As a child, I wrote a poem about love.
My poem had rhyme, but I also included meter ( for you non-English majors, meter is the rhythm and emphasis of a line of poetry based on syllabic beats). I wrote it on a big, red heart I cut from construction paper. It was a school art project for Valentine’s Day.
I gave the poem to my grandparents. My mom upon seeing it and reading it, responded, “Brittany, I think your talent is writing.” I was 7.
Playing off the compliment, I didn’t consider myself worthy, a belief I carried long into adulthood.
My Grandparents kept that poem on their refrigerator, and my mom, who now owns their house, never touched the poem. It still hangs on the refrigerator as it did 26 years ago.
I distinctly remember when my mom acknowledged my talent, I too acknowledged it. It rang true to my soul, my little 7 year old soul. Feeling the intensity of the truth that had just been spoken, understanding the value of that truth, and how it made me feel, I buried it, deep within me, like a pirate burying treasure. My 7 year old self understood the hurt and pain my soul would feel had I tried to unveil my talent in a harsh world.
Recently, as I’ve neared the end of my contract with a job, I’ve thought more and more about writing. The Universe has sent signs, a “download” about a children’s book a few weeks ago, a quote , “to not follow your passion is to die a slow death by suicide.”
Yes, I buried my truth long ago about being a writer, to avoid the pain of criticism. But I can’t deny my truth any longer, because it hurts more to bury my truth out of fear, than to live it and face critics.
I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer.
There were times where I lived my truth wholeheartedly. In college, I pursued writing because college was a safe bubble to put myself and my writing out into the world, with very few consequences or critics. When I wrote my first article for my college newspaper, The Text, as a freshman, a scathing review of George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, there was a very deep sense of satisfaction and contentment, like, “yea, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” My sophomore year I became the Editor in Chief, which I think happened more out of luck and demonstrating passion than from talent.
Writing my column as Editor in Chief was nerve wracking, sure. I demanded perfection of myself, I desired to give the readers my best. Increasing readership and engagement with The Text became my passion project, that is, until it was time to create a senior thesis to graduate with my Graphic Design Communications degree.
I switched my focus to my senior thesis, and I handed over the reigns of Editor, while I studied abroad in London during my Junior year.
While studying abroad, I ruminated over ideas for a senior thesis, a whole year earlier than I needed to. It was while I was in London I got inspired by social activism, calls to action, philosophers of the Enlightenment period, like John Locke and his Social Contract Theory. I knew I wanted to combine social activism, and theory, while also displaying my writing, photography and design skills. After talking with my Serbian and German roommates for hours in our common room of our flat near Elephant and Castle station in South London, “Citizen” was born.
“Citizen” became my senior thesis, a philanthropic magazine about local citizens in Philadelphia who were going out and bettering their communities. Knowing the magnitude of my work ahead of me, I started working on Citizen in the beginning of my senior year, long before most seniors even nailed down their project ideas. I wrote articles, took photos and designed mastheads. I created featured column names, as well as loose ideas for branding. The last semester of my senior year, I took a newspaper/magazine studio course in addition to my capstone thesis studio class to ensure my passion project would get finished.
By the end of my senior year I had a fully functional magazine. Had I handed it to someone on the street, they would have believed it to be a real magazine. My hard work earned me the Writing for Graphic Design award at the Senior Graphic Design Banquet. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully let the significance of that award sink in (at this time, I still couldn’t take a compliment). At the end of my senior year, I was exhausted, and couldn’t stand to look at the magazine any longer. I had ate, slept and breathed Citizen, for more than an entire year. It was the embodiment of all of my talents, from conception to final product through my sweat, stress and tears.
After college, I worked independently as a screen printer and graphic designer while trying to figure out ways to take Citizen to the next level, a real, functioning magazine. But the exhaustion after completing design school coupled with zero start up capital, made it truly difficult to jump start my dream. I found safety in getting a job in education. It was a stable job, steady income, good benefits and hours, plus I knew I could go anywhere and find a teaching job. I switched fields and that’s where I’ve been for over 10 years, up until this week.
Although I have a teaching job lined up for August, I will be currently unemployed for a month and a half. The lack of income during this uncertain time definitely has me on edge, but when I spoke to my mom, she again referred back to her acknowledgement those 26 years ago, “Brittany, you’re a writer, take this time to focus on your writing.” She put into words what I had been inherently feeling, the need to take this time to dive back into my passion.
At 2:15 early this morning, after waking up to a stroke of genius, a fluid stream of consciousness, I’m writing this…
I, Brittany Bigley, am a writer, and from here on out, I’m going to start acting like one.