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Stop and Smell the Cross County Parkway

February 17, 2011

At 7:15 yesterday evening, having just guest lectured for a class of teachers who are learning to write personal narratives, as the Hutchinson Parkway curved west into the Cross County and “Life is a Highway” came on 95.5, I got the sense that in my life I have arrived. Not at a place that might be considered spectacular or accomplished. And my to-do list is giant and growing gianter. But I’ve arrived.

Certainly I must have had childhood dreams of becoming, of achieving, of arriving. The earliest one I remember is my dream of becoming a cartographer, the result of an exciting geometry class my freshman year of high school. That didn’t happen, in an official sense, anyway. But as a lady without a childhood-drawn road map, one who entered college, then adulthood, then graduate school without a clue what she wanted to “do” despite her keen need for a precise plan at all times, I’m happy with where I have arrived. Sweetly happy. The Hutch-to-Cross-County was not the ideal place to stop and smell anything. But in make-believe, I stopped and smelled the efforts that earn me income, the efforts that earn me a role in communities, and the efforts that earn me pages of prose (and that one page of poetry). And it smelled something like aromatherapy. 25 essential oils, at least.

In order to confidently teach kids how to write personal narratives, the women in last night’s class are writing ones of their own. My friend, their professor, couldn’t be there, so she asked me to step in, knowing how much I enjoy personal narrative writing. None of their stories were extraordinary in the sense that they were about defying odds or tolerating hardship or climbing from a quagmire. But they were no less compelling, to me, to this woman who has arrived. The stories were slice-within-a-slice-of-life stories. Seen through a keyhole. One Bites. Completely in my element, I leaned over the tablet of my classroom desk and listened listened listened to their ideas, and imagined the narratives they would write. Then I completely dominated the feedback conversation and bulldozed over the other participants, forgetting that as the guest lecturer I occupied a role different from theirs and they would of course not jump in to interrupt me the way they might with each other. That’s what I thought of at 7:14 as I eased onto the Cross County. I thought of what the class might have been like for the students, and that got me thinking about how much I would like to teach my own class of adult writers, and how I had much to learn about teaching adults as opposed to teaching kids, and how it would be interesting to teach writing to adults who are not in a creative writing program, and how I needed to practice quiet listening.

By 7:15, I realized that I was thinking ahead. Planning. And not at all thinking of it as a step towards some mysterious end game of what I really want to “do.” Because what I really want to do is this, what I’m doing. Teaching adult writers, making some mistakes while doing it, wanting to improve for next time, thinking about their narratives, thinking about my own manuscript, reading the latest issue of CNF, thinking about teaching kids again, too, thinking about the proofreading I’m about to do for HWJ, and driving home to get some editing done before finally catching up on Top Chef All Stars with J.

It’s not that things are perfect. They never will be. It’s more that I feel better than I used to. Without that map, without a starting point, I was tormented by panic attacks and fears of death and abandonment, of loss and being lost. I guess I can say the efforts that have earned me peace of mind are the most rewarding of all. That peace of mind–that’s where I’ve arrived. All the other efforts keep me in transit, which is perfectly fine with me.

Now I feel like I can finish the book.

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  1. beautiful post, dearheart. and yes, yes, yes, you have arrived.


  2. Cheryl Wilder permalink

    To have arrived and yet still stay on the path- that is a beautiful symbiotic place. Kudos.


  3. Excitedhappyproud tears with that last line, m’dear. You. Are. Amazing.


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