Sitting awkwardly on the overstuffed velvet brown sofa, I watched as my grandma shuffled down the hallway. I’d just announced that I was going to become a writer. Specifically, that I’d been accepted into Journalism school at Marquette University. And being eighteen, I thought myself a pretty big effing deal. It was the year following MU Men’s Basketball making it to the final four—one of the highest application years to date. And they’d accepted me. Clearly, I was going to go on to do great things.
Typical teenage asshole.
But also desperate for approval. From like...everyone.
Which was why my grandma’s silence after my announcement followed by her leaving the room left me feeling rather...unsure.
Was it something I said?
I waited. Her house was silent. No ticking clock to break up the monotony of my laboured breathing...which was only getting louder by the second. What was she doing? Where did she go? Was that a spot on the carpet? My pants were suddenly fascinating. I became enthralled by their stitching as moments continued to tick by.
I don’t remember how long she was gone. Only that it felt like a very long time. But as surely as she’d shuffled away, she slowly reappeared. Clutching a small piece of paper in her hand no larger than an index card, she offered me a small, knowing smile. I reached out as she did, our movements in complete unison. Taking the offering, waiting for her to fall back into her oversized recliner before glancing down.
On it was a short story. Really short. I’m talking three lines. I could tell immediately they’d been pounded out on the typewriter that sat in her back bedroom. When I was little, I went into that room all the time to play. And that typewriter was my favorite toy.
“I saved that,” she told me when I finally glanced up at her, a frown on my face. The story was about a mouse who had gone on an adventure and found some cheese. Nothing exciting. A bit creative to be sure, but it wouldn’t win any awards. Not least of all because it appeared to have been written by a five year old. Misspellings and poor punctuation galore.
“What do you mean?” I asked, still confused.
“That’s when I knew you were going to be a writer,” she replied. Swiping a finger below her glasses, she caught a tear.
I was too young, too naive, too full to myself, to understand the full weight of what such belief in a person could mean then. But I understand now.
My grandma had saved a three-line story that I had written for her for nearly thirteen years. Because she knew in her gut that one day, we’d be having the exact conversation we were having now. “Grandma, I’m going to be a writer.” And when that moment came, she wanted to be among the first to say to me, “I know. I always knew. And I’m so proud of you.”
Our relationships shape us. Every single person that we allow to step into our inner circle has the power to push us. Up or down. Left or right. In or out. And you have the power to decide how long you’re going to let that relationship last.
Some are easier to stick with than others. Some we feel compelled to stick with because it’s what we’ve always done. Some we’re afraid to leave. Some we’re afraid to lose. But those relationships that lift you up. That compel you to do great things. The relationships with people who believe in you—they’re worth 1,000 people.
Me? I’ve learned to build relationships with people who remind me of Grandma. Not the age or the wisdom so much as the unshakeable belief in what I’m capable of. Because when you’ve got that on your side, nothing seems impossible.