Thursday, May 5, 2011

In the Midst of Chaos, the Reasons Why

Me and Courtney
As I’ve shared with you here and here, my past couple of months have been very hectic and at points very trying. It’s in these times that I question why I always find myself with so much on my plate. Admittedly, there are things I could drop from my plate, but I rarely do. I juggle a 40+ hour-a-week job that at this time of the year is very stressful, I teach two college level classes on top of that, and then I have my family and creative business to juggle into that. Most often, it’s the creative business that I have to let slip, even though the teaching is also done by choice. This week I was reminded why I do all this juggling.

Today, Courtney, my Student Government Association president, walked in with flowers. She’s been with me for three years and is graduating on Saturday and moving on to the University of Florida (as she rubs in often since I am a Florida State University graduate, arch rival). She has most definitely been a bright spot in my days for these past three years, and I will greatly miss our long talks and her sweet spirit, thoughtful ways and quiet leadership of our group, but I know that we will stay in touch and remain close. She is one of the reasons why I juggle so much.

Last night, Whitney and Olympia came over to help me plan out the agenda for Mermaids and Mamas. Whitney and Lymp were students of mine about five years ago. Lymp was a Student Ambassador and then my SGA President, and Whitney was my volunteer coordinator. Whitney also used to travel with me pretty regularly as my arts festival assistant. Now, they’ve both moved on in their lives but we remain very close. Olympia has finished her bachelor's degree in social work, is looking into master’s degree programs and works full-time for the Ronald McDonald House as a program manager. Whitney has gotten married and has a sweet baby boy, and she’s continuing school and is currently in the Public Relations program at the University of North Florida. The three of us enjoyed catching up last night, and they are both going to help me with Mermaids next weekend. After they left, DH commented that he likes when “my girls” come over. And he meant these girls like Whitney, Olympia and Courtney, “girls that love you.” And he’s right; many of these young ladies that I have the pleasure of mentoring do become very much like daughters to me. That is one of the reasons why I juggle so much.

One of the last assignments I give in my college English class is a final journal entry asking the students to give me their full assessment of my course. I ask them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they’d like to see me do differently, how much they think they benefitted from the course, etc. Though I've had a few that have taken the opportunity to express their displeasure over the years, the vast majority of the entries I receive are very positive, and every once in a while, I get one that truly moves me. This week I received one of those, so I’ll share it with you here:

"I’m usually pretty good at describing situations, emotions and expressing my gratitude towards an individual, but journal number eight will put me to the test. I struggle to find the words to describe what this class has done for me. Furthermore, I may not ever be able to relay to any one person reading this how thankful I am to have had such a great professor in Ms. Warren. She has motivated me to strive towards something that I love to do, but have always been hesitant to consider even a remote possibility of becoming actuality. Up until this class started I hadn’t written hardly anything. I always loved to write when I was younger, but after a few life altering decisions and a change in priorities, I put writing away and considered it to be impractical and unimpressive. Once I came to a point in life where I found myself writing again as a way to cope with a bad situation, I couldn’t put my pen down. However, the purpose for which I was using my writing faded away, but the pen stayed in my hand. After nine years of writing absolutely nothing, I began to write as if I had never stopped. With Ms. Warren motivating me and complementing me, along with teaching me the basics that come with writing, I have been given something that has opened so many doors for me. Writing has allowed me to process thoughts, deal with guilt and come to an understanding of my life as it is now. I have absolutely nothing but praise and gratitude for this class and its professor.

One of my favorite things about this class is the freedom that Ms. Warren gives her students to be able to input their own thoughts and feelings into their writing. I’m not sure, but there are probably other professors that are slightly more stringent in their essay format requirements, which I have to think hurts their students. To allow an individual to open up his or her heart and place it onto a piece of paper is nothing short of awesome. Ms. Warren’s style allows her students to be creative, which I believe is a staple point in writing. It also makes writing fun. As long as you stay within reasonable range of the given type of essay, Ms. Warren allows the students to be themselves and be creative. That does wonders for an individual. Personally, after a couple of my essays, I would go back and read over what I had written, and I couldn’t recognize what I was reading. I didn’t remember writing any of it. Having the freedom to allow my personality to develop throughout an essay almost literally takes me into another world. I go into a “zone” as some would describe it. It’s comparable to driving to work early in the morning and upon arriving to work somehow you don’t remember how you even got there. Somewhere in between your house and your place of employment, you blacked out, but somehow made it there alive. That happens to me in my writing. I go into another world and quite honestly I can get carried away. But when my imagination combined with my personality takes over, the finished product more often than not surprises me because I can’t believe the stuff I come up with sometimes. Imagination is the thoughts of your heart. Ms. Warren allowing me to just be myself on paper has broadened my imagination and love for writing.

I’m actually sad to be leaving this class because it has really opened a lot of doors for me. I really don’t want to leave. This was my first semester of college and at the beginning I was very worried that I just wouldn’t like it. But at the end of the second class I was addicted. I couldn’t wait for the next lesson and the next writing assignment. Quite honestly, this class has given me something to focus on while a lot of bad things have transpired around me. Instead of being constantly depressed and dealing with a tough situation in unhealthy ways, I was able to sit down and write a story that took me into another world. It was a breathe of fresh air. This class has given me a sense of purpose, Ms. Warren has motivated me to press forward and I admittedly cannot fathom any other possible way of beginning my college career other than starting it in this class with this professor. I have loved every minute of this class, and I lack the words to express my thankfulness for everything that it and its professor have done for me. I know that most students see this class as just another class. But for me, it has been a doorway into another life."

That is why I juggle so much. I read that journal entry three times in a row, just to let it all sink in. I realized that by the middle of the second reading, I had tears running down my face. It came at a time that I really needed a pick me up, Monday, and pick me up it did. This student actually was in both of my classes, English and Student Life Skills, and mine were his very first college classes. He’s a very talented writer, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to help him explore that. With my encouragement, he submitted a couple pieces to our literary magazine and even started a blog to share his writing, so he may pop over and see this. If he does, I hope he doesn’t mind that I shared it! It really did mean a great deal to me.

As women, so many of us tend to take on so much to begin with. And women with young children, like me and many of you reading this, have even more piled on our plates. There definitely are days that I do feel completely overwhelmed, and there have been days when I’ve just plopped down on the floor, tears in my eyes, exhausted under the weight of it all. I’m lucky to have reminders like these to pick me back up. Not only do I have a wonderful family at home, I have the privilege of growing a wonderful family around me through the professional work that I do, and when I need that gentle nudge, each of them reminds me of the importance of the other. What more can I ask for?


Whitney said...

Kelly...I enjoyed our time together on Wednesday! You have been such an influential person in my life (even when you thought I wasnt listening)...You mean so much to so many....and I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Thank you for being you!

Stephen Griffin said...

wow! i made a teacher a good way?! that's a first! It really was an awesome experience. When im sitting in math class over the summer (ugh....) i will surely miss my time in English Comp. Thanks Ms Warren.

P.S. i misspelled the word "breath"....didnt need the E.