By Cecelia Jones
“Write what you know” — Mark Twain
I was unsure and skeptical of the major project introduced and assigned in the first meeting of English 478 at Clemson University. The class, formally entitled ‘Digital Literacy,’ was not one that fit the mold of the other English classes that I had taken at Clemson. I was in top paper-writing condition, ready to analyze and develop a thesis on any book, essay, or poem. My personal creativity was kept to a minimum in all other English classes for there was a set agenda, a more objective interpretation and perception of what was to be learned. The assignment, the development of my MyStory, proved to be the most meaningful work of literature I have ever produced. I was blessed with the chance to tell my story through the creation of a personal website focusing on four distinctive discourses present in all being’s lives. Family, Career, Entertainment, and Community were the specific channels of focus. The mysterious task of the formation of my Emblem was to be an almost spontaneous invention and a process of evolution. The Emblem would develop out of the four different discourses, but still act as an independent entity.
It is interesting for me to think that my story and my MyStory would not be as moving and passionate if I hadn’t experienced such a personal tragedy just over a year before I began the process of creating the website. My mother, best friend, mentor—quite literally the most important person in my life—had a shortened life due to a cerebral aneurysm that occurred while I was with her. I watched my mother take her last natural breath and cried as I tried to force my breath into hers. It is something that I can never undo. My mother’s neurosurgeon gave my family the grim statistic. Fifteen percent. My mom had a fifteen percent chance of survival. According to them, chances for a full recovery were nearly impossible. Truth be told, the number did not make my faith in my mother waiver. Rules did not apply to her and they never had. She lived her life the way she wanted, not according to societies expectations or some stupid medical measurement.
Our relationship was one that is hard for outsiders to understand. We had always depended on each other, for each of us possessed what the other lacked. My rodeo trainer and my mother’s best friend, Boo Flournoy, always said that I was the one raising my mama—that I was put on this earth to teach her discipline and maturity—things that came natural to me. I was always a driven child. I took everything seriously. My mother, Mari Cecelia Mileur, was wild and unruly. She never liked city limits, or any limits for that matter, and possessed an unwavering, unapologetic combination of strength and courage that, according to her brothers and sister, evolved from growing up on her dad’s cattle ranch in rural Rush Springs, Oklahoma. She had the most infectious smile. My mother taught me how to be passionate. It was something that could never be learned in a classroom or by simple, numbered instructions. She had a passion for life that strangers noticed, friends admired, and family took for granted. I was willing to put in the grueling hours and training to took to be a good rodeo competitor but it takes more than skill and heritage to truly succeed at something. It is a raw sense of strength and love and attitude that makes a worthy champion, both in the rodeo arena and the arena of life.
My MyStory is simply that—the story of my life. I am young, but I have experienced some parts of existing that others will not. My mom and dad encouraged my brother and me to do what made us happy, no matter if it fit conveniently into their busy schedules or was considered outrageous or odd to other people. I was encouraged, from my earliest years, to write, sing, ride, compete and they made it all possible. The combination of their love and support and my drive and passion for something better life has proven to be a blessing. It has given me plenty to write about and reflect upon. I have travelled the nation as Miss North Carolina High School Rodeo, qualified multiple times for the world’s largest rodeo, coached a young woman to a National Championship at that same rodeo just two years after I graduated high school, and attended an out-of-state college where, upon arrival, was filled with nothing but strangers.
These experiences and memories that have been channeled into the four discourses that developed and continue to form my future-conscious Emblem are important to me and my only hope is that they mean something to others as well. I hope that people viewing my MyStory get something, anything substantial from it. If people walk away from my life story with some hint of a reaction, then my story and journey has not been for nothing. The creation of my MyStory has been the most therapeutic and trying experience of my life. This project allowed me to establish a definitive landmark in my life. I had not had the chance or reason to reflect on what made and shaped me into the person I was. I took the task at hand and developed based on what I knew, what was me, where I came from, what made me. My MyStory is a tribute to my mother. When she was dying in the neurosurgical ICU, I whispered to her, “Mama, if you do not live as you, you can always live through me.” This project is proof.