What do you love that you “can’t” do?

When I was 10 I just… I never knew what to write about.

Maths was ok. There was a question and an answer. The right answer. The only answer.

But when it came to telling a story there was no answer. There was no right answer. There were infinite right answers.

Perhaps that’s what scared me. Even though being scared of something that has infinite possibilities makes no sense.

Life has infinite possibilities.

My mum found some of my old school books the other day and I started reading through them. Apparently, we were told to write about whatever we’d done that weekend.

I could feel my pain. The lack of knowing what to write about. How pointless I found it.

There was no flair. No creativity. No love.

Just one letter lining up behind another like it was obeying an order.

That’s what I was worried about when it came to our final exams. That’s the one my teacher was worried about.

What was I supposed to do? There was nothing to write about!

And then my parents saved me.

They said “write about football.”

I couldn’t believe I’d never thought about writing about football. The thing I loved more than anything. The thing I wanted to spend all my time doing.

So, in my exam, that’s what I did.

We’d recently won a tournament called The Maynard Cup, a tournament I’d wanted to win ever since my hero had won it.

I’d wanted it more than anything. I’d even started telling my teammates what to do, which I never, ever, would’ve done before. Even then I knew that if I wanted something I’d never had, I’d have to do something I’d never done.

And to win it? To win it so convincingly? To have actually scored a goal in the Maynard Cup Final?

They were the best moments of my life because they were full of happiness and empty of anything else.

I was, for the first time in my life, living in the reality I’d been desperate for.

That was something to write about.

I remember enjoying writing about it. I remember flowing into the now. I remember nothing else mattering but what I was doing.

I didn’t care how I was doing. I was just having fun.

The school gave out awards at the end of year assembly and I wanted to win the sports award.

I wasn’t sure I would. There was another boy who was the fastest in the school and good at football. He’ll probably win it, I thought, as my stomach went warm.

He did. Everyone clapped. I moved my hands together so they’d make a sound.

And then came the creative writing award. I knew I was never going to win that one.

“Matthew Hearnden.”

What?

This wasn’t my award to win. This was somebody else’s award. Someone more deserving.

I’ve said “I couldn’t believe it” and been exaggerating but it’s not even close to an exaggeration when I say I couldn’t believe it.

They told me I’d won it because I’d got the highest mark in the school for that piece of writing in that exam.

The piece about football.

The piece about what I loved.

The piece about what I loved to do more than anything.

Perhaps I never wrote about football before because I didn’t think I was allowed to. Perhaps, because I’d never read anything about football, I thought “I can’t write about football.” Perhaps I thought “I can’t write about football” because I was scared to go first. To be wrong. To dare.

What do you love that you “can’t” do?

What do you love that you won’t do?

What will happen when you do it?

Somebody has to go first.

There is no “somebody.”

There is you.

*****

My book: 42


Originally published at www.matthearnden.com on November 28, 2015.