Opportunity Knocks Often And It’s Never Quite What You Expect
Updated: Aug 15, 2020
How Will I Know?
I grew up with hard working parents, who raised five hard working kids. My upbringing was not extraordinary, or special. The five of us siblings all had similar experiences growing up in a bubble in central Texas, but to say we grew up to be similar adults would be a giant stretch. Of the five of us, only I moved a little farther away, saw things from a different perspective, and dreamed a little bit more.
My first inclination that I needed to be open to opportunity came at the age of fifteen when my best friend Michelle in grade school wanted to send photographs of me to a magazine based in New York City. The magazine (called ‘YM’ back in those days) had sent out an action item to its subscribers looking for a new cover model. My friend was dabbling in photography and wanted to participate and hoped I would be her willing victim. At that age I was a gangly, alien-looking being who was never renowned for my looks. My eyes were always too big. My knees - knobbly. I was judged too thin, too given to my whimsical games and thoughts. I was told my face was too small; not to mention ALL the ignorant musings over my mixed race heritage. I had heard all the critiques from my classmates, family members, and even opinionated strangers so much that I had decided that my only reliable asset was my mind. So by the age of thirteen I had decided to be a veterinarian. It was a safe and smart decision. I had the science chops for it, my math needed some work, and I had an abundance of drive. I also had grown a very thick skin.
I honestly didn’t even know what a fashion model was. Michelle came over to my house one fine Texas afternoon. She had a nice enough camera. I think I raided my sister’s closet for items and arranged them together. I’m not a fashion kind of person. I didn’t even own a magazine. I was far too interested in what was covered in the pages of National Geographic and wouldn’t part with them for anything. But fashion?
She took the pictures. It was a fun few hours, then we had lunch and she went home. I never thought about it again. Then a few months later I returned home from volleyball practice to my mom answering the phone. I set my bag down on the linoleum floor and got a glass of tea from the fridge. My mother was still dressed from work. She spoke for a bit, frowned and said into the phone, “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.” And she hung up the phone. It was a non-occurence to me. Wrong phone numbers happened all the time back then because our area codes had changed. I grabbed my bag from the floor and was going to go take a shower, when the phone rang again.
My mother answered, “Hello? Yes this is Linda Black. What? No, I don’t know what you are talking about. A magazine?” She gave me a wide eyed look, “Oh! I think you mean my daughter!
Here, one second.” She hands me the phone and says, “I think someone wants to sell you a magazine subscription.”
I frowned. I didn’t want to talk to them either! I hissed at her, “Why would they want to talk to me? You’re Linda Black!” It was true. We had the same name. We both outwardly hated it, but I think we both secretly liked it as well. I took the phone, and said hello to my destiny.
>>> rip! <<<< cue the record screeching.
“What is this?!” I can hear you ask. “I thought you were a writer?!”
I am. I are. I have been writing to entertain since I was thirteen. Were you not just taken on a journey and entertained? That’s what writers do. They inspire. They inform. They entertain. Actually my humble story as a writer starts with the most unlikely of beginnings. I was inspired by a movie I saw with that same best friend Michelle back in the summer of 1989. The movie? Batman.
After I saw the movie I went home and had so much inspiration that I grabbed a notebook. I was barely unable to contain my fever, I had to get this story OUT OF ME just so I could feel like me again. But I kept writing. And writing. The words flowed. I never stopped and for two straight hours I apparently had so much to say that a 400 page novel spilled out, handwritten on lined notebook paper, both front and back, and my fingers practically on fire. When I hit the end, I was spent, but not in the way that I thought. It didn’t provide the catharsis I hoped for. Instead, it lit a fire in me that has lasted my whole life.
Out of those scenarios above, which one was the more entertaining? Which one is the truth? Both of them are the purest truth, and the beauty of being a writer is that I can tell the same story from different angles, themes, characters and events to inspire and entertain my readers.
Now truthfully, remember those hard working parents? They both supported me and my dreams my whole life, and although they would have preferred for the sake of their nerves for me to have chosen the path of a veterinarian, they still loved me as a model, and now as a writer.
The Audacity of Daring
Both of those scenarios I’ve covered above I’ve made my life’s focus. I sometimes had to get other REAL jobs just to pay the bills, but I’ve always believed, and I’ve always relied on myself to get me through the lean times. And there were plenty of lean times. I know more about part-time and full-time jobs than I ever care to admit. I’ve got my credentials to be an office manager, bookkeeper, and television host. Nevertheless, I still get the “When are you going to get a REAL job?” question from parents and siblings, even strangers or acquaintances, who are very concerned about the fact that I am not like them. I don’t just march to a different beat, I tango to it.
What I’ve learned so far in this life is you can have a job, or you can have a PASSION. That one phone call from New York that day set my life on a path that only I could walk. Call me brave, foolhardy, brash - I’ve heard it all. To me, I was being true to myself. There would be no REAL job for me in my future, because I learned early on to follow my passion. So if I was going to have one piece of advice, it would be: stay true to you. If you are a dancer, then be a dancer. If you are an artist, go crazy! I know your mom and dad might prefer you be a lawyer, doctor, or teacher, and those are great too if they are your passion. Do both. Do it all! Otherwise, you’ll be at your job and one day in the future wake up and realize that you might be unhappy, and you’ve forgotten who you were before everyone told you who you should be. Twenty five years as a professional international model and now a writer and author, my parents still root for me, and my readers shake their heads in wonder at the trajectory my life has taken, some even live vicariously through my adventures. My parents still laugh about the time I wanted to be a veterinarian — it seems so long ago! Even they have to admit that such a path would not have been true to who I was, and my life has been so very interesting.
So be audacious and indulge your dreams. Your life and experiences will be all the more richer for it.
Linda Black writes as LJ Black. She is a contributing writer to The Ascent and has been curated by Medium. A published author and novelist, Linda can be found lurking on social media sites as @LJBlackwrites and if you can’t find her on a site, perhaps she doesn’t want to be found that day.
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