YWRB: First Impressions

first impressions

By Amanda Page My first memory of Amy Turn Sharp is crisp and static, like a simple snapshot. She was a girl in a poetry workshop, sitting in one of the chairs beneath the classroom window, scarf around her neck---although it was Spring---and headphones casually slipped from her ears, dangling from her neck where they got lost in the fabric.  It might have been the first day or late in the quarter. But that's when I took notice. She seemed shy as she responded to a question---maybe about her poem. What stands out to me most about that moment is the reserve and timidity she displayed, because I was reserved and timid. I was shy and I didn't like it, but I didn't know how else to be.

Maybe that's why the image sticks. Or maybe I recognized a kindred spirit, but not consciously. Anyway, that was not the woman I started to know on smoke breaks. The Amy Turn I came to know in fifteen-minute bursts was loud, exuberant, and wildly enthusiastic about writing and life.

We weren't fast friends. The quarter ended and I saw her once over the summer, when I saw her on the street and stopped to say hello. Fall came and classes started and there we were in another workshop together. Most of our friends had graduated that summer. We were those rare, at the time, students who kept at it, floating a little, not quite ready to move beyond the classroom, still trying to figure out what we were doing in college, let alone with our lives.

Maybe I'm projecting a little. That's what I was doing: floating. Flailing. When I met Amy Turn, as she was called then, I made a friend to flail with. Amy Turn. I rarely ever heard her called anything but the two names together. She was never just "Amy." I admired that. I was from a place where two names were common, and I'd tried to get one to catch on for myself. It never happened. I wasn't a Bobbi Jo or Barbara Dee. I was just Amanda. Just the one name. And I couldn't quite get the two-first-name version of myself to exist.

We started writing together. We'd sit at the bar or the coffee shop or sometimes at the kitchen table in her apartment and we'd handwrite essays in yellow legal pads, right there on the spot. We thrived on the spontaneous nature of sitting down and writing something complete. We were rebelling against the image of the isolated writer, working in a dim room all alone. The work had more energy, more life, because it was composed quickly, full of vim and whimsy, in the presence of another writer.

Rebelling against the idea of the diligent, lonely writer was exciting. We reminded ourselves that Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on one long continuous scroll. He couldn't have written it all in isolation. He needed his friends. He needed to be around the "mad ones." And I found myself a mad one in Amy Turn. I liked that my first impression of her was wrong. It gave me hope that I could rebel against first impressions of me. I was more than just a shy girl with a single first name. I was a writer, and that's what I wanted to be known. Amy Turn made it known.

Amy Turn was known. Everyone in town seemed to know her: restaurant owners and convenient store workers and every single bartender in town. It’s hard to not know the girl dancing on your table at the end of the night. Before I knew it, we were known as the writer girls. People expected us to show up with our legal pads and scratch out whole pieces. People knew about our project. That terrified me. But it also made it real.

If you're going to look for a friend with whom to rebel, you can't go wrong with one who pulls you out of your comfort zone, who introduces you to people as the person you want to be, which is not always the person you see yourself as. I started, then, to see myself as a writer. That vision, that version, of myself has wavered through the years. It's good to have a mad one to contact to remind you that you are not the lonely writer.

And it's good to know that the mad ones don't always reveal themselves in your life with that first impression.

We want to know: Do you have a friend who pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you rebel against the small version of yourself that you sometimes believe yourself to be? How do they pull you out of your comfort zone? How do they prompt you to rebel against that small version of yourself? Email us at amanda@bold-types.com or leave a comment.