To Be. . .Past, Present, and Future

9 Aug

Classes start Monday. The halls will fill with pubescent chatter and social posturing. The bells will order life for ten more months. This year I moved to a new classroom, actually an old classroom, the first one I occupied ten years ago. When my assistant principal came to tell me last year that I had to keep my door shut and locked all day due to new security measures, I lost it.  With no windows, no air exit vent, no window in the door, no cell service in a concrete block bunker of a classroom across from the auto shop, I had to have a new room. There was no natural light available to me for ten years. Many days I would arrive in morning darkness and leave in evening twilight, my movements and bathroom habits carefully controlled by the ordering of the bells. It messed with my mind.  It isolated me. Aside from the kids, I was alone. I lived in a fluorescent adolescent Inferno.

Today, when I finalized my plans for next week, I gazed at my new work space. It looks much the same as it did ten years ago with the new addition of pictures and wisdoms from my traveling, from this journey of mine. Previous students who are now colleagues have been stopping by all week.

I remember this, they said. Wow…I remember this.

And the smiles and the knowing nods I recognized. I too remember this place, this way of being. In many ways I have now come back home to a way of being that would have been if I had never met my former husband. Yes, I was married. Yes, he left me suddenly. Yes, that’s what sent me on this journey …no, I never thought I’d be back where I am today.

My computer screen blinked at me, the beginning of notes for AP literature. Archetypes and the journey. I add in my notes from How to Read Literature Like a Professor, their summer reading assignment. It hits me then, that all the writing I have been doing has been part of a Quest. I set out to find something, to write about the road and thought, “This will make me a writer again, not so much a teacher.” I wanted to be someone different when I returned from Ocracoke and I was. I was a writer and blogger, a traveling lass on a mission to find a new life. But as the author says of the Quest pattern, the mission fades. It yields to the true object of the quest. To find oneself. The search for the grail yields in favor of self knowledge. That is the ultimate boon.

I’ve been feeling incredible guilty these days for not keeping up. Two posts a week about my wanderings on the road was the routine for months. But today, I realized that writing about travel isn’t what all of this has been about. It’s been about finding an authentic self. I naively printed business cards, advertised this space as a solo woman’s review of the road. That’s not what this turned out to be. It turned out to be about finding me. Many of my previous students have remarked that recently, maybe the last three to four months, they have seen the old me that they remember, someone who used to exist over a decade ago. A deep look at that assessment shows me they’re right. I am now becoming more fully what I would have been if he had never appeared. But then again, if he hadn’t, would I have gone on this incredible journey?

So I’ve decided that I need to change this blog into what it really is. A place for me to write and to publicly share my journey. There will be times I’ll want to write of the road. That’s okay, maybe you’ll want to read about that. Then, there are times where I need to write of my inner life, my emotions and maybe you’ll want to read about that. And maybe a poem will erupt like a flame, and maybe, just maybe I’ll want to share a letter, or part of my new novel that is slowly steeping like tea in a warm pot on the back burner and you’ll want to read about that. I’m making no promises here, except this. I’m not the same and now this space needs to change.

I laugh more easily now and cry more easily, too. One of my students who graduated many years ago stopped by yesterday

“You’re still here?” she said.

And then she hugged me and began to cry. I knew why. I am a reminder of who she used to be. She introduced me to her 14 year old son, the one I have a baby picture of tucked into a box in my school closet.

“This is Miss Kelley”, she said. “She was my favorite teacher. Maybe you’ll have her when you are a senior”.

He nodded, silent and smiling, her emotion prompting a protective but yet tentative attention.

“You know, I have something of yours”, I said. “Hold on”.

I went to the closet and pulled out a poem and a coat of arms she had created nearly fifteen years ago. She smiled, her face twisting into bittersweetness, a biography poem in Courier font, typed long ago. She began to read her former self. Her voice choked with emotion.

“You keep that”, she said as she looked at me with teary blue eyes and a smile. And I nodded. “That’s old”, she said putting her arm around her son “That’s old”.

But I knew this moment was priceless. When someone places a forgotten stone in your palm, one worn smooth by your own thumb, you understand. . .there I was.

Here I am now.

Yes. The journey has been worth it.

She hugged me hard and turned to go.

I have wondered what my purpose is. I’ve been searching for so long trying to find what I’m supposed to do and what I think I’ve realized is that I should be thinking about just how to be. It isn’t about doing. I think I know my be-ing now . It’s just not one thing, it’s a lot of things. But one thing I do know, I am meant to share this “being”, how I see the world, how I see myself and hopefully this will help others to grow and learn about themselves. The more they know themselves, the better the world will be. That’s the type of teacher I was. That’s the type of teacher I am. That’s the type of writer I want to be.

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