Sometimes I feel like my life is totally predictable and routine, but when I examine it under the lens of the “big picture,” I can see something else.
My life, when I let it, has a tendency to grow and unfold in unexpected ways.
That summer, I got a call from a school psychologist who was looking for an English teacher to work with at-risk high school students at a new alternative school. I interviewed and immediately fell in love with the program.
“You hated regular school. What makes you think this will be better?”
I had no answer. He was right. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. But something told me to take the job.
I did, and it was the best career move I ever made. I learned more in my first year at that school than I had in four years at a university. I learned how to teach.
It is what I was meant to do in the world.
Whether I’m teaching at an alternative school, teaching writing at the college or substitute teaching in 1st grade, I love planning lessons, engaging students and connecting with them.
And in that way, I’d say my life has unfolded just as it should have– if not entirely in the way I had expected.
I spent the better part of last year finishing my first novel. I am, in fact, waiting for my manuscript to be returned to me any day now. It has been with an editor for the past six weeks, and this summer, I begin the task of revising and editing for publication. My plan is to have it out by the end of this year.
As I worked on the book, I got it into my head that I would only write books. I’ll write story after story after story, I thought. And maybe that’s what will happen, but now poetry has entered the mix.
If you’d asked me a year ago whether or not I am a poet, I’d have laughed and said no, but a few months ago, my friend Leighanne at the Foothills Arts Council invited me to participate in a community poetry reading. I said, “Maybe” but didn’t really mean it. I didn’t consider myself a poet by any means. The one time I’d submitted a poem for publication, the editor has sent back a pretty bitter, bitchy letter telling me that she was “not interested in lyrical trash.” OK. That sealed the lid on poetry. Or so I thought.
As time drew closer, a feeling in my gut kept telling me to give it a shot. The day before the reading, I sat down and wrote two poems. I read them the next night at our small town gathering and was shocked by the response to my words. It planted a seed. Maybe I could write poetry.
And then Leighanne suggested a poetry contest sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society. There were several categories to choose from, but none of them quite seemed to fit the two I had written. Except for the NC Poet Laureate Award. This award seemed a long shot at best, but since I wouldn’t win anything anyway, I sent it in. I figured it would be good for me—the act of submitting my work—even if it didn’t lead to anything.
Except it did.
About six weeks ago, I got an email informing me that I had been listed among the Top 10 Finalists in the NC Poet Laureate Award. I didn’t win, but I was invited to the annual meeting and awards ceremony to read my work. I was floored.
So this weekend, I traveled to the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines to read my work in front of the North Carolina Poetry Society.
I was among my people. I spent an entire day wandering the gardens of an historic home and listening to other writers read their beautiful work. I was totally immersed in language and story—a perfect day. I was a part of this gathering of poets, something I wouldn’t have pictured at all a year ago.
Today is my 41st birthday. Looking back, 40 was a pretty good year.
I went to NYC for the first time. I wrote a novel. I went to two separate writing retreats. I went to the John C. Campbell Folk School again. I met so many new and interesting people. I won a poetry award. I quit my job at the college. I became a substitute teacher (something else I swore I’d never do), I volunteered at school and in the community, I got goats, I was part of the PNC that brought our new minister to Elkin Presbyterian Church, I took a dance class and two art classes, and I spent another beautiful year with Harper Lee, Isaac and Rob.
Something’s on the wind, as they say, but I trust in the fact that my life tends to work out in miraculous and unexpected ways.
I am content to leave it at that.