One Rainy Day

Today is a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester. I am standing in from of my First Year Writing class, knowing that they realize full well that it’s a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester.

We are in the Personal Narrative Unit, the one where they can pick whatever they want to write about so long as they are able to show the before, during, and after of the experience/event and show why the experience was significant to them in some way. I do not have a formal lesson set out for the day, which is no surprise, so I decide the weather is a fitting excuse to show the twenty minute clip from J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, the video they will need to watch to complete an extra credit opportunity I am giving them, an opportunity almost all of them need. For me, showing the video is an opportunity for twenty minutes of captive attention that will coincide nicely with the end of class.

I show the video because Rowling’s speech can be seen as a Personal Narrative where she discusses more than one experience/event and the impact on her life. Although my students only have to focus on one experience/event that is important to them, Rowling’s speech demonstrates the concepts we talk about in Personal Narrative: showing the significance through use of examples; who they are before, during, and after the experience; and, ultimately, the takeaway from the experience.

As they are watching the video, I too listen and watch the video. I am struck by Rowling’s mention of people who either peer into the metaphorical cage, unafraid of what they might see, or who turn away, too afraid to find out. Rowling’s praise of the power of imagination likewise impresses upon me, and combined with the other part of her speech, I am left mulling over the recent events in my life.

Approximately one year ago I left substitute teaching and the other positions I held in school districts that I had grown to think of as a hybrid between the space where I moved towards becoming an adult and my post-college purgatory. I left to end the year in another school district working as a Special Education Para-Educator, a job that would not only round out my experiences in Education but also mean a daily paycheck.

Approximately one year ago was also when my dad lost the job he held for as long as I could remember. In the loss of his job, my family lost our quasi-stable sense of security that was replaced by the sobering reality that the lifestyle we knew and were accustomed had turned into a ghost – a shadow, a specter attached to each of our lives.

Lastly, approximately one year ago was when I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire to pursue my graduate degree in English Literature. This decision meant that I would have to move up to New Hampshire to be closer to school, leaving my parents and the Boston area for the rural setting of the granite state. A state away and a world apart.

Approximately one year later I am sitting watching J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and I realize that I veil the past. Not hide. Not escape. Veil. I cover the past – my past – with the creation of this new life. New location, new friends, new experiences. This newness makes it easy to mask the past because this newness provides ample opportunities for distractions. Romantic interests, classwork, scholarship, even texting are each shiny lights that help lead me away from the past.

As I sit listing to Rowling’s words, I begin to register that I simply did not come to this new place in my life; I arrived here through experiences that span beyond approximately one year ago. Experiences where I not only peered into those dark cages, but also extended a hand to those stuck inside, hoping for someone to extend a hand to me.

The power of imagination was another topic that I was struck by in Rowling’s speech. I am a writer, but I am not the writer I used to be. Once I wrote for both others and for myself, creating worlds and narrations that were drafted because I wished to engage in the craft of writing. But in this new life of mine I feel I have become a passive writer, skillfully composing works because they are required of me instead of out of the enjoyment of allowing my unbridled imagination to seize my fingers and cast my attention into the abyss of inspiration.

Where is that individual I remember being? Did I shove her in one of the moving boxes neatly labeled with the contents inside and conveniently forgot to unpack her? Did I think I could erase her by becoming a new self in this new setting? Or worse, did I cut her up, using only those fragments I thought would look best with the new image I was creating?

Perhaps none of those possibilities. Perhaps she is shackled inside me, wanting to be set free from her cage. All the while I dangle the key in front of her – painfully, tauntingly – until a time when the pushes and pulls around me see appropriate to unchain her, one link at a time so as not to become overwhelming.

Today I choose to begin the process of unchaining her. As I write this, the key starts to turn and her wrists slowly move.



Project Thankful: Reason #124

Lately, I’ve felt like I have no time.  That the time I do have is quickly consumed by other things, leaving me regretting that I can’t do more.  It’s as though I’m on a wheel, and I have to keep moving or else I will fall.

But that’s how it is with change, isn’t it?  You have to keep moving forward or you will fall, and it will be harder to get back up.  And as you move forward, you have to make choices, choices that will affect which way the wheel moves and which path you take, and those decisions are really hard and make you wish you had more time to decide.

But you don’t have more time.  You have to act.  And when you do act and make your decision, there will always be at least one part of you that turns around and looks at not the lost time; no.  You turn your head, standing in the decision you made, and you imagine what could have been if you decided differently.  And as you look at what could have been, you see the possible time that other decision would have given you.

But you made your decision.  And now you still have to keep the wheel turning.

Project Thankful: Reason #112

I have now heard back from all the grad schools I applied to.  I was accepted into three and wait listed for two.  Of those schools, I am currently favoring one in particular, one which at first I was super “I am totally going here!” then was all “I don’t know…” but now I’m more “I think given my options, it will be the best choice.”

Truthfully, I don’t know what is the best choice.  Yet when is there ever truly a best, ideal choice in any situation?  The fact is that you never actually know what will happen or how something will turn out.  All you can do is know who you are, so that no matter what happens, no matter what gets thrown at you, you are still standing at the end of the day.

I like to think I’ve been knocked around enough to be able to recover from a lot of things, including change.

Project Thankful: Reason #107

Spring begins this week.  We say hello to the season of new beginnings, and goodbye to the season of hibernation.

With that in mind, I wonder what has been metaphorically hibernating in my life.  Certainly, graduate school as well as my concerns when it comes to writing, but what else?

What has been hibernating in your life?

Project Thankful: Reason #98

I am thankful I did not go into Boston tonight.  I had been originally on the fence about going into the city, but after working in the middle school all day, I am simply too worn out to go.

I’m thankful for feeling tired because that tired feeling means it’s time to step back and look at the areas of my life I need to edit.  Before I do that though, my pillow is calling my name.

Project Thankful

Hello, readers.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with ones you care about.  I’ve always found the idea that it’s on this one day that people are supposed to pause and reflect on what they are thankful for a little off.  I mean, Thanksgiving is only one day out of the entire year.  Why can’t we be thankful every day?

As I was thinking over what to post about what I am most thankful this year, I decided that instead of just one post, on one day, giving a cursory list of what I’m thankful for, I would give thanks each day for one year.  Spotlight one thing each day that I am thankful for.

The kernel of this idea came after spending the morning Black Friday shopping.  Although I had posted about how ridiculous Black Friday is with its hours, I found myself shopping this morning because (a) I had to drop my mom off at her work at midnight, so I was up anyway and in the neighborhood of a store whose specials I had been eying, and (b) due to the fact that I had to drop my mom off at such an insane hour, I was up and would not have been able to go back to sleep.  Well, after a morning of shopping and convincing myself that at least this way I took care of most of my holiday shopping, I found myself sitting in the car, waiting for my mom to come out of work.  As I sat in the car, my eyes seriously hating me for how little I slept, I thought a thought many think on a daily basis: I need to win the lottery.  Only instead of casually thinking this, I said “Okay, how would my life and my family’s life be different should I actually win the lottery?”  The vision unfolded from my subconscious.  My parents quitting their jobs because they would be financially independent.  New, or nicely used, cars to replace our current ones which make unhealthy sounds every time we turn them on, and even more unhealthy sounds when we drive them.  Moving into a bigger house.  Booking trips without budget as one of the concerns.  Student loans paid off with no need to take out more to cover expenses that attending grad school will incur.

It’s a vision I have had a lot of time to think about, from how I would feel matching my numbers to the winning numbers.  About how my family would react when I tell them the news.  About what we would do first.  I thought about all of these things, but most importantly I thought for the first time about how my life would actually change.

The answer I realized was that my life itself would not change.  Sure, it would look a little different, but I would still be me.  The lottery can’t change my life, not truly change it.  It would make some things a lot easier, but true change comes from the individual. 

My goal with my year of thankfulness, or Project Thankful for short, is to change my mindset.  That instead of worrying about what I don’t have, or how life would be different “if,” or about winning the lottery – instead of all that, I focus on what I do have, not the “ifs,” and taking stock of the lottery I already have in my life.

I plan to share my experiences on this blog and one of my other blogs, The Consultant ( 

As always, thank you, readers.  I will always be thankful for your audience.