Finding Your Way

By Judie Schaal

Finding Your Way

I love to write. I love taking a subject, examining it from all angles and finding the words to express my thoughts.

But, that hasn’t always been the case. When I was in high school I hated to write. When it came time for term papers I looked for every possible reason to avoid that exercise. My thoughts turned from plagiarism to injuring my writing hand to running away from home.

The same conclusions crossed my mind when my mother demanded that I write thank you notes to relatives for Christmas presents. Must I really thank my aging grandmother, who knew I lived in the snowy north, for the silk night gown she sent me every year?

I considered myself an average student, getting mostly Bs and Cs, although I did get straight As in one subject the year a new handsome football coach arrived to teach history.

Soon it was time for college, and I was accepted into a good liberal arts school. But sitting in freshmen orientation, I wondered why as I heard my SAT scores were among the lowest of the entering class. The presiding administrator related the percentage of those before him who would not be around by their sophomore year. I lowered my head hoping he was not looking at me. But I decided my application must have looked fairly good because of all the extracurricular activities in which I participated. I definitely made As in classes that pertained to sports and somehow I was elected into National Honor Society. But, upon graduation from college I was ecstatic that I would never have to write another paper.

Marriage and family soon followed, and in my free hours I began playing tennis. My playing partners and I became involved in team tennis and traveled around the county playing increasingly important matches. One morning I picked up the newspaper and realized that golf was being covered on a grand scale in our town, but there was literally no information written about tennis.

That evening, I was at a cocktail party where the sports editor of the local paper happened to be. I asked him why the paper had a golf columnist but no tennis columnist. He hesitated, looked at me and said, “How ‘bout you do it.” “Me?” I replied, “Write a column?” I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding. You don’t know how I struggle with words on paper!” However, I went home, thought about how it could impact the tennis community and called him the next day and accepted his offer.

Thank goodness the job entailed mostly reporting facts and scores, so putting exact nouns, verbs and adjectives together was not a priority. In fact it was fun going to tournaments, talking to the players, watching the action and reporting the scores.

But my job excitement waned the Sunday I left my husband and two small children for the entire day to report on a tournament in a nearby town. Late in the afternoon I came home to type up the tournament results and drive to the newspaper to submit my column. In those days there was no Internet by which one could miraculously push a button and send your words through the air to their destination. On the way home, I was stopped by the police for running a stop sign and issued a $20 ticket. I had spent the whole day away from my loved ones to complete a column which earned me $15 that ended up costing me $5.

My years as a columnist ended at a good time as my husband’s job experiences were taking him to sites across the country and around the world. We would be traveling extensively and not able to keep up with local activities. Although we visited magnificent locations and were treated to unbelievable experiences, my old nemesis of having to write thank you notes reappeared. But I forced myself to pick up pen and paper as I felt it extremely important to acknowledge our thanks for transportation provided, accommodations reserved and gifts received.

One day, as I was writing about my 10th thank you note, I stopped and reread my prose. Then I read it again. I thought to myself, “Did I write that? Where did those words come from?” I sat back and thought about the combination of words and what writing can do. Words can warm someone’s heart because they helped another along the way. They can send hope to a friend who is dealing with sickness or pain. They can convey love that might be buried deep within. They can inspire. They can share a faith.

And then I wondered about this child who hated to write, who thought she was an average student and didn’t have the confidence to put her thoughts down on paper. Was her aversion to writing due to the fact that the subject matter was not her choice or had she not found what she truly cared to write.

How many of us, for one reason or another, have a talent that has never been exposed. Grandma Moses did not begin to paint her masterpieces until she was 76. If we all were to examine our lives and what we love, would we find we could develop that simple love into something that would make our lives more meaningful. And possibly the enriching of our lives would touch others and change theirs as well. Look deep within you. Find what you love to do, develop it and give your life more meaning.

About this writer

  • Judie Schaal Judie Schaal lives in Murrells Inlet with Gary, her husband of 50 years. She has written for On The Green magazine, the Sun News as a tennis columnist and is currently copy editor and photographer of a local color 28 page newsletter.

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2 Responses to “Finding Your Way”

  1. Julie says:

    What a wonderful article. I had to laugh because last night as I was reading my daughter’s book report, I could tell she didn’t like the assignment. I also make my kids write those thank you notes at Christmas and for birthdays and it’s never something they completely embrace. I am glad you became a writer. You have a wonderful way of telling the story as if you’re telling the reader in person. You are indeed talented. Write on!

    • Judie Schaal says:


      What a wonderful comment. Sitting at my computer, spilling out my gut…’s very special to know someone reads the prose and appreciates it. Thank you so much….Judie

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