Last week, I wrote of and to my tenth grade English teacher. I wrote of his impact on my life and purpose, and I thanked him for being exactly the teacher I needed him to be, at exactly the time I needed the lesson. Since then, we have had almost daily contact, during which I have shared some of my deepest thoughts as well as chapters of my book in progress. He, in turn, has complimented my work and been most appreciative of my acknowledgment of his impact.
He has encouraged me to finish my book. Over the years, I have questioned whether there is really a point to writing the book, since it is autobiographical and the subject of my life cannot really be of interest to many. I know few people in this great world, and who would buy my book? After all, if you break it down chapter by chapter, and make a list of all of the horrible things I have managed somehow to “endure” it reads like something of a soap opera, and a bad one at that.
Still, I persisted in trying to write it, and the reason for that is that I believe the important thing about my life is not the events of it but the perception of it and the lessons taught. I don’t care about telling you about domestic abuse; it’s a subject we have all heard plenty about before. What IS important to me is that you listen to what I have to say about getting past the abuse. That each and every one of us has the capacity to learn from our tragedies is critical to our well-being.
Any of the crises I’ve endured might have killed me, or at least forever scarred me. Instead, they have helped me to build character and strength and to develop compassion. That is the message I want the reader to take away from my words. And in writing about my life, I believe that those words are the ones which scream out to be heard and taken to heart.
So it was humbling last night to read the words of the teacher and mentor whose memory I have always cherished. He wrote of me, in a chapter for his own book, and in that chapter, described me as brilliant, naturally beautiful and amazingly talented. He went on to explain that in teaching me, he became a better teacher, and that I helped him to go on and to inspire thousands of others.
I have no doubt about whether he inspired thousands. I know that I saw him as a brilliant and naturally gifted teacher, one of those for whom any other profession would have been a crime against humanity. But there was something about his telling me that I helped in making him a better teacher…
Wow..! I was left speechless by it. Actually, I am alone so speechless is not such a shock, but I found myself unable to sleep after reading his chapter about me, and today when I re-read it, had the same reaction. I just do not know what to say.
I have always considered myself to be more or less invisible. I am a strong, unique person with a good sense of humor and a lot of backbone. I am a good friend; but quite honestly, I just do not know all that many people. The people close to me at times describe me as charismatic, but speaking to more than a handful of people at a time… or even being in a group of people, for that matter… is painful for me, as I am so unbearably shy. So invisible has always been just fine with me.
So it is with great difficulty that I try to come to grips with the idea of being used for the last thirty-four years as an inspiration. When I contacted Mr. H fifteen years ago or so, out of the blue, I fully expected him not to remember who I was. He not only remembered, but he pointed out things about me which I had forgotten.
So much for being invisible.
I was left last night with my jaw open, staring at the page… and wondering, “Does this mean I don’t even have to write my book?” After all, if I am to believe him, I have already, by proxy, contributed to the development of thousands of other young lives. And that was all I was trying to do, with my own book. Perhaps this means I can just stop writing, or just spend more time on emails. Perhaps I’ve already accomplished my life’s dream.
Or maybe, just maybe… I won’t leave it to chance.