It has taken me almost thirty-two years to get to this point, and I am afraid I still do not know where I am going. I’m camping in the wilderness alone with only a tent, a flashlight, and a pack of gummy worms. Inevitably, I will be mauled to death and devoured by a bear.
But the trip is fun.
My journey began when I was six.
But, fast forward to my first college level English class. I was a history major. My teacher, Linda Cooper, head of the theater department, assigned Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul as our textbook for the composition course. You can’t do that. Assign a “real” book, not a textbook, and expect that to be our guide to better writing? I didn’t know anything then. That’s the only class I kept all five essays I wrote and have turned around and assigned the prompts to my own students.
By the way, I’m not a history teacher.
Back to Windows. In a chapter titled “Windows of Vocation,” Gire discusses how snapshots from our childhood, things we enjoyed when left to ourselves, can oftentimes be portrait pieces for what we should do with our adult selves.
I taught stuffed animals when I was six. My brother was in the discovery program at our school, so my family had to keep a chalkboard in our office for rhythmic writing. When he wasn’t using it, the office became my classroom. With no other human interaction, my mind created scenarios for a day at school that would keep me busy for hours.
In high school, I had a history teacher I adored. She lectured the entire period, but to me, it was story time. Thus, I became a history major with the intention to teach.
Yes, I am a leaf in the wind.
My freshmen English class confirmed what I already knew about myself. I should be a teacher.
Until I took my first psychology class. Homework had never been more interesting.
The wind patterns changed.
Three and a half years later, I accidentally graduated with a double major in psychology and English. My intentions had never been to major in English, but I enjoyed reading and writing so much, I took enough electives to turn it into a major. For ten years, I have taught English to both middle and high school students. Then I picked up Windows once more this past January. During our school’s J-term, I elected to teach a creative writing course. What was our required reading? Ken Gire’s book, of course. This time through, the drapes to a window I didn’t know existed, opened up.
I spent the first several days joining in on the creative writing exercises I assigned to my students. Then we hit the vocation chapter in our reading. The chapter that told me I should be a teacher. Except, the words on the page did not whisper the same sentiment as before in my now thirty-one-year-old ear.
Suddenly, I remembered all the poems I wrote as a kid. You know, the cheesy ones about love, animals, and heartbreak. The ones that followed the basic abab pattern. I remembered the letter to the newspaper editor I sent when I was thirteen. I remembered the homemade newspaper I created only for members of my family to keep them abreast of the weather and local news. I remembered the stories I created such as “Purple Gorilla Land” just to give to friends because I thought being quirky was cool.
Then there was the abusive relationship in college. I saved thousands of dollars by not attending therapy but by creating poetry, essays, and flash scenes.
Writing is who I am.
So what have I been doing for the past ten years? They say that those who can’t, teach. But what if I taught so that I can? Teaching has been my hike into the wilderness.
I might not survive, but that’s okay.
I’d rather know what the claw of a bear sinking into my face feels like.