#UpbeatAuthors: Self-Respect

When I become interested in an author, I will read all I can about that person. Many years ago, someone recommended A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf to me. I read it. I liked it. I bought several of her books. Didn’t care for her fiction. I took out volumes of her letters from the library and read them. I purchased A Writer’s Diary, a book with excerpts from her journals as compiled by her husband after her death. There were relatable moments. One might say I studied Virginia Woolf as an author.

A friend of mine was involved in a book discussion group at a local university. When the group was scheduled to discuss Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, my friend invited me to attend with her. We went to the college professor’s home for the discussion. I was young, impressionable, and feeling rather awed that these educated people were including me, with my high school diploma, in their discussion. We drank tea in a room with red “oriental” carpets strewn over shiny wood floors. There may have been Georgia O’Keefe prints on the white walls. I was a little intimidated.

I didn’t say much. After all, who was I?

I now regret not speaking up at the end of the session, when the professor said, “We should all strive to emulate Virginia Woolf.”

As I said to my friend in the car as we drove home, “Why would I want to emulate a woman who committed suicide? Killing myself isn’t my definition of success.”

My friend was shocked. She didn’t realize Woolf had indeed killed herself. She berated me for not speaking out. I confessed my intimidation. She replied: “But you’re right.”

After that night, I didn’t feel quite so belittled for skipping college to get on with life. Not having a degree doesn’t mean I’m ignorant. It merely means I’m self-educated.