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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Impossible to Fail

 "All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail." 

Dorothea Brande, author of Becoming a Writer

Plans for the commencement of the "Impossible Tour" are coming along nicely. Got the "Impossible Tour Mobile" on Friday. A frisky, used, environmentally friendly Toyota Prius, Blue. Named it Emlet after my great-grandfather who did great things. 

Robert Emlet Vest was his full name. He caught a train from Kentucky to Indiana when he was still a child, built an empire, sent for this family and eventually owned a whole block of houses and businesses in the late 1800s. And he did all this as a Black man in Jim Crow Indiana. His mother was a slave. He had no formal education. He was self-taught. He became a community leader who everyone consulted. He was a good and kind and humble man who was ever curious and  fond of inventions. My father is named for him.

I am hoping to follow in this man's footsteps. In fact I have always hoped to. My whole existence is informed by this man's life. I have know his story my whole life. It was told to me, repeated to me again and again so I would know from whence I came... and for that reason I have never ever had any excuse for failing. What a dishonor I would be to Robert Emlet's memory if I let anyone or anything get in my way...

I wonder sometimes about the impossible journey that my grandfather went on at the age of 12. What made him think he could jump a freight train late at night with only the clothes on his back, travel north and make a life for himself? How did he manage to buy a house for his mother and then one for himself and his wife? How did he bring his whole family up from the South? How did he buy all those houses? The barber shop? The Indian motorbike business?

What were his hopes and dreams for his descendants? --for me, his great-grand-daughter? Did I make him proud by getting a PhD? by becoming a professor?  an activist? by writing and publishing my works? 

If he were here would he want to read my books? 
(He was, I am told, an avid reader).

I have never met an obstacle I could not overcome nor ever have I been willing to abandon a dream just because people claimed it was not achievable. I suspect I owe those tendencies to this man. A true impossibilist.

Thanks, Grandpa! I will not let you down.
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