This is a photo of myself taken in my senior year of high school. I wanted very much to see my many stories and articles become published, but my heart was filled with self doubts. The good Lord used a precious friend to help me overcome my self doubts.
Overcoming Self Doubts
By Richard Mabey Jr.
People ask me why I still write poems in honor of my first girlfriend, Penny. The answer is simple, she helped me greatly to overcome my self doubts. I met Penny in the autumn of my senior year of high school. I was painfully shy. I loved to write. I loved playing the drums. And, in that moment in time, I was preparing for my upcoming Eagle Scout Board of Review.
When I first started dating Penny, I began showing her some of my writings. They were hand written essays and articles on reflections of life. Penny would ride with me in my Ford Falcon here and there. Inevitably, we would end up at the Burger Chef on Route 46 in Pine Brook. The Burger Chef is no longer there.
“This is good stuff, Richard. This is good stuff,” Penny would say to me as we would ride down Route 46.
We would stop at the Burger Chef and get hamburgers and milk shakes. They had tables outside. There were maple trees and oak trees all around the tables. We would eat our supper and Penny would keep telling me, “this is good stuff. Richard, this is good writing.”
After graduating from high school, I attended a local community college. On Saturday afternoons, I would drive Penny to my college. There is a pond there. We would walk down to the pond and talk and talk and talk. We would bring some sandwiches and lemonade with us and eat together at the shore of the pond.
The college would show two movies in the auditorium on Saturday nights, at half the cost of the local movie theaters that only showed one movie. In the time, after we ate our picnic supper and before the first movie started, Penny and I would walk around the college campus.
On one particular Saturday evening, in mid-September, I showed Penny the student center. As you walked down the student center, on the right hand side there were several student activities offices. One of those offices, was home to the Youngtown Edition, my college’s newspaper.
I remember this moment clear as day. As we strolled by the door to the Youngtown Edition office, Penny asked me if I had joined the staff of my college newspaper. I told her that I hadn’t.
I remember how Penny put her hands on her hips and boldly asked me, “why not?”
I remember that I replied, “I don’t know if my writing’s good enough….”
Penny didn’t let me finish my sentence. She got really close to me, got right in my face and said to me, “Monday you get your butt in there and sign up for that paper!”
And, that’s exactly what I did.
After the movies were over, as Penny and I drove to Penny’s house, she told me over and over and over again, “you’d better get yourself in that newspaper office Monday morning and sign up with them!” It’s just the way it was with Penny. There was no room for excuses.
Over the years, I’ve had well over a thousand articles published in newspapers, trade journals, corporate newsletters, and magazines. They ran the gambit from human interest feature stories to the process of laying undersea cable for a telecommunications company. I’ve had three of my plays produced. For five years of my life, I produced and co-hosted a television talk show. Penny played a big role to help me get the confidence to take the first steps toward being a writer.
Aside from my romantic interest, Penny was my best friend. We dated for two years. Penny believed in me, more than I believed in myself. Penny used to tell me that I was a diamond in the rough.
Sometimes, when I am faced with the challenge of a blank sheet of paper, I think of Penny. She’s in Heaven now. Penny was very pretty and extremely intelligent. I used to ask her all the time, what she saw in me. The dear Lord knows, I loved her with all my heart.
I don’t really know why we broke up. Part of it was my fault, part of it was her fault. It’s just the way life is.
I know this though. A big part of my personal success as a writer, is due to having been blessed to have Penny believe in me and push me to do my very best. It’s a debt, I can never repay.
Peace and harmony,