My Kick in the Butt
by: Keira Michelle Telford
In 2010, my father died. In 2011, I published my first book.
My father died relatively young. He was only 62, and he died alone, surrounded by the only thing that ever made any real sense to him: his artwork. He worked for Royal Worcester, painting still life on porcelain. (Though he did work in other mediums for pleasure, first and foremost, he was always a ceramic artist).
We have a lot in common, my father and I. He never paid for a haircut in all of his adult life, and I started cutting my own hair a few years ago. He had blue eyes, so do I. He was creative, and so am I. He had (undiagnosed) Asperger’s syndrome, and so do I. Will I end up dying alone, surrounded by the only thing that’s ever made any real sense to me (writing)? Probably. And I’m okay with that. My autism makes it difficult to make social bonds, and I often find myself somewhat alienated from the world—just like my father was.
There’s one path I don’t want to follow him down, though. He was a very talented painter, but he never put that talent to any appreciable use. He was made redundant from Royal Worcester in the mid-1980s, and became self-employed. In a way, that should’ve been a great opportunity for him. No longer did he have to paint what other people wanted him to paint, he could paint whatever he liked. The only trouble was he found it too difficult to put his work out there in the world. Something held him back, though I’m not sure if it was a fear of rejection, or just a lack of the social skills necessary to market himself in the way you really need to when you’re working for yourself. (Something I also struggle with).
In any case, the saddest aspect of his passing (outside of my own personal grief, of course) was this sudden realization of all the wasted potential there was in his life. He loved to paint, got irritable when he couldn’t, and lived and breathed through these beautiful pieces of art that never saw the light of day. They just gathered dust in his painting room, like my novels were gathering virtual dust on the hard-drive of my laptop.
I might not mind dying alone, as an eccentric recluse who cuts her own hair and talks to herself, but I made up my mind right there and then that I didn’t want to die with all my thoughts locked up inside my head. Whether I achieve any modicum of success (success being a totally subjective concept anyway) or not, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is the effort, and the attempt to leave a mark on the world in some small way. To create something indelible, as proof that you were ever here at all.
Eerily, when I was emptying out his house, I found a note tucked in amongst a stack of papers of all things he intended to write or talk to me about and never got the chance. The note said: Alas, it is the fate of most of us to touch the world lightly and leave no prints. See if you can grab it a bit harder.
So that’s what I’m doing.
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Genre – Dystopian Sci-Fi
Rating – 18+