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.

For instance, I quit my first teaching job because I hated it.  I was convinced that I had made a huge mistake and wasted four years of my life getting an education degree.  I got a job in marketing and worked in a cubicle.  This was not what I wanted either, but what else could I do?  Teaching was clearly not for me.

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. 

Rob thought I had lost my mind. 

“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.

*This is the view I had as I ate my lunch Saturday afternoon. 

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.

*A sign in the garden summed it up quite nicely.  It is the time we take for quiet thought that best allows our intuition, or gut, to speak to us. 

40 was also the year the “big picture” became much more focused in my mind’s eye.  As long as I am teaching, as long as I am creating and expressing myself artistically, as long as I am mothering, I am truly happy and exactly where I am meant to be.  If there’s anything that I can take away from my experiences thus far, it is that listening to my instincts is always the right choice and that following my passions, whether it’s teaching or writing or mothering, is the best way to get where I need to be.
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.

I can tell that a shift is coming my way—whether that means homeschooling, writing another book, or moving back into the classroom, I’m not sure.

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.