Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Iris Chang It

I just read a really moving article about journalist and writer Iris Chang by Paula Kamen. http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2004/11/30/iris_chang/

I first heard of Iris Chang the day she killed herself in November. I was driving home from work and I heard about it on NPR.

I must confess I had never heard of Iris Chang and was sorry that I hadn’t, once I heard about the brilliant work she did. It made me wish I knew about her when she was alive, as if that would make a difference in whether she lived or didn’t. I knew so little about her that I forgot her name and I had to ask my sister to remind me. She was driving to my house that day and heard the same report. She too was moved by the story.

Her story haunted me and I kept thinking about her. She was only two years older than me and she left behind a two year old son. I kept asking myself how her sadness could be so great that she would want to leave her child behind. It baffled me.

The more I thought of her I wanted to know more so my sister and I Googled. That’s when I came across the article about her on Salon.com. It is such a sad and moving piece. It’s a eulogy written by a friend and colleague so it’s very bittersweet.

Reading it made me see what the writer meant about Iris Chang becoming a verb to her. To “Iris Chang” it meant to reach high. To go for it because that’s what Chang always did. So now whenever I want to say that I’m going to give something all I’ve got and I’m going to go for the best, whatever the consequences I’m going to say that I’m going to “Iris Chang” it.

Some may argue that she didn’t strive for the best because she killed herself but I believe that none of us can judge a person who is mentally ill or suffers from real depression. We don’t know what occurred in her ill mind. We should see how she lived.

On that same note, on my list of people who inspire me I’ve already written a list of the agents I’m going to send my manuscript. I have three listed that are my top three choices. I’ll send it to each of them and I’ll see which one is interested in my book.

I definitely “Iris Chang’d” it before ever knowing what the term meant. The top three choices are agents that represent three of my favorite authors. I figured why not start at the top? That’s the sales person in me.

When you sell you always ask for a large amount first, for the big contract. The mentality is that you can always start by asking a lot and you can come down on your price, but you can’t start low and then ask for more. So in the same sense, I’m going to start at the really top agents first and then work my way down to the less known agents.

When I was in middle school I was a pretty average student in a Vanguard program. I wasn’t one of the top students but I didn’t let that hold me back. I applied at three top high schools, well only two were really coveted schools, but the third was a really good school too. I say that because it’s the school I chose and even though it wasn’t as prestigious as the other two they ended up having an excellent English program, which is where I really found my love for literature.

The point is this. I applied at all three high schools and I was accepted at all three. So I “Iris Chang’d it” way back then too. I applied to Bellaire to the Foreign Language program, to HSPVA, and to Waltrip’s IB Program.

In reality my first “butterfly effect” happened then. I was accepted into the Creative Writing program at HSPVA. If I had accepted and attended HSPVA I would have been in the last class to go through that program. I would have graduated with Helen Childress, the young woman who wrote the screenplay to “Reality Bites” at 23. Isn’t that weird? That’s what I really wonder. What would have happened if I’d gone to HSPVA? Would I still be interested in becoming a writer?

SO the moral of this story is that we should all “Iris Chang” it. It drives me crazy when I hear parents say that they don’t want to send their kids to special programs, like Vanguard or IB, because the school is too far or they don’t want to send their kid off on a bus too early or have them coming home too late. It just drives me crazy! Especially when they send their kid off to some bad ghetto school and their child is a gifted child. That drives me crazy.

Okay if they already live in an okay area and the school is decent or if their child is just average and doesn’t excel to do more. But if they are above average or the school is an opportunity to get them out of a bad environment and the parent doesn’t want to because it’s going to be an inconvenience THAT drives me mad.

I also can’t stand when people are destined for greatness and they don’t believe they are, so they just settle for whatever life gives them. I hate to hear people say they aren’t going to apply for the top job because deep down they don’t think they will get it so they just don’t try.

So many people choose to live their life on medium. I don’t want that for myself and I hope that all of you don’t want that either. Let’s live our life on “great!” Let’s “Iris Chang it.”

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