Updated: Jun 27, 2020
| This is the 355th story of Our Life Logs |
Alright, let’s kick this off. This story starts in the early 2000s in Concord, Massachusetts, in middle school—sixth grade specifically—and if I’m to be perfectly honest, it was one of the lowest points in my life. I was never the kind of person who had an abundance of friends. On the bus, I’d find the first available seat and sit there quietly until I got to school. People didn’t sit with me very often. I can’t really say I blame them. They’d just rather sit with their friends. Hell, if I’d had one, I’d have done the same.
In sixth grade, I lacked both friends and good grades. In fact, when I look back on it now, I can’t help but think that my grades were a crime against nature. I think I can say that there wasn’t a single day when I didn’t come away feeling miserable.
I want to be very clear about how it felt to go to class in this place.
On a good day, it felt like being forced to drown while looking around and seeing as everyone else was okay.
And on a bad day, it felt like I was chained to my desk while the teacher got on my case for something I couldn’t help, and then, almost as if to spite me, they would say something that would make me feel as though they’d just inserted living centipedes into my head through my ears. And from there, I was stuck with them crawling and digging their way through the inside of my skull until I went home and dug them out with pliers.
So yeah, that was life. Wake up, school, go home. In the time that I spent there, I can count on my hands the number of people I had a pleasant conversation with.
One of the classes I was failing was English—although I’m convinced to this day that it wasn’t entirely my fault. The teacher was definitely out to get me. How do I know that? My mom, an English graduate who worked in publishing for over a decade, helped me revise a very important paper for the class. She helped me to get it to the point that we felt confident that it would earn me at least a “B” by college standards.
And I still got an “F.”
I wanted to do something about it, but I was soon taught a lesson about the “teacher’s union” and “tenure.” So those thoughts about change were swiftly crushed and I learned that my only option was to suck it up and deal with it.
Overall, with the way that things were going, I became very bitter and resentful. I started hating school on an even deeper level than before and I essentially devalued it in my mind. I didn’t bother to give school my all anymore. My usual routine once I got home from school was to sit in front of the television and do my best to kill the memories I’d made during that day. It was like this until I was about halfway through my sixth-grade year.
Of course, this attitude of mine didn’t go over well with my family. Especially my father. Something to mention about him: my father was obsessed with books. He loved stories to the point that you’d likely find him with a book in his hands whenever he had a moment to himself. So, when I started going on about how English class was a scam and how writing in general was worthless—let’s say he took offense to that.
But the actions he took towards correcting my behavior were unexpected. My usual punishment was often pretty straight-forward: no TV. Or I got smacked. That happened a lot back then, now that I think about it.
This time though, I got thrown for a loop.
My father took me into the den that he has down in the basement, gave me his laptop, and he told me to write something. He didn’t care what I wrote about, I just had to do it for a few hours. I remember that, at the time, I’d thought that this was the weirdest thing I’d ever been asked to do. I felt so damn lost and confused. But I had to write about something so I tried the first thing I could think of and started ranting for a bit. But that only went so far.
I’m not sure how it got started, but I changed my approach. Instead of writing about crappy things that were, I started to write out things as I wanted them to be.
That got some surprising mileage.
I wrote out one weird-ass story. If I had to summarize it, I’d say the highlights were: aliens, myself getting mutated, giant/savage alien animals (because why not?), and the overall destruction of human civilization [young-me was very big on the “Because-I-want-to-so-suck-on-that!” kind of mentality (little dumbass)].
Overall, I went incredibly rogue with the assignment. I kept writing way past the time limit I’d been given. I’d started around noon on that Saturday and kept going until the sun was down and my mom was calling me for dinner.
I was so confused as to why I’d had so much fun with this. It took me a while to understand why I’d gotten so obsessed with keeping up the story. In the end, I figured out why I’d given myself over to it. I was able to get away from the life I was stuck with. I could do whatever I wanted, make friends, travel to places I could never go in real life, and then there was the fighting. What’s more, I could create scenarios where I was able to run into battle with friends. People as strange, lost, and damaged as myself, and for once in our lives we got to be heroes.
It was an escape and it was power. Both were things that I’d wanted and felt I couldn’t have at that point in my life, and yet, writing was a way of having both in spades.
After that day, school seemed different. Almost like it had been “declawed.” And I must say, being able to do whatever and to be whomever you want yields a special kind of confidence.
After all the conflict that I’d had in middle school, it was decided that I should go to a school on a military base. But I kept writing—science fiction and fantasy stories mostly, though I’m sure some would call my work horror. Regardless, it was the method of escape that I always turned to.
I still had issues with finding friends, but now it didn’t hit me as hard anymore. When I had free time in school, I went to the computer lab and I’d write. I’d walk through the halls with a few flash drives in my pockets. Lunch period would come around and I’d be in the computer lab typing away, and every so often, someone would approach me and ask what I was doing.
And I’d tell them.
“I’m writing a book.”
One thing I’ve learned, it feels good to share all this with other people. So, I’d get feedback and validation that what I’d written was actually interesting to someone other than me. Because in the end, I really did this for my own entertainment.
It was funny to explain that to a girl in high school when I let her read this short story I wrote where I defended a bridge by killing over two dozen marauders.
“You’re telling me you wrote about shooting people with guns and stabbing people with swords for fun?!”
“Don’t forget blowing them up with grenades,” I said. “And yeah, that was cathartic.”
“Well, your insanity aside, this was awesome stuff.”
One of the best reviews I could’ve hoped for.
I started writing books once I got into high school, and whenever someone came over to see how far I’d come, they always got this look of shock as they saw the sheer volume of pages I’d managed to crank out. Hundreds, made day after day, using my lunch breaks, my free time at home, there were even nights where I wrote until the sun was up and the lack of sleep gave me headaches.
Doing it made me happy though, it made me feel like I had a purpose, and it even gave me a way to talk to others. The relaxation I got from my hobby made it so that I even got my grades up in all my classes—especially in English, which was practically my domain now.
This helped me to connect to others in ways I otherwise couldn’t. Examples being: the speech I wrote for my graduating class (which left people astounded with how personal I got), even the goodbye-speech I wrote a year after graduation, when one of the few friends I had died, and I wrote something in memory of him.
When things got tough, I told a tougher story, and everything else just fell into place. Perspective can be a powerful thing. I wrote the dedication for my friend and I’m happy that I did it. It helped me to process my grief and I was even told that it helped others with theirs.
A woman who read what I’d written said something to me that I still remember to this day, “Your words will help others to heal.”
That was the kindest thing anyone’s ever told me before, and it made me feel like I might actually be able to do good with this. It was something that I could do that went beyond my original reasons for writing, and it all started with the day my father decided to give me that one punishment. I’d call that “good parenting.”
I’m currently working my way through college as an English major, just like my mother, and I’m still going strong as a writer. I still have my problems socially, but my grades are reasonable. I’m looking to get my work published, but finding the right audience is slow-going. Well, either way, I’m having fun, so I’ll say that for now it’s enough.
This is the story of Mark Taylor
Mark, 22, currently resides in Massachusetts where he’s in college studying English. Instead of punishing him for failing his English class, Mark’s father decided to teach him what there was to enjoy about the class, which helped Mark finding his calling and means of escape that carried him through the rest of his school years. Mark says if he ever has kids, he hopes to set a similar example to them that his father taught him. These days, Mark is working on a book series about futuristic mercenaries who have been stranded in an alternate dimension. It’s chocked-full of horrors that they’ll have to overcome. He’s currently on his fourth book in the series. Mark is unsure where his future will take him, but he’s ready to face whatever comes his way as long as he has a story in his head.
This story first touched our hearts on June 4, 2019.
| Writer: Mark Taylor | Editor: Colleen Walker