How Old do We Have to be to be OLDER?

This is a writing blog perused by, I assume, writers. And if you’ve been following my posts you’ve noticed that I’m all over the place when it comes to subject matter. My favorite topics though, are stories about you and me; our dilemmas, our fears and our conquests.

What does real life have to do with writing fiction?

You know the answer: Everything, unless your hero happens to be a Red Flame Ivy plant.

I’m fascinated with what makes us tick. I want to know why I do what I do. But more importantly, I want to understand human nature. Hey, I’m a writer of characters, and I seek information about who we are and I ask personal questions of the people I meet. My direct nature embarrasses my wife to no end.

Many of you, if not all, have heard about the teenage Pakistani activist student, Malala Yousafzai. In case you haven’t, I’ll reference Wikipedia here.

She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.[5][4] In early 2009, at the age of 11/12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls.

On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.

All of Pakistan fell into shock. Miraculously though, Malala is recovering and according to her website, she plans to keep fighting the suppression of her gender and continue building an education system for girls in Pakistan.

Malala is fifteen…in years. As a Soul… I don’t have to elaborate. Out of the box, Malala was fully equipped to lead a nation, and is.

Wow! How can a fifteen year old do this, a teen girl who clutches her stuffed bear in a hospital bed?

Malala’s Facebook page tells us how. “I’m afraid of no one,” she states. And no one disputes that.

Malala is the ultimate hero for any writer’s novel. We should study her character and follow her example as so many young Pakistani girls are now. And yes, I too am a fan.


I’m also a fan of an American young woman named Liz Seda.

Ms. Seda wrote a guest post on the Tiny Buddha blog about her overcoming bulimia and later, anorexia. But explaining how she attacked her body and got past it was only the surface story. I wanted to know WHY she did it, and what she was thinking as she induced starvation every day for years.

So I wrote Liz a personal letter and she answered all my questions.

She opened herself up to a stranger, helping me to understand a desperation to be loved and appreciated, especially by herself. And although I have never come close the physical harm she used for distractions, I could identify with many of her reasons to do it.

In the process of getting well, Liz dug a tunnel back to her heart and found her soul, as I’m sure Malala has. They are both brave young ladies, just beginning their journeys.

Liz had the courage and self assurance to expose her painful past to me, and all the mistakes she made because of it. But it’s just not to me she gifts her wisdom. Liz Seda helps and supports anyone who asks for help with eating disorders and the trauma that causes self affliction.

Liz is twenty-five…in years. Much older in every other way.

Here is a sample of my questions and her answers:

IRV: In your article you explained HOW you felt growing up, but not WHY. If you care to elaborate, why did you not feel good enough? Was it more than your body weight? Was it your upbringing?

LS: That’s a really really great question and I’m sad I didn’t have room for it in my post. My feeling of not being good enough was definitely more than my body weight. I would say that my body weight had almost nothing to do with it, and I only used it as something to target. It was concrete and easy to see. If I just slimmed down, I would feel better about myself. But that wasn’t true.

Liz related her challenges of childhood abandonment and further explained:

I always felt like the odd-ball out in my family. I was a trouble maker or too willful.

I didn’t participate in any team sports, clubs, etc. I really had no idea how people gained acceptance normally and my over-developed sense of independence made it so that I thought I had to deal with it myself. When I was unable to, I felt bad about myself.

Then came her search for release which brought on the bulimia. I asked her how she emerged from despair. Liz began her answer this with these words:

It was gradual, but I slowly began hating what I was doing. I hated the act, I hated myself for needing it, I hated my life, I just despised what I had become. However, I had spent so much time being this way I was terrified of letting it go.

There’s just so much introspection and insight here. Liz goes on to explain how she physically hit bottom with anorexia, and to stay alive, made the only sensible choice she could. Healthy now, she devotes much of her life to advising and counseling others clawing their way back to the light.

So I ask myself, did Liz and Malala need to endure the pain they did to become the teachers they are?

The answer resides in the aphorism: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Both Malala and Liz came close to dying young. Both survived and both will go on with their lives and make a positive difference in this world. Both are much older and wiser than the years of their peers and many adult. Perhaps most adults.

They are special, these two young ladies, and we writers, as creators of characters and story, can if we wish, delve into two extraordinary psyches to discover what drives them to climb the mountain and lead from above.

What makes a hero? Ask them!

But what about you and me? Do we need to starve ourselves or survive an assassination attempt to make a difference, or author a touching yarn?

No, we don’t have to come close to death to matter – to ourselves and to others.

We just need to CARE…a lot. We need to GIVE…a lot. We need to WORK…a lot. And we need to LOVE…a lot.

This is what heroes do. This is what successful authors do. This is what kind and generous people do. And none of that is beyond our reach.


You can find Liz Seda’s article about her struggles and victory at: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/overcoming-eating-disorders-and-other-dangerous-addictions

Check out Liz’s website at: http://www.alifeonyourterms.com/

To find Malala Yousafzai on Facebook, go to: https://www.facebook.com/malalayousafzaiofficial


Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.


Leave a Reply