It took me 35 years and 6 hours to write this and it doesn’t pain me in the least that you will read it in less than 3 minutes.
Over the years my friends have heard me joke that the only regret I have had in my life is that I never learned how to type. It actually was not a joke at all, it was just my way of making light of a skill that I had failed to learn in high school. I’m not saying I’m merely a poor typist, I’m saying I’ve never been one…period. But that’s all changed now. Many of you reading this could probably care less about a skill such as typing, but for someone who wants to be a writer—and is writing a book—it’s pretty important. Just like a scalpel is to a surgeon or a saw is to a carpenter—we can accomplish the task without our tools, but it wont be easy and it wont be pretty.
Now that I’m on the road I spend far more time than ever before at coffee shops—sharing space with others like me—searching for quality internet. I didn’t notice, however, until recently, how embarrassed I actually was about my pecking and poking. I had this feeling of shame surrounding it—yet I couldn’t comprehend why. I became incredibly self-conscious and I noticed it was starting to change my behavior; spending more time solitary in my teardrop to work and write, and less time being social to do the same. For someone who is an ambivert—having a balance of both introvert and extrovert qualities—I knew this was terribly unhealthy for me. I was also starting to feel that writing was becoming a burden and an effort.
Everything became daunting: a post, a recipe, a story.
I made myself a promise to learn to type before I left the Oregon coast but the exploring there was so incredible that I found myself procrastinating (no regrets there), but the truth was, I was putting it off because I was actually afraid. I know it sounds silly but what if I couldn’t learn because of all the years of bad typing habits? Or was there something else much deeper going on? I was so intimidated because I knew how difficult and time sucking it was going to be and I used that as an excuse not to start. I had to give myself pep talks and remind myself that (a) I’ve done many more difficult things in my life, (b) this was simple by comparison, and (c) how amazing it was going to feel when I could finally write a word while watching the screen and not the keys—which is how all us peckers and pokers type. After tearing myself away from Oregon, I arrived in Sonoma with a slight cold, a forecast of 7 days of rain, and no internet.
Perfect. Looks like the Universe says it’s time.
When I first started creating words on the screen—the correct way and almost by memory now—I felt as if I was learning to read for the first time. I saw the possibility of my future as a writer opening up along with a feeling of pride that I was finally learning a skill that can open doors for me. This was a huge motivator. But something else started to unfold as well. I found myself remembering why I never learned this to begin with and it brought me back to my teenage years and a difficult time in my life. Obviously there was something deeper going on and even though it wasn’t registering in my brain, my body and spirit were feeling it. I never learned to type because I skipped class so often I had to drop it. I did the same for algebra and any other class that I felt was too hard. The beginning of my sophomore year was also the start of my fifth school and I had learned how to play the system. I soon found I could get away with just the basics and On The Job Training. High-school became a breeze because I scammed my counselors and gave up on anything I considered difficult. I thought it was the easy way out but when I look back now, it only made my life harder, my choices and opportunities less. I ended up where I am today because I worked to get here but the load could’ve been much easier. Most days I went to three classes and then to work. I skipped out to drive around with my friends to either get high or drink beer, or both. Six months before the end of my senior year, my dad bet me that I wouldn’t graduate and if by some miracle I did, he’d throw me a keg party. I understand now what a genius move that was. He knew I’d take the bait just to defy him! After two years of summer school and one of night school, I walked with my graduating class but didn’t receive my diploma until I made up English two months later.
And my dad kept his word and threw me a kegger.
The shame and embarrassment I’ve carried into the coffee shop wasn’t just the fact I pecked and poked – it was about my past and the trauma of what my life represented back then. I had no idea until the memories of that time started to slowly surface just like my new words on the screen. I also began to understand the role I had played as well. My life was a world of chaos and there was very little guidance. I chose self preservation the only way I knew how; drugs, alcohol and rebellion. Although I didn’t believe this at the time, I had such a limited understanding of life and a false bravado that I was strong and brave and tough and could handle anything in front of me. But the truth is, I was scared and angry and hurt and I wore my rebellious attitude like a badge of honor. I played the victim and it would be almost 20 years before I would make peace with that.
So here I am, 35 years later and my shame and regret has finally been laid to rest. All told, it took me 50 hours to learn how to type—the equivalent of one semester—and I did it in 6 days. I may not type well or even remotely fast right now (8WPM) but at least I can type and I know I will improve quickly because it’s important to me. Just like any changes we make in life, we have to make a conscious effort to keep moving forward—through the hard parts, the chaos, the change—in order to reap the benefits. I wish I could tell my younger self this so she would’ve tried harder but she had to find her own way and learn these lessons the way she did. As it stands now, I am incredibly proud of what she has finally accomplished.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the nearest coffee shop so I can show off my mad typing skills.