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One year ago today English Lessons was born. To commemorate this book’s first birthday, I would like to write it a thank you note/birthday card. If you think this is strange, don’t worry, it is. But when you write a book, it kind of becomes its own entity. A person in itself. You birthed it, yes, but then you quickly learn it’s just going to do what it’s going to do. No matter how much you will it to be a certain way, to be read by certain people, to be understood as a certain thing. A book is magical in this way. In its ability to transcend its writer.
So English Lessons, on the occasion of your first birthday, I would to thank you for the many lessons you’ve taught me this past year. Here are a few.
Thank you for teaching me that I want to be a writer when I grow up.
Ok, I already knew this about myself, but the writing journey is ridden with fear and second-guessing. One day I think I am good at it and writing is definitely my path. The next I spiral into self-doubt and consider changing careers. I loved writing you, English Lessons. You are by far my most favorite project, my most worthwhile hours. (And I spent many hours on you, so I’m glad they were not a waste.) Even in the midst of having a full time job and writing for clients and other publications, you were what I wanted to work on most. You were what I cared about most. I want to make more things like you. I had always felt this deep down. Thank you for confirming that this is true.
Thank you for giving me tougher skin.
Not everybody has liked you, English Lessons. I’m sorry to tell you this. I was equally as sorry to hear it, but you know what? In the end, this was good for me. I like people to like me. In fact, I need people to like me. Releasing you into the world taught me that this will not always be the case and guess what. Even if people don’t like you or me, I will survive. We will survive. Their dislike will not kill us.
You are a very good representation of myself, my thoughts, my feelings and my beliefs. It was good for me to practice putting these deep-down truths in front of people. Even if they didn’t like them or agree with them, they were still true. They were still honest. They were still me. Being me is more important than being liked. You are what taught me this.
Thank you for teaching me that I need other people.
English Lessons, you did not come into this world alone. First, there were friends and family who encouraged me to write you. Then there were more friends and family who gathered around at the time of your birth. Throwing a book launch party, hosting signings, sending me emails and texts of encouragement, posting photos of you on social media. I needed people so desperately when you were being released because I felt more vulnerable than I’ve maybe ever felt. I needed my mom, my sisters, my dad, my friends more than they even know. In fact, without them, I don’t know that I would have ever let you be born, and that would have been so sad.
Thank you, perhaps most of all, for teaching me that God’s purpose for my life is not fame.
I have to confess to you, English Lessons, that once you were born, I started comparing you to a lot of other books. I started wondering if you were selling more copies than this book. If this book was better than yours and if so, why. I’m sorry I did this to you. (I’m sorry I do this to you still.) That is unfair, and it immediately steals the joy and pride I have in you when I do this.
I’ve always struggled with how to measure my writing. How to know if it’s good and worth pursuing. Is it when my work is flying off the shelves? When I have a certain amount of Instagram followers? When a blog post gets a certain amount of Facebook shares?
What you’ve taught me is that no, it’s not any of those things, and it can’t be. Because if that’s how I measure success, I will quit. What is enough sales? What is enough followers? What is enough recognition? Once I have it, I always always want more. What you’ve showed me is that God’s purpose for my life isn’t to be big and famous with my writing. It’s simply to use the gift I’ve been given in the best way I can. Some days I hold this truth well. Some days, I want to chuck it over the fence and write what will make me lots of money. And I sit down and I try that and then I realize, I honestly don’t know how to do that and the people who have figured this out are marketing geniuses and good for them. But I am not them. Thank you, English Lessons, for reminding me of that.
You’ve taught me a lot more, but I’m sure you’re embarrassed by all of my gushing by now, so I will stop and simply say, happy birthday, English Lessons. You’ve been a struggle, a joy, a source of pain, a source of hope. Overall though, I am so glad you were born.
**And to all of you—readers, friends, family—thank you for being with me this last year. So many of you have cheered for English Lessons, read English Lessons, supported English Lessons, told me how English Lessons resonated with you and your doubts and your story. We’ve raised this little guy together. I’m so grateful for that. You really actually have no idea how grateful I am for that.