I have to set the stage for this story a bit: I’ve been a reader and a writer for the better part of my life, say since age 5 or so. And I can’t deny that it must have had something to do with the fact that reading and writing felt good to me and that I loved them. Also, I need to add that I generally got A’s in school and that it was always pretty easy for me. You caught up? Okay, good.
Because I did have this one thing happen. It was in Junior High – 8th grade, and let’s just say my English teacher, Mrs. Flemming and I didn’t get along so well. She didn’t really get me or like me or appreciate me (which is so sad for her) – and I absolutely didn’t get or like or appreciate her (which I’m sure someone in the world must think is sad for me). We basically spent the entire year rubbing each other the wrong way.
I didn’t have any actual power in this scenario beyond the ability to make her loathe 3rd period. But she had plenty of power. And she used it. Her greatest source of domination was her role as the gatekeeper for our high school’s Honors English program – and she shut the door on me, then stuffed the key down her massive shirt. She said that I needed to be in the basic, plain old, remedial English class the following year in high school – the one with the kids who hated school and books and words and writing and reading. She sent her list off to the high school – smart kids here, not so smart kids there – and it was the law.
I was not happy. That was not the way it was supposed to go. I assumed that I would be in Honors English from the get go. We all did. And I thought my life depended on it.
My parents tried to fight it a bit, and then they talked to my dreamy 7th grade English teacher, Ms. Riddle (no joke) – and she told them it was really going to be okay. That I’d get moved up sophomore year and I’d be no worse off. And for some ungodly reason, they believed her.
So, while my friends slogged through Homer and were forced to memorize every molecule of Greek and Roman mythology in Honors English and a room crowded with equally smart, motivated kids, I trotted off to my regular old English class.
And this is where Mr. Englesman found me – the one student who loved words and learning – in a sea of annoying teenagers. (Yes, I was an annoying (read: out of control) teenager as well, but not so much in the classroom). He wondered why I was in his class. And I dare say he paid me a ton of attention. He encouraged me. He took extra time to work on my writing with me. He gave me extra books to read. He was happy to see me. He encouraged my smartness. He told me I was good and gifted. He told me I was a writer.
And I believed him.
In the spring, he insisted I take the test for Honors English. I did, I passed, and I entered the class the following fall alongside my Honors peers without skipping a beat. I never felt or noticed the empty hole in my head where the freshman Honors English info everyone else had was – and neither did anyone else. I had only missed out on a ton of stress (just ask any one who had to suffer through a year of Mrs. Cantrell), and I had only gained a year of a sweet teacher’s belief, support and adoration – and the honing of my writer’s skill and ego.
Cut to the other day. I was really wanting something to happen. Really, really, really. I thought it just had to happen. I thought my life depended on it. But it didn’t happen. I was about to be crushed…and then something even better took its place.
And this time, I quickly saw that, even when it looked like I was getting knocked down, I, Julie Roads, had traded up – and had landed exactly where I was supposed to be.
Image credit: Kate Boydell