My name is Jason Whitaker. I’m a happily married, 40-year-old dad and teacher. I have been encouraged over the years to write by those closest to me. My wife, Amber, inspired me to start a blog. First step? Find out what a blog is.
I am not technically or formally trained to write. For me, writing is a release of some instant thought or memory that clouds my brain until it is out. I do have a valve which controls and keeps the thoughts from just streaming out of my mouth uncontrollably, but it’s leaky. I hate that I sometimes interrupt people when they’re mid-conversation as I begin to tell some completely unrelated story that just pops into my head. I’ve done it though. Enough times to be quite familiar with the look of “you jerk-face” on people’s faces as they stare at me in disbelief. I immediately feel guilt, realizing how rude I’ve been. I tell the story anyway at that point. Even more rude, right?
Other folks don’t empathize that if I don’t share my momentous thought, I could lose it. Some people have memories like bank vaults where life moments are filed and organized neatly and they can simply pull the right drawer to get to them. Mine is like that lottery ball machine where the balls bounce around violently until a few rogue ones get sucked up into that tube where we can all see the numbers. “Your conversation is about your recent beach vacation? Well that reminds me of the time I sank my dad’s classic car into deep, wet cement.”
I’ve gotten better over the years, but still occasionally get the “jerk-face” face. Too often, I can’t fully concentrate on other conversations I’m around because I’m so busy focusing on not forgetting what I want to write about later. It’s sort of ridiculous. I have trouble focusing on other priorities and responsibilities until I can punch these ideas out onto a keyboard. I deal with some anxiety and also a bit of attention deficit disorder, so this is tricky. I’ve tried carrying a small notepad, and keep one by my bed, but I always forget to carry it with me and the one by my bed often becomes a coaster for my Tervis or the pen I have by it doesn’t work. I’ve learned to make a mental note of the random thought until I can physically jot it down. This helps me write the entire thing out later. So when I do eventually get to write my story, it seriously feels like relief. I write far better than I speak, this realization has helped me not blurt out my random ideas in the middle of a conversation. People seem to respond more positively to my writing than if I were to give the oration anyway. I don’t get the same “jerk-face” face.
Writing is also something I turn to whenever I am dealing with emotions. As a child, I hated writing, my basketball goal in the driveway was the only vice I needed for processing life’s drama. As an adult, one without a driveway fit for a goal, I learned that writing is therapeutic for me in the same way that playing hoops against imaginary Larry Bird had been in my youth.
My favorite things to write fit into several categories. I love to write about my youth. I had a great childhood. As I’ve gotten older I have found that growing up Appalachian in an old city neighborhood really shaped me into a well rounded guy. I am the product of hard working, blue collar people with direct lineage to coal camps deep in the hollers of Kentucky. I was the first in my family to enroll in, let alone graduate from, college. I’m proud of that, not only for myself, but as a testament to the people who come before me and what they worked so hard for, opportunity. I believe in generational blessing and I have little doubt that my being blessed with a good life is a direct result of the hard times, good faith and back breaking work of my people before me. I do not take lightly, my responsibility to credit them with my life and my life’s work. I strive to live life well, keeping in mind the generations who follow me, that they receive even further blessing because of the life I lived and faith I demonstrated.
Another theme of my writings are stories from the classroom. I messed up by not taking the advice of a teacher who was retiring just as I was beginning my career.
He said to me, “You should keep a journal and write something in it from each day of being with these kids. You will treasure it, they will treasure it and anybody who reads it someday will treasure it.”
I’m in the 16th year of my career and still have not taken that advice. Every now and then though, something happens in my classroom or a related memory comes flooding back to me from years ago when I was a student and I feel the urge to record it, if for no other reason than fear of forgetting it again.
When I think about all of the writing I’ve done, a third category that is clear, would be that of spirituality. I asked Christ into my heart at age 27. To this day, it is the most significant decision I’ve ever made. Naturally it shapes my thoughts, my feelings, my attitude and my efforts on a daily basis. I am a sinner, I struggle to improve every day. I have small victories and large failures. This becomes my inspiration for writing quite often. Everything I am is because of who He is and what He has done in my life.
These 3 major themes I tend to write on are less about the themes themselves and more so about what I’m made of.
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” ~ Gen 2:7
For me this is, in part, the coal dust breathed into the lungs of my great grandfathers. It is, in part, the chalk dust hovering in the air of classrooms past and present. I’m both, literally and figuratively, made of dust.Share this to: