I was a loser. At least, that’s what I would’ve told you back then.
Twenty-five years old. I sat in a truck, in a parking lot lit by streetlamps. My work clothes were sawdusty. Supper was a sandwich and a warm beer.
I was reading, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” squeezing in chapters before class. You’ve probably read it a hundred times, maybe in high school even.
I had not.
I didn’t attend high school. After my father shot himself, my mother and I worked. I dropped out in the eighth grade.
Yeah, yeah. Poor, pitiful me. So who cares about that.
A little about me:
My name is Sean. I like long walks in the woods, Budweiser, Jalen Hurts, dogs, Will Rogers, farm-raised eggs, Andy Griffith. And I enrolled in community college as a grown man. Like I said, a loser.
So, I was reading Mockingbird in my truck. I liked the book. Not only because of the story, but because of where it happened in Monroe County.
The girl I’d fallen in love with was from Escambia County—just down the road. This same girl let me into her life. Her people were good to me. They fed me. They made me one of theirs. They told me I was special.
In my life before, I’d generally considered myself a lost kid with very little to offer anyone. Larry the Loser. Girls don’t want anything to do with losers.
Once, at the ripe age of twenty, I asked Lydia Bronson on a date. I arrived at her house in a beat-up truck. She saw my unsightly mount. She suddenly developed yellow fever, strep throat, and scurvy simultaneously.
I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. So, I went to a bowling alley and played solo. I ate a hotdog and tried to forget what a screw-up I was.
A group of high-schoolers was there that night. They were nice-looking, happy, laughing. They asked if I wanted to join them. I hated myself.
But that all changed when I met my wife. The woman who looked me dead in the eye and said, “I believe in you Sean Dietrich.”
I enrolled in college. For the first class of the first semester the professor gave a lecture about a town called Monroeville, Alabama, and an American author who made it famous.
What a class. What a professor. She was a lady who once told me, “You ought to consider being an author, you know.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I answered—since that’s what losers say.
“Don’t YOU be ridiculous,” she said—since that’s what good teachers say.
I’m in my truck right now. I’m older. I’m wearing a sportcoat. In a few minutes, I’ll be walking into a courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama. A room which, up until a few months ago, I’d only ever read about.
I’m here to speak about my unlikely career. I’ll tell stories about my life, and how grateful I am for it. Stories about people who loved me. About what a colossal loser I once thought I was. And how there’s no such thing.
My wife will be in the back row, doing what she’s always done.
Believing in me.