It all started with a Facebook post by Darby’s cousin, Alma: Wanted: an old-fashion wooden school desk. The kind you’d find in a one-room school house.
‘I should just give her mine,’ Darby immediately thought to herself when she read it, and then she burst into tears. Not the kind of delicate tears Grace Kelly used to shed in her movies, but the uncontrollable ones that Oprah calls ‘The Ugly Cry’.
Darby wept and sniffled and wailed and hiccupped through those ugly tears for a good half an hour before she was able to regain her composure.
“Oh my God,” she said aloud with only her dog, Desmond, around to hear. “Why would I even consider giving away my most prized possession? I won’t say anything to Alma right now. Let’s go for a walk and I’ll think about it along the way.”
For five long miles, Darby did think about it. She thought, ‘I can’t give that desk away. It’s been with me since I was a little girl. It’s where I wrote all of my short stories when I was growing up.’ She thought, ‘Sitting at that desk and writing my little stories made me so happy. It was my writing that was going to get me out of my horrible hometown. I just knew it would, and I was right. I didn’t become the rich and famous novelist that I thought I would, but I did get a job writing commercials. That’s not nearly as glamourous, but I can still say that I write for a living.’
But then she had a thought that changed everything. She realized that the desk didn’t make her a writer. It was her creativity, her imagination and the work that she put in to developing her craft. It wasn’t the desk that made the words pour forth. It was just a desk, not some magical force.
Since becoming a copywriter, she has noticed that she can write regardless of where she was – at her desk at work, sitting at a boardroom table, on planes, in hotel rooms, and while lounging at the beach. Darby writes because that’s what Darby is: a writer; not because of some desk that has sat unused while collecting dust in the corner of her living room for the past thirteen years.
It was then that she wondered if she had discovered the real reason behind the tears she had wept earlier. Maybe saying goodbye to that desk would mean saying goodbye to the little girl who once had such big dreams. Maybe it would mean admitting that all she was ever going to be was a copywriter. It wasn’t a bad gig, it more than paid her bills, but she had always figured that she had more to tell people other than where they could get a good deal on power drills.
The second she got home, Darby sent her cousin a picture of her desk and a message that she could have it if she was willing to drive the two hours to her house and pick it up.
The night before her cousin came for Darby’s most prized possession, she sat at her desk for the last time, thanked it for being a special part of her life, and then wrote one final story, long-hand like she did when she was a child. Less than twenty-four hours after that, her desk was gone. She didn’t even ask Alma why she wanted the desk. Darby told herself that maybe Alma wanted it so her grandchildren could play school, and that it would become a treasured item for her cousin’s family. If it didn’t, well, there wasn’t anything Darby could do about it now. All she could do was start writing for herself again and keep hoping that the dreams she had as a little girl could still come true, desk or no desk.