a trip to Miss Clairol, and the ability to know she isn’t the center of the universe.”
The room was quiet. I heard everyone’s heads swivel toward me. I sat in a chair with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and a spoon in my hand. I looked up. The heads swiveled back to the front of the room where the three seniors were standing. Although I remember every word of my Will, I don’t remember what the women looked like who said it. I don’t remember if they had dark hair or were wearing shorts or if they were childhood best friends. I didn’t know many of the senior’s names. I didn’t realize they knew mine. I sat there eating ice cream while they moved from F to G.
After that evening, I went upstairs to my room in the sorority house where I lived and pissed on my pearl and gold sorority pin. Then I threw it in the trash. I moved out of the house that summer and deactivated, the sorority word for quit.
I met my five best friends from college at the sorority. We rushed together, pledged together, went to date parties, got Big Sisters, and survived various drinking, smoking, and hooking up dramas. These five women are still among my closest friends, thirty-plus years later. I appreciate the sorority for bringing us together in a school of 35,000 people but, most of all, I still feel the sting for twenty-year-old me who felt ashamed and embarrassed. I might add that my daughter, who is at a small liberal arts college, is not in a sorority.
I bought an owl mug in Chinatown. I look at her big, black eyes jutting out of her ceramic face. Owls are wise. When I look at this owl mug, I wonder what she is thinking. Is she sitting there, stuffed with pencils and black and blue pens, wondering when I will stop believing any of this?
I often think that I don’t like to be the center of attention. Is that true? Or am I remembering what it felt like to have all those swivel heads staring at me at my moment of humiliation. I wonder what my owl mug thinks about this? I wonder if owl mug knows it is time for me to let that go. I wonder if I know it is time for me to let that go? Owls are wise, even when they are mugs. People, not so much.
My friend told me to write and to stop worrying about what I am writing. She gave me my own advice, as if I was a baby in a high chair and she spoonfed mushy pees right into my mouth. She told me this was only a story and it was time to let it go. I felt like it washed right off of me, like a spring shower, like a fly I swatted away that was never really there.
I want to write a book that pours out of me like hot cocoa, hot and sweet and true. I look into the black eyes of my owl mug wishing it could hoot like the barn owl outside my window. I don’t know what I was hiding from all these years, probably myself. When I tearfully confessed this memory to Lisa, I remembered she was there. She was next to me when my Will was granted but it didn’t gobble her up, like it did me.
That was thirty years ago. Lisa is still my dear friend. She takes my classes and shares her wise counsel with me, sort of like an owl. The sorority is gone. It isn’t at UCLA anymore. Those seniors have long since grown up, or married, or moved away, or whatever those b*****s did.
I sit at my laptop in my house typing away next to an owl mug I bought in China Town and listening to advice that I would give to any writer that my longtime writer friend gave me. “Don’t think,” she said. “Just write.” So I do. I write my tactless truth. I write with my dark roots showing — I haven’t colored my hair since Covid. I wear a distasteful leopard and floral-print robe that once belonged to my mother. And I sit, in the center of my Universe, and hope that the next book pours out and gets tons of attention.
Adapted from my blog: https://medium.com/sleepless-i...