Earlier tonight, in my EDUC 301 class at Towson U, two of my student-colleagues presented their I-search journeys with the rest of the class. Both were outstanding models for the others to follow. What made them especially interesting were their links to teaching, the arts, and fulfilling someone’s definition of “success.” We were asked to rate ourselves (scale of 1 to 10) on how successful we felt our lives were. The good news is that nobody said 0–3, but nobody said 9 or 10, either. Clearly, as our presenter pointed out, we were all in the midst of a pretty enduring journey.
Even earlier in the day, one of my high school students got the bad news that she was not accepted into the school of her choice, despite playing all the right games, getting all the good grades, and jumping through all of the right hoops.
Her reward for tirelessly spending her high school life working 20 hours a day, week after week, month after month on all the things that exceptional college candidates do?
In the end, she feels, none of it really mattered at all. I’m sure that, if she were to rate how “successful” her life was at this moment, she wouldn’t necessarily be debating the finer differences between an 8 and a 9 rating.
My heart breaks for her, as she made a decision long ago to play the game and do what she thought the colleges wanted her to do. What she’s realizing now is that it might just be better to go through life doing fewer things better, and let the college acceptances and full-ride scholarships fall where they may.
The same can be said for all those writers out there who are going through all of those hoops, attending those conferences, sending their neatly creased SASEs in the mail with their crisp manuscripts on eggshell-white 68-pound paper. They spend so much time writing by the rules and editing to someone else’s specifications that they forget about who they are as a writer, a person, a voice that is supposed to be unique and stand out as something no one else could ever possibly do.
They go through all those hoops, and maybe they get lucky every now and then. But chances are good that they’ve gone so far trying to please anonymous editors that the muse has long since left them.
My colleagues tonight did a good job in reminding us that we are who we believe we are. We cannot be wooed by the moving hoops that tell us who we should be or how we should act.
Just write, and I promise you–the rest of it will all fall neatly in place in time.