Nine months ago today, my Dad passed away. I won’t say he died. I can’t say it because it isn’t true, at least for me. His body died but his soul did not. He is still here. I feel him every day. And if I ever doubt that his energy is not present, he gives me a sign, a gift to remind me that he is still here.
I recently wrote a post about how I felt lost without him. I did not know who I was without him. Hours after I wrote that blog entry, I was given several clear signs of who I am and where I am headed. My article for our April issue was now a bullet on our cover. My managing editor told me how much he loved my article and that I should feel free to pitch additional stories in the future. So I pitched an idea in that moment (an idea that has a tie in to my father) and was told we could reach out to the studio/network in regards to making that my next story. I immediately called my Mom and we both agreed this had to be Dad guiding me. And if there were any doubts, events last night further proved to me that my Dad is guiding me back to my goals and dreams.
Last night, I decided to make a trip up to my storage space and finally put away my Christmas decorations. Normally I would just drop off my Christmas storage containers and leave but a gut feeling told me to reorganize some of the boxes I had piled in the back corner. I pulled out some boxes and noticed a file container on the second shelf way in the back corner of the storage unit. It looked like one of the containers I used for storing my tax information. I just had a feeling it was important so I made my way back there to retrieve it. To my surprise, it was filled with all my writing samples from high school, college and my years working as a publicist. I even found my acting headshots from college. I cleared a space and sat down on the floor, reminiscing about my past and a time when I considered myself a writer.
I flipped through the different files and stopped when I spotted a blue folder labeled “Grandpa.” I knew it contained a story I wrote in high school about the day my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. I pulled out the folder and immediately started crying when I saw my father’s handwriting. For months I had been searching for the letters I received from my Dad my freshman year of college. I thought they were at my parents’ house. I had no clue that I had them with me the entire time, in my storage space and with a story about the death of my Dad’s Dad. There they were, in this folder with the story and two writing awards I received—one for the “Grandpa” story and another for all the articles I wrote for my college newspaper “The Daily Trojan.” What a coincidence to find them all together.
So I read the letters, struggling through the tears. My Dad wrote these letters during my first few months at college. I had moved to the other side of the country to follow my dreams and attend USC. The funny thing is that his advice in these letters applies to what I am struggling with today. He tells me he is proud of me and he misses me (but not to get cocky about it—my Dad was Han Solo). “I truly believe you know what you want to do.” And when it comes to my dreams and goals, his advice: “You just hang in there and go for what you want.”
He wrote me these letters almost 20 years ago. And for anyone who knew my Dad, writing was not his strong suit. One letter he wrote over a course of a week—adding the date each time he started writing again. It meant a great deal to me back then that he would take the time to write to me and it was like winning the lottery to find these letters now. I am once again at a point in my life where I need his advice and guidance. He found a way to give me the exact pep talk that I needed by putting these letters back into my hands. (Thanks, Daddy!)
I have been sitting here, trying to find the words to say goodbye to a man who changed my life. When I met him, I was just a young college freshman still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. He was older, with so many years of success and experience that I could learn from. I still remember the night I met him. I don’t know where I got the courage but I approached him in one of the main theaters on campus where he was giving a lecture. I wasn’t the only person who was moved by what he had to say. So as a group, we convinced him to come back to the lobby of one of the dorms and continue a conversation that would span into the wee hours of the morning. This man was Ray Bradbury.
I remember my first real introduction to Ray Bradbury was in high school with Fahrenheit 451. Though many of my classmates moaned about having to read such a tale, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the writing style. There was something poetic about it. I found it inspiring. So when I found out that Mr. Bradbury was giving a lecture at USC, I knew that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.
I don’t remember exactly what he said but I remember how I felt. It was as if he had opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I was never one to just walk up to a celebrity before but I felt I had to talk to him. I was in this weird limbo place in my life where I knew I loved writing but I wasn’t sure what to do with that passion. I remember he told me that I needed to stop worrying about whether or not I was any good at it or if anyone would like what I had to say. He asked me, “Do you feel good when you write? Does it make you happy?” Yes. “Then just do it. Do what you want to do for you and don’t worry about anyone else.” Then he reached down into this leather satchel and pulled out one of his books. He handed it to me and said, “This will help.” The book he gave me was Zen in the Art of Writing, one of my most treasured possessions.
A year later, he came back to USC for a book signing. I remember telling him that thanks to him, I changed my major to Creative Writing. He smiled and gave me a hug. Then he told me, “Don’t ever stop doing what you want to do.”
All these years later and I still have the book he gave me (and the book he signed for me). But I think I lost my way for a while. It’s hard to keep up with the writing when you are going through tough times and you have to focus on financial matters. You have to take a job that will pay the bills and push your dreams to the side. But over the past year or so, I have been trying to get back to the dreams. So when I heard the news of his passing on Tuesday, I dug out my copy of Zen in the Art of Writing and transported myself back in time. This book is just as inspiring to me now as it was back then. For a while, I got away from doing what I wanted to do. But in some strange way, I feel like the Universe is telling me that now is the time for me to go back to “doing.”
And I think that even though he is gone, Mr. Bradbury still gives the best advice.
Doing Is Being
Doing Is Being.
To have done’s not enough;
To stuff yourself with doing–that’s the game.
To name yourself each hour by what’s done,
To tabulate your time at sunset’s gun
And find yourself in acts
You could not know before the facts
You wooed from secret self, which much needs wooing,
So doing brings it out,
Kills doubt by simply jumping, rushing, running
Forth to be
The new-discovered me.
To not do is to die,
Or lie about and lie about the things
You just might do some day.
Away with that!
Tomorrow empty stays
If no man plays it into being
With his motioned way of seeing.
Let your body lead your mind–
Blood the guide dog to the blind;
So then practice and rehearse
To find heart-soul’s universe,
Knowing that by moving/seeing
Proves for all time: Doing’s being!
~Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
Thank you, Mr. Ray Bradbury. Rest in Peace.
“Just keep moving forward.”