LEMONADE FROM LEMONS
by Cynthia MacGregor
I never planned to be a writer. I also never asked to have Tourette Syndrome…or to be misdiagnosed, either.
The multiple tic condition, which always includes at least one physical tic and one vocal tic, first made itself known at age 14, in my freshman year of high school. The doctors said “psychosomatic” and “nerves,” put me on tranquilizers, and suggested psychotherapy, none of which helped, of course, since the cause was a real physical condition and not psychosomatic or nerves at all. Meanwhile, I became the freak of Hewlett High School, shunned and made fun of. Even some of the teachers were less than kind. The Health teacher told me to “Stop it.” The Health teacher! He threatened me with the principal’s office if I didn’t stop. I took myself to the nurse’s office instead.
I had been writing ever since I was old enough to spell C-A-T but never envisioned that as a career path. I had my heart set on being an actress. I was going to conquer Broadway. I was good at it, too, usually securing the lead in any amateur production I tried out for—in the teen arts program I belonged to, at summer camp, anywhere.
Then came my junior year of high school. While the freshman and sophomores sold magazine subscriptions to raise money for their class, the junior and senior classes each put on a play for their fundraisers. There were several traditions associated with the play, chief among which was that the day the parts were announced, if you’d been chosen, you would find a script with the name of your character written on it when you got to your homeroom desk that morning. If you lost out, there were no explanations, nor were you allowed to question why you hadn’t been selected. On the morning in question, I all but ran to my homeroom, expecting to see a script on my desk. I had tried out for the lead. I was sure I had gotten it.
I hadn’t. The committee had picked my archrival, Louise, over me. I was crushed. Then suddenly Mr. DeLuca, the faculty advisor to the plays, was in my homeroom, calling me out into the hall. In a total break with tradition, he said, “I want you to know you read better than anyone for the part, but we couldn’t take a chance with your ‘condition’. We had to give the part to Louise. I’m sorry.”
In that one crushing moment, my dream of an acting career totally turned to smithereens. How could I expect to get parts on Broadway when I couldn’t even get a part in the high school’s junior play?!
I accepted the reality instantly, but I didn’t do an immediate about-face to writing as an alternative career. Oh, I was still writing all the time—I was even interning (though it wasn’t called that in those days) for one of the two local weekly papers. But the thought of making a career out of writing had not yet entered my head. I found my way there gradually, as I kept writing and eventually submitted articles to magazines and found myself on the receiving end of small checks—$25 here and $40 there, though they were few and far between. It was a while before I saw that I might make a career of this. Till then, and now out of high school, I took office jobs, sales jobs, a customer relations job…but I didn’t fit in happily in any of these situations. None of them was what I wanted to do. I didn’t, however, have enough faith in my writing ability to think of pursuing it full-time…especially without a college degree. It had been all I could do to get through high school with my still-misdiagnosed “condition.” Enduring four more years of school was unthinkable.
There was no one blinding flash, no “Eureka!” moment when I suddenly realized I could make a career of writing. It happened gradually. But I never looked back. At last I had found my niche.
Today I believe myself to be one of the happiest people alive. There is no one in the world I would want to trade lives with. To the question, “If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you rather be?” I inevitably answer, “No one. I love my life.”
The Tourette’s was finally diagnosed when I was in my early 30s. Under proper medication it is so well controlled that nobody knows I have it till I tell them. I am aware of vestiges of it, but nobody else—not even my Significant Other—sees or hears any of the little bit of remnants.
I can’t claim to have made lemonade from the lemons life handed me. That is, I didn’t do it myself. It kind of just happened. I think it was more a case of falling into a writing career than of setting out in a conscious choice to make a career of doing something that inarguably I had loved all along.
Being of a religious bent, I credit God, and I am grateful to Him.
So let me toast your career with some “lemonade” that life handed me. Whether you’re a writer, a teacher, or whatever your career is, I hope it is as satisfying to you as my career is to me. And if it isn’t, maybe Life is trying to tell you something. Stop and listen. If your life seems a bit sour…enjoy some lemonade.
Cynthia MacGregor is the author of 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books. Most of her works are listed on her website, www.cynthiamacgregor.com. A full-time freelance writer/editor, she can be contacted at Cynthia@cynthiamacgregor.com. Among her books are You Can’t Learn to Write Just by Reading, The Writer’s Answer Book, and The Writer’s Guide to Paying e-Markets (with Lori Paige). All are available from XoXo Publishing at http://www.xoxopublishing.com/Products/index.php?route=product/category&path=121_80