Stop me if you’ve heard this one. After I sat for the second day of the bar on a sunny July day in 2009, I walked through the parking lot with some classmates and said (honest to God), “That was a lot better than it could have been.”
Word whipped through the state like a prairie wind and landed straight at the law school where a month later, a woman said to me, “I heard Jackie Stebbins walked out of the bar exam and said, ‘That was easy.’” Life’s kind of like a big game of telephone, eh?! The ill repeated jokes, the memories that fade, stories that grow in size through the years. The legends that live on.
The past few months have taken my life hostage inside a whirlwind and the book is its own storm. It’s everything I dreamed of in the days where I believed my life was over. The years that I spent hunched over a laptop trying to figure out just how the hell to write a (good) book. Where the old Jackie swore she’d do it and crush expectations. Where the sick and scared Jackie said, maybe you can’t do this.
But it’s all become so much more. The book is changing my life before my very eyes. I see and feel it. There’s part of me that now wonders if it’s changing my past too.
I feel like I’m starting to become far more of a legend than I should be. The stories of just what I said in front of a judge to win the case. The nod to me taking on the underdog when no one else would or could. The shining brilliance in a trial. The jump shots. How I came to the rescue as a kid. How I was even dynamic and inspirational then.
I can’t possibly keep up with the compliments. I cannot give enough hugs to match the tears. I can’t repeat in kind the messages that arrive.
And the book signings. To say hello, remember the names of people who claim to be inspired by my work. To try to sign an inscription that at the very least has her name spelled correctly, much less is somewhat witty. To watch people stand in line just for all that. I truly can’t believe it all.
Last night, it almost made me wonder, just who the hell am I, really? I’m not sure about the folklore. I’m not sure about all of these accolades and compliments. Is that the real me? How about the losses, too? What about the Amazon review of Unwillable that in a nod to my writing and authenticity says many of the story’s vignettes, “are somewhat embarrassing?” The tinge of worry that hits at the knowledge that my story can be read by the entire globe and I can’t put it back in the can.
Is this all, me?
As I pondered it and grounded myself to fend off anxiety, I breathed, and told myself life is so good there’s nothing to fear. I also reminded myself of one thing: I’m still me. The illness that did such a number on me has allowed me to see what I never before could have. No fiction there, I firmly believe it. The disease that took also gave back.
Whether parts of my journey hurt, are embarrassing, or other; whether I claimed the bar exam was easy (I didn’t); whether I picked up a boulder and rolled it up the hill to the courthouse to win the case at the eleventh hour, I was me then and I’m really me these days. Legendary tale or not.
Maybe people are just seeing me differently now. Maybe I’m even seeing myself in a different shade.
But I’m as me as I’ve ever been.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now am found Was blind but now I see” ~ Amazing Grace
Photo Cred: My cute husband, Sean, whom you can see in the reflection of the book store glass.