Skip to main content

Trading UP.

By April 8, 2010How To

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

Join the discussion 28 Comments

  • Andy Fogarty says:

    There’s always a silver lining if you carry around a silver colored Sharpie – which I do :-)

  • Laura says:

    This is so true. Sometimes we “can’t see the forest for the trees” as the saying goes. That’s not to say it isn’t hard to deal with at the time — especially if the something better doesn’t come along for awhile. But it’s good to be reminded of this often. Thanks for reminding us today.

    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Change is a Good Thing, Really =-.

  • Mary says:

    I love that we don’t always get what we want…as a wise man once said though, we get what we need…
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Inch by Inch….. =-.

  • Bert Jackson says:

    Like most, I’ve had what were perceived to be bad breaks, as well as some self-inflicted bad breaks! Looking back I don’t regret any, because they have led me to here and I like it here.

    We can never truly anticipate the outcome of an event. As Andy says, if you carry a silver Sharpie, if you keep the intent on seeing opportunity in apparent adversity, a paradigm shift happens and “it’s all good”.

    Who am I to second guess the Universe?

    Thanks again for another thoughtful and thought-inspiring post!
    .-= Bert Jackson´s last blog ..Herman Aihara and the Mud Pie =-.

  • Dina Lyons says:

    Julie, thank you for posting this. I am struggling with something beyond my control (having to do with one of my kids), and this has really helped.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Dina – I’m so glad that it helped. And I’m sending you tons of bricks (to help bolster you up as you ride this one out…) – xox

  • Bonnie says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s so true that we end up just where we are supposed to be. Sometimes we are really fooled by our thoughts and ego which can lead us off track.
    .-= Bonnie´s last blog ..Dress for Success: How to Create a Professional Image =-.

  • Andi says:

    I had a nearly identical experience in Honors history – the teacher and I rubbed each other the wrong way, he was used to being adored and not question and then I came along and question his POV on many historical scenarios. He had the power – he ran the whole AP program – he kicked me out of my class and I got put into debate class of all things. It is a class I would have never signed up for, but it taught me a valuable lesson in life about respecting others opinions and seeing things from multiple sides. I was lucky enough not to get kicked out of all the AP classes, as I said he was the head of the program, I only got kicked out of his. I still had the book and kept studying and took the test at the end of the year and passed without needing to be in his class. I had my sweet revenge (by passing) and I learned valuable tenets that have enriched my entire life views. Things always happen for a reason!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..(Not quite) Wordless Wednesday #55 =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      That’s hilarious. I can’t imagine anyone kicking YOU out of anything!!! I love your sweet revenge. You kick ass.

  • --Deb says:

    Okay, now I’m curious … and very happy for you!
    .-= –Deb´s last blog ..MM: Tighter Prose is Brighter Prose =-.

  • Craig says:

    It’s a shame that there always seem to be too many Mrs. Flemmings and a glaring lack of Mr. Englesmans.

  • Lindsey says:

    Inspirational, this – something I am terrible at. Thank you for the reminder that our lives do NOT in fact depend on these things we have so attached to … and that often when they fall away something better is there.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Lindsey – thanks for saying it that way. It reminds me of the fact that we get so dependent on things because we think they are real and true. But that’s just our thought. We can make them unreal and untrue just as easily. Hmmm…post part 2?

  • Moly Gold says:

    You wrote this for me I’m sure…thank you! It’s brilliant, its true, its timely, its just as it should be. We focus on what we’ve lost far too often instead of recogniziing that we are often exactly where we are supposed to be. What I love it that you take it further, reminding us that where we are supposed to be is in fact trading up from where we think we should be…awesome!

  • Julie,

    What a great story. We have to be thankful for unanswered prayers, even when it takes us awhile to realize it. I’ve always found something greater and happier happens. I just have to be ready to see it.

    Also, our 8th grade teachers must have been cousins. Mrs. Brandt did the same thing to me. I can’t hate her though: she introduced me to the AP Stylebook and setting time aside early in the morning to write.

  • Carol Roy says:

    Great post, Julie! I’ve felt your pain!

    Luckily, I’ve reached a point in my life where I can look back, see all the times I’ve really wanted something to happen and it didn’t and something else did, and now very clearly see how each and every event in the last ten years has landed me right where I need to be, and luckily enough, where I want to be.

    Now when something doesn’t happen I can just smile and think to myself, “trust”.

    Two great quotes for this type of life situation: You don’t always get what you want…but you get what you need. And, as Mother Superior said to Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story”, “you must learn to accept what comes to you with love.”

    What a great life lesson, eh?!

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Lovely tale, Jules.
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Weekly parent, Brews News, and brewgasm photo =-.

  • You always have such great pieces Julie. Many of them are hard to comment to. This one is great. I think everyone has the one teacher that really gave them the *BAM!* that made school work. Mine was Mr. Gates in 10th grade creative writing. I still look back at some of those assignments from that class to work on some writing fundamentals. Thanks for the great read.
    .-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..I Won A Cruise! A Very Strange Dream… =-.

  • Ron says:

    Is the moral of the story that your parents are always right! Dad

    • Julie Roads says:

      Ha! DAD – That wasn’t the moral I was thinking of while I was writing…but now that I think about it…you might be onto something, maybe, ish.
      Love you!

  • Kelly says:

    love your story :) it’s amazing what happens when we stay true to ourselves, but also allow others who care about us help along the way. There “ain’t an ill wind” I say!

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    Forgive me for prying (or not already knowing this, if most of your readers already know this), but where, exactly, did you go to high school?

    I only ask because I seem to have slammed head first into a severe coincidence.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..The Art of the Plot Synopsis =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      I don’t think I’ve bragged about high school much here! I’m from St. Louis…went to Clayton High School – go Greyhounds! (sarcasm abounds)

      Did you??? Now you’re freakin’ me out!

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    Not at all, but my Contributing Editor….

    Oh, hah! I’m dumb. Sorry.

    My Contributing Editor at Unstressed Syllables, Courtney Cantrell, has a mother who taught High School English classes. I freaked out at the coincidence.

    Cantrell is Courtney’s married name, though. I have no idea what her mother-in-law does for a living.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..The Art of the Plot Synopsis =-.

  • This is a great lesson for two reasons, Julie.

    One: I have been in the same shoes as you, with an English teacher who just could not stand the living sight of me. I wonder if writers and English teachers always butt heads? Particularly when the writer’s particularly talented? (Of course I would assume that.)

    Jesting aside, since life has turned out well for you, I will assume that that year of arguing (he debated with me that there was “no such thing” as prose poetry – iiiieeeeee) portends great things for me. ;-)

    Two: perhaps the most difficult thing in life, whether you’re a creative professional or a dog walker, is letting go of those kinds of attachments; I am always glad to know others feel the same way. It starts with the Honors track in grade school and, apparently, never ends – anywhere!

    I am at a difficult moment in my own life and business, and so reading this (a few days late) was an inspiration to me. Also a much-needed dose of levity. Thank you!

  • Also, let’s not ignore the importance of the other teacher in this story – Mr. Englesman. Having had more than a few of his kind in my life, I feel extremely grateful – not so much for launching me into the right program, but for reminding me that a love of learning is what’s most important. Sounds incredibly pat, but it’s true!
    .-= Lindsey Donner´s last blog ..My Unscientific Formula for Success: Remain Dissatisfied. =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Lindsey – you are so welcome…and thank you for these wonderful comments, they certainly add to the post. Wishing you so much goodness as you move through your challenges.

Leave a Reply