I Owe My Grandfather Everything
My grandfather changed my life.
He gave me one of the greatest gifts you can ever give someone — a glimpse at their calling. The course of my life was forever altered from the wisdom of this man. The last 10 years have been building up to the realization of the calling he guided me towards. Grandpa, I owe you everything.
How did he guide me towards my biggest dreams and ambitions? He asked me one question. That question irreversibly changed my mindset and the paths I’ve taken in the last decade.
I was a young man who was quite lost, but unaware of how out of touch I had become with myself and my capabilities. I was fleetingly happy, but for all the wrong reasons.
Now I can go out to the bars. Now I can go to the liquor store and buy booze. Now “I’m an adult”. Only two of those statements proved true.
It was my 18th birthday, January 2007. Facebook was barely an entity. No Instagram. It was a different world, and I was most certainly a different man.
This birthday celebration was a big deal, I had family come from all across the country for it. I even had my grandfather show up and surprise me. Having large family gatherings like this are rare opportunities to enjoy. I felt honored that everyone would come to celebrate the transition from adolescence to adulthood with me.
I was fortunate to get to spend some high-quality time with my grandfather driving out to the Chateau Lake Louise and enjoying a wonderful meal. On our drive back he posed to me a simple question that has never left me.
I think he sensed how lost I was. I think he knew I was aimlessly struggling. I think he knew just what to say.
“Brendan, have you ever thought about becoming a writer?”
The weirdest thing…I definitely had. As I heard that question I remember feeling links in my mind all the way back to 3rd grade. When a teacher was speaking to my mother about “my writing” and how I took it so personally. I remembered all the things I’d written, and how essays throughout junior high and high school had ended up being something I excelled in. I remembered all the great writing and all the great stories that I had read and were read to me as a child.
My grandfather revealed to me something that had been in the background. Something just beyond the discernible. The phrasing of the question was so crucial too. He didn’t ask “Do you want to be a writer?” Which as a recalcitrant and confused 18-year old I would have likely responded with a simple “No.” End of story.
He asked “Have you ever thought about becoming a writer?”
The prompt to think about it was one of the most important aspects of that moment. When I did think about it, I realized that yes I had. When I thought about it more, and with a future focus, I felt a sense of awe and excitement at the possibility.
So I went home and wrote until my wrist cramped and bled my soul out onto the page right?
Once I started seriously considering the question and what that would mean for my future, I came to the same thing most people ask about when I tell them my dream of becoming a writer.
“What are you going to write about?”
As an 18-year-old, I didn’t have a lot to say. What I was saying to myself in those days was some of the most tragically negative self-talk you can imagine. I recently read some journal entries from that time, and I was not in a good place psychologically or emotionally. That pain could have potentially lead to some interesting writing. I don’t know.
But, I did make a decision when I asked myself what I was going to write about.
I told myself: I don’t know what I’ll write about. But, I plan on living an interesting life and then eventually I’ll have something to say or some stories to tell.
Those two things have kept me going for the last decade. Knowing that I’m working towards becoming a writer, and living a full and interesting life for material when I need something to write about.
On my 18th birthday, I got the greatest gift of my life. I got my purpose. I got my mission. And I owe it all to my grandfather.
As time has passed I have always held on to that dream. It has helped me know that at the very least all my struggles and all my highlight reel moments are material for me to write about. It gave me tremendous freedom. I’ve identified on some level as a writer ever since that moment, but I think I have my whole life.
My grandfather called forth something deep within me and made me reflect on it. When I contemplate it today, it drives me. The power of a dream, the power of words, and the power of the right questions all fuel me. One of the things that I truly embraced about becoming a writer was the endless possibilities that could entail. It could never box me in, or contain my spirit in a narrow field. I could always write about anything. It is a path with inherent liberty — as are many creative endeavors.
Now 10 years later, I practice this craft. Sometimes I get sidetracked and it falls out of focus. But, when I do write — I feel something. I feel aligned. I feel like the more I do this the more I’m supposed to do this.
Along the way, I was always vocal about my dream but phrased it like it was still just a dream. I’d tell people that “ultimately I wanted to become a writer.” It has only been since beginning the Writing Wednesday practice that I have truly been able to allow myself to say the truth.
I am a writer.
And I owe that all to you grandpa.