As a little girl, I spent most of my spare time in books. I lived in a small, shabby house on a country road too far away to walk or ride a bike to anyone’s house. I was very shy and I was the fat kid before bullying was looked down upon. So my friends were in my books. Laura Ingalls was my best friend. I traveled through to Narnia every chance I got. As I got older, some of my friends were real people – Helen Keller, Joan of Arc, people I was inspired by and that made me feel that someday I could be more than the shy, fat kid.
Sometimes I would try to write my own stories or poems but I kept them to myself. I didn’t want to be ridiculed or made fun of even more than I already was.
In sixth grade my favorite teacher assigned us to write a long story. I loved Scooby Doo at the time, so I wrote a story about being in a haunted house with friends playing tricks on one another. It was the first story I ever let someone else read. The next day the teacher asked me to read it aloud to the class. I was scared out of my mind! I was afraid they would make fun of me or ridicule my story. But those things didn’t happen! Then she arranged for me to go down to the kindergarten classes and read to them, and then the first graders.
The following week she asked me if I thought I could write the entire story out in my very best handwriting and draw some pictures to go with it. I told her I could and spent the next week working every day after school with my colored pencils and an erasable pen on the fancy paper she gave me to use. I didn’t know why she wanted me to go to all that extra effort – no one else in the class had to. But I loved her and so I did it for her.
When I brought everything in completed at the end of the week, she told me why she had asked me to do it. She was going to give it to the school media center to bind it and create a book that other students could check out and rea. Instead of being happy or excited about this, I started to cry; you see, I didn’t think my story was good enough to be in the library.
I still remember her face as she grabbed me by both arms, told me to look at her, and said, “Charlene, you have a great gift. Don’t you hide it anymore. You write a little bit every day. And every week I want you to bring me something to read.”
I tell you that story because it sparked my first great passion – writing. I am passionate about many things, but the turning point in my life was realizing I had something within me worthy of being passionate about! A great gift.
When I accepted that as truth, it changed my entire perspective of both myself and the world around me. I began to write stories and poetry as if my very life depended on it. And in many ways it did. Keeping a journal to put my thoughts and feelings in as I walked through some difficult situations as a young girl (including both the alcoholism and death of my mother when I was 14) provided me with a desperately needed outlet. Writing gave me a place to put my sorrow, grief, anger and pain. It also gave me a place to imagine a beautiful future removed from the pain of my childhood. And it gave me a place to store, nurture and grow hope for my future.
Today I not only recognize the great gifts that I have in me that make me passionate about my life, but I strive to help other people see their own great gifts and become passionate about their lives. Because for many the busyness of life has made them simply forgotten their gifts exist.
Helping people build a bridge back to those gifts and those big dreams they once had, and bring those gifts and dreams into their life today in a fresh and exciting way, that is what I am really passionate about. It’s what I’ve committed my life to as a coach: to live a passionate life and to teach others to do the same.