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If I'd only known then ...

Words came so effortlessly when I was a teenager. It seemed like everything then was the end of the world -- every heartbreak spawned a poem about death and pain and blood and tears. Life was rich with tragic breakups and rejections, and I loved so many boys, or I thought I loved them until they gave me the time of day -- mutual affection was like so totally lame. If Poison couldn't capture it in a rock ballad it wasn't love.

I stalked a lot of guys who in all likelihood would still -- to this very day -- run screaming if someone dropped my name in conversation. And they'd be right to. There was nothing too extreme in my teenage brain -- I'd walk for miles just to sit on a sidewalk in front of some landmark where I'd seen whichever boy I happened to be chasing on the off chance he'd pass by and see me. The scheme actually worked a couple of times, but instead of making conversation or even waving "hello" I ran away as fast I could with my heart seizing in my throat.

I had this daydream which I'm compelled to preface with the following facts. No. 1: I'm a writer -- a dramatic storyteller. No. 2: the principal told me I was too incompetent to flip burgers at McDonald's. No. 3: I watched a lot of soap operas. No. 4: I hate being naked.

The dream

I was a stripper in Houston, Texas. It wasn't my first choice, but -- having been fired from every fast food chain in America -- my options were limited. I tried so hard to get those burgers right, but they never turned out the way they were supposed to. The folks in Fargo paid me to leave -- they packed my suitcases too -- after I served raw meat to some 300 people who were hospitalized with e coli.

I ran a McDonald's drive through in Boise for a couple of days. The manager congratulated me for setting a new company record, and -- not catching the sarcasm in his voice -- I thanked him, at which point he handed me a customer service report indicating that I was the most complained about employee nationwide. I moved to Houston and got a job at Carl's Jr. working the cash register. Things were going quite well for a change, and just when I was thinking that my luck had changed I spilled someone's soft drink all over the counter, and it must have shorted out the register, because it caught on fire, and the whole building burned down, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be shot on sight if I so much as looked at a fast-food restaurant again.

Stripping was my only option. It was a sad and lonely life made worse by a gang of irrational club owners who slapped me around for refusing to take off my leggings and turtleneck. I told them how uncomfortable I was with my body, but they didn't care. It seemed there was no way out. And then it happened just like a real-life fairy tale. A boy I recognized from my past kicked in the club entrance and yelled at my boss -- "Nobody puts Alexis on a pole."

Growing up

I never wanted for writing material in those days -- the drama of falling in and out of love; fighting with my parents; the injustice of EVERYTHING in the whole entire world. It's little wonder I wrote through 10 spiral notebooks in a week. Life was scary and unpredictable, and I was a basket-case teenager -- that girl from the Breakfast Club, Allison Reynolds.

I'm glad I'm a grownup -- you couldn't pay me enough to go back and do high school all over again. But had I known then that my problems would not always feel like the end of the world -- that other stuff would matter more than me -- I might have bottled some of that teenage angst and saved it for a day like today when the words are more difficult to come by.

Try to Write About the Darkest Things in the Soul

"I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrons. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work." 



  1. I love the Ellison quote....have no idea who he is but it is great!! Where do you find this stuff???

    1. -- This is one of my favorite places to go for inspiration. It reminds me I'm not crazy, I'm just a writer


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