All I Ever Wanted Was to Write

The emotional journey of a fragile teenager’s desire

a doodle of a typewriter with the word ‘write’ written on a paper
Illustration by the author

I’ve been fascinated with letters, words, sentences, and stories since I remember.

I learned the alphabet before going to elementary school.

Soon, I moved on to writing my journals as an escape from everything that was happening around me. It was my own little world where nothing bad could happen.

Then I dipped my toes into fiction writing.

I have 7 (unpublished) books in Hungarian.

It’s all analog. Nothing is digitalized, yet.

I keep telling myself, maybe one day.

But the truth is, I lost interest in writing in Hungarian.

And for a long time, I blamed Ms. Taylor for it.

The mind of a teenager

I went the grammar school between the ages of 14 to 18.

I loved Hungarian.

I loved writing.

I loved reading.

I loved Hungarian poetry.

I loved everything about words.

I loved dissecting sentences…what could Attila Jozsef mean and feel when he wrote My mother?

Ms. Taylor was my Hungarian high-school teacher.

For whatever reason, I always felt she didn’t like me. I was odd, most times, like most teenagers at that age.

In 11th grade, we could take an extracurricular activity.

Of course, I picked Hungarian grammar and literature.

I wanted to be a journalist.

I wanted to write.

I had extra 4 hours every week as an extracurricular class. Then I spent another 10 hours writing essays, analyzing poetry, learning grammar, and reading & summarizing books.

It didn’t matter how much time I put into my practice; my writing didn’t get better, according to her.

She even laughed at one of my writings. An essay that I poured my heart and soul into. It was demoralizing.

She told me I wasn’t good enough to make it as a writer.

She made the feedback entirely about me, not about my writing.

I was sad, disappointed, and hurt, but mainly angry. Angry at her and the whole school system, which let teachers crush or even bully students.

In 12th grade, I managed to drop Hungarian grammar and literature.

I didn’t want to do anything with Ms. Taylor.

Unfortunately, she just took on substituting for music class for a year.

I keep wondering if maybe she was the reason why I never made it as a pianist. But that’s a story for another time.

The first blog

The following year, I started university.

Not journalism.

When I was in school, I had access to the internet and computers.

It was a whole new world for me.

The online community and the blogs just sucked me right in.

Of course, I wanted to be part of this.

But still remembering Ms. Taylor and her words, I created an online persona using a pen name so she couldn’t find and bully me online.

I don’t know why I got this idea that she might…but I just didn’t feel comfortable using my own name while publishing online.

So, I started my first blog.

I was writing articles that blended fiction and poetry with elements of my own life. It was a colorful version of my daily life.

I was writing my blog in a social environment, mainly for easy distribution and because I knew nothing about web development yet. I kept writing for many years, moving platforms once.

In 2008 people were still receiving prizes for blogs. I even won an award for my writing at one point. I couldn’t have been happier.

Guess what, Ms. Taylor? I won an award! For writing!

I even wrote a letter to her. A letter that I never sent.

I was still hurt by the words and things she said to me.

How discouraging and rude she was in high school.

See, I was hot-headed and immature in my early 20s. I blamed her instead of ignoring her.

When I learned that only 3 of us won a prize for a blog, and two of them were accomplished journalists, I started to realize Ms. Taylor might have been wrong about my writing ability in Hungarian.

That prize changed everything in my mindset.

Much later, I also learned that Ms. Taylor had a troubled family & home life. Not like it’s an excuse, but it rather explained a lot of things about her behavior and why she was leashing out. So I concluded that she was picking up on me (and others, too) and projecting her misery onto students.

Teachers’ influence is enormous on young people.

A teenager’s mind is a fragile thing.

It takes only one teacher to make or break a student’s spirit.

It took only one for me.

But I was more than ever grateful for my Hungarian elementary teachers who encouraged me to pursue writing. Who wanted students to succeed. Who pushed me to send articles to publications.

My elementary school essays placed 2nd and 3rd multiple times. I was competing with older students, so I was super happy with the awards. I was trying to hold onto these memories.

After the award, I kept plugging along, writing consistently, and making friends online for years.

Writing my blog and connecting with people were the things I was looking forward to every day.

Writing was my happy place.

When life happened.

Leaving the comfort of the mother-tongue

I stopped writing online end of 2010 to focus on learning English instead. But I kept up with journaling, though.

A few years later, I started writing about product design, mainly tutorials and technical articles, while learning the craft.

After releasing about 10 design articles, I wrote a vulnerable piece on my first job burnout, in English.

Despite my surprise, the article resonated with thousands of people. Of course, when so many read your writing, trolls also came with the influx of readers. I got a couple of discouraging comments on the level of English I had at the time. It made me stop writing.

It was ‘The Ms. Taylor Effect’ all over again.

But now, in English.

After Ms. Taylor, I became a confident writer in Hungarian again. But I wasn’t ready to re-live my high school years again. After 5 years of constant learning and practice, I finally gained more confidence in my ability to express myself in English.

I finally got back on track. I even wrote a book in English and published it in 2022.

Now, in 2023, my goal is to write.

I’m confident in my ability to express ideas and thoughts. Way more confident than I was a decade ago.

Of course, I still make mistakes. I’m not a native English speaker, after all.

But I try my best to show up and create a sustainable writing habit besides a full-time job, and that’s what matters.

Learnings, not failures

I was a troubled youth. I struggled with my own demons.

Not like Ms. Taylor, but I had my own issues.

However, my encounter with her taught me invaluable lessons that have helped me grow and become stronger through hard work, self-reflection, and therapy. She pushed me to a path that was less traveled. And in hindsight, I’m glad it happened how it happened.

I’ve matured and gained a sense of resilience that allows me to face rejections and challenges confidently.

I stopped thinking about my writing ‘failures’ as failures.

They were all learnings.

They all prepared me for what came next.

Now, I didn’t start from scratch.

I started from experience.

Let’s not be afraid of staring again.