I considered not writing this essay. I am not certain that I am unique – or rather that my uniqueness is more extraordinary or noteworthy than that of any who journey through mortality. There are undoubtedly others whose needs and talents exceed my own. If I knew their stories personally or saw their youth and the possibilities of their lives laid before them, I might withdraw; not from cowardice or lack of ambition, but because I understand the pain of a life that is peppered with failure. Almost, but never quite reaching the brass ring.
I write this essay, in spite of my uncertainty, because I have nothing to lose. The evening of my life finds me, in many ways, a failure. I do not say this to garner sympathy. It is a simple statistical fact. Attempts versus achievements. Yet the ash in my hand holds a tiny nugget, barely felt as I rub it between my thumb and forefinger. What lies within it?
Perhaps it would be best if I prettied up my personal story, sold you on salient positive details and then carefully held them close to the lens to make them appear more prominent than they are. I cannot. It seems wrong to be so ashamed of a weakness that you have to carefully plaster over it, or to wax and polish a strength to make it seem more than what it is. Inevitably life exposes all things to the unpitying light of Truth. Time spent building gilded towers and elaborate facades has always seemed like wasted effort to me. It is one answering machine speaking to another. Words without substance.
What would I bring to the group? Social awkwardness. A personality that is perhaps a bit wooden and withdrawn around large gatherings of people. An inward bent. A tendency to look too deeply at things.
I am also sincere. A good listener. Careful to avoid hurting people’s feelings. Gentle, funny and friendly as I become more comfortable. I think creatively within the box, burrowing down through hidden layers, illuminating dark corners and often finding the unexpected. I bring a profound – and even desperate – desire to share whatever this insignificant speck, balanced on my fingertip, may contain. It represents any talent I may have and the last bit of my stubborn hope.
I lack the financial resources to attend the conference. I also cannot justify placing my personal aspirations before my family’s need – yet I believe the conference would be of great benefit in propelling me forward; a key to the door, of a possibility, that I have only peeked through the keyhole of. If I am able to go to the conference it will be because you saw something worthwhile in my writing. I hope that you do.