I was recently organizing my apartment. Getting rid of clutter, old receipts, junk mail, unoccupied shoe boxes, and such, when I came across a few poems of mine. Some of the first poems I ever wrote and was so proud of that I took the time to type them up on my dad’s old Zeos computer somewhere around 1993 or 1994. As I read over this miniature collection of “Jessy Tomsko’s Early Works”, I couldn’t help but laugh as I remembered how my nine-year-old heart had swelled with pride at the completion of these little stanzas, thinking that surely I had created masterpieces akin to Mozart or Emily Dickinson (I was a Dickinson fan at a young age – just another reason why so many of my classmates thought I was a geek).
What I’m trying to say is that I have always been searching for ways to express myself, for as long as I can remember. Those methods of expression were most often found in music: singing mainly, but also in playing the piano, taking dance lessons, and even studying the violin for a while. I also found some creative outlets in acting, painting, and drawing (even if I was terrible; God bless my mom and dad for hanging my art on the fridge anyway). But when I discovered the sheer beauty of words, I had unearthed a brand new medium – I began scribbling feverishly in journals and diaries equipped with little brass locks to keep my innermost thoughts out of my sister’s grasp (some of which I still own but somewhere along the line misplaced the keys….oops); writing plays I would coerce the neighborhood kids to act out with me on our quiet suburban jungle gyms; penning short story after story in the grand hopes that they would someday become a 500-page novel, my own personal Atlas Shrugged.
When I was seventeen, I found one of my uncle’s acoustic guitars under a bed in my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh. A dusty old Sigma in a case with a retro bright green plush interior – very 60’s, very Austin Powers, very cool, and seemed a likely candidate for storing, in decades past, something else in addition to picks and strings….. Anyway, I decided then and there that I just had to have it, even though I had never so much as held a guitar in my life. There was just something about its being left in the dark for so many years, its secret potential hidden in those strings, its probable sadness at being mislaid, forgotten. It HAD to make music again, and I was determined to be the one to do it. Here it was! Like a long-lost friend I hadn’t even known I was missing. Here was the answer; at last, the vehicle for my pent-up thoughts, musings, griefs, ponderings, loves, losses. Everything in me would enter the world through this lonely little instrument that would accompany me on my journey. We would help each other.
Fast forward one year, and I had done what I set out to do: I wrote my first song. Then I promptly forgot it, no doubt because my perfectionist personality deemed it mediocre at best. But it was a start! I have never been one to get discouraged, and I kept trying, kept writing, kept searching for inspiration (which, incidentally, is there in every breath, every whisper, every time you set foot outside your door), and now, nine years later (ok, do the math, how old am I??) I’ve amassed quite a collection of original songs. Sometimes they are a long time coming and require re-write upon re-write, and other times they pour out of me like water off a cliff, finished nearly as quickly as they began. The point of this petite histoire is that you never know when and where you will find your vehicle, your medium, the thing that makes you jump up and yell, “Yes! THIS is what I cannot live without!” For me, when I had found the words and the music and put them together, I was completely hooked.
So as I finished organizing my desk drawers and under-bed boxes, I folded up the old poems and put them back where I found them. How silly they seem now, how inconsequential, the work of a child, when at the time I wrote them they were extraordinary, super-human even! It makes me wonder if in twenty years or so I will look back on what I’m writing now and think “Well that’s nice. Cute. Good try.” Maybe. Maybe not.
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