Gold at the end of the rainbow


Here I sit on St. Patrick’s Day, my favorite dreamy day of the year. There will be no celebrations. No parties. No special foods, well, maybe McCreary’s fish and chips. No ticker tape. The only way I celebrate, have ever celebrated, is in my head. I think. I imagine. I wish. I hope. I dream.

I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the Irish. I latch on to fads every now and then, but I’ve been this way ever since I was a little kid. I guess I have this hope that I will serendipitously find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I will. Maybe I have already. Would I even know?

As I grow older, I realize my wishes are numbered. Will I ever make it to Ireland? Maybe.

That’s a strong maybe. A year ago I would have never gotten on a plane to fly by myself. Last September I traveled to Dallas alone. Nice trip.

Life is full of changes. I’ve never been one to like change, but I can’t change change.

Five years ago I imagined myself teaching journalism until my last breathe in classroom. I couldn’t imagine ever giving up the newspaper.

But next year I’m passing the torch to someone else. Whom? I don’t know. But it feels good. It’s time. I took the advice of a lady who is in her 90s, a veteran teacher who gave up her teaching career to become a technical writer. She knew when it was time for her to move on when she knew she didn’t want to be a fixture.

I don’t want to be a fixture. I don’t want to force myself where I’m not wanted or needed.

I haven’t quit my day job. I’m still teaching, but I don’t want to die before I get my second wind. I’m just taking a different direction, putting my focus in a new direction.

Will I make it as a writer? Will I ever see my novels published? Maybe.

I’ll admit I have felt like giving up, especially when I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the writing process. And then, I started to doubt my ability and the worth of my story. But if it didn’t have promise, I wouldn’t have made it to the finals last September, would I? I will never “arrive” as a writer, but I have to keep on keeping on. I have so many books in my head. I need to get my motivation on and just do it.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, I start thinking about the new, not the old, the possibilities, not the dead ends.

I’m still looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow. But I will never steal it. I will never beg for it. I will have to serendipitously stumble across it and know for sure that it is mine.

Am I a failure?


Am I a failure?

Sometimes I have to ask myself that. Things never turned out the way I planned, but they didn’t turn out bad. I guess I need to keep things in perspective.

I want to write. I’m a writer. I tell other people’s stories. I don’t get paid much, but it has never been about the money. I could be a biography channel junkie, so when I am privy to a “famous” person’s life, I get giddy. That feeling is a GIFT. But the real gift is the lesson the person I interview delivers to me. I get to share it with other people who need to hear it as badly as I do. That’s not failure, is it?

I wanted to write a novel, so I wrote a novel. But it sits unpublished. I don’t even have an agent, but I never pushed to sell it. My parents died. I lost my drive. I guess I figured that in a serendipitous sort of way, an agent and I would cross paths, and everything would fall into place. It hasn’t happened. Am I not working hard enough? Will the story be continued? Or have I failed?

I never wanted to teach, not really. I feel really bad saying that because there are so many very dedicated teachers out there who take pride in what they do. Teaching was my Plan B. I was a RIM major at MTSU. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was a terrible RIM major. I had no direction, no prior knowledge. I just loved music. But I got married in college and faced the harsh reality that I would probably be living on a farm the rest of my life. Farm living was not for me. I live in a subdivision now. I guess nothing ever turns out like we plan. Now my older son is living the life I dreamed. He’s making music videos and has a writing job that PAYS WELL. I write for pennies per word now. He is worried about being a failure because he feels where he is in life is not enough.

Ah, music, my serenity. There was a time when God let me visit the music world on the weekends. I stayed pretty busy as a freelance music journalist until Michael came along. Then the writing trickled to a stop. The boy never slept. The boy never stayed still. All my focus went to him. His dad was busy coaching and being a youth minister, so I became Michael’s personal sports trainer, chauffeur, and teammate. I taught him how to catch and how to throw. I played football in the front yard. I raced him around the house. I took him on adventures in the woods. I camped out in the living room with him when his dad was on trips. I took him to every practice. I learned how to keep the books in baseball, and I worked the fair booth as a football mom. I coached his soccer teams and basketball teams and even his coach pitch teams. When he became older, I dragged him to his first drum lesson and said YOU WILL PLAY DRUMS. Why not? Every part of his body moved in a different direction, but in rhythm. I knew he’d be a natural. He says he likes it, and it’s something we do TOGETHER. His older brother got his writing love from me. Maybe Michael gets the music from me. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to live vicariously through my children. I want them to be happy. I don’t want to be a failure mom.

So I spend my day teaching, but I don’t want to teach. I don’t want to fill out lesson plans. I don’t want to grade papers. I don’t want to lurk behind the lockers to make sure couples aren’t sneaking a kiss or two. I don’t want to chaperone dances, to spend my Sundays at awards programs, to sell tickets at ballgames, or to listen to students tell me how much they hate the subject I’m teaching. Does that make me a failure? My dad never wanted to be a printer. His guidance counselors tried to match him up with a job, and that’s what was left. So for his entire working life, he was a printer. He brought home boxes and boxes of scrap papers and envelopes. I loved to write and draw, so I was never without supplies. I never thought he was a failure, but he never did what he wanted to do. But he helped me do what I wanted to do.

I teach because I have to. But I interact with students because I want to. I don’t keep them at a distance. I open my life to them. I am a firm believer God puts people in our path for a reason. People are treasures. So, okay, right now, I am not living the life I want to live, and I may never live it. I’m getting old. My time is now spent encouraging the kids I teach to find what they love to do so that they’ll never have to work a day in their lives. That’s not failure, is it? Maybe I’m not a failure because I can help others see that they’re not failures. Maybe that’s enough to be a success. Maybe all my creative dreams aren’t as important as helping others.

Today I got a hug from one of my first semester creative writing students. She came back to see when she could take guitar lessons again.

Today I got a BIG thank you from a student because I paid his field trip fee because his cash was running a little short.

Today I got a note on my board from a former student who visited me Friday, the day I had to go home because I had a fever, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and perhaps the flu. Ugg. She said she missed me.

Today I received word that my former student, J., wanted to see how I was doing. He’s working as a Walmart greeter now. I’m so proud of him. He had to overcome so many obstacles in school. He always has a smile on his face, and he always wants to tell me about the last movie he watched. I owe him a meal at the Mexican restaurant. After he graduated high school several years ago, I treated him, and I think it’s time he, his mom, and I went back for some more chips and salsa. Yum!

Today my seventh period students told me what teenagers look for when they read. They were trying to help me become a better writer.

What is failure anyway? What is success?

I haven’t gotten what I’ve always wanted, but maybe God has given me what I need.

Maybe success and failure is determined by attitude, not necessarily achievement.