I have achieved a lot in my life. Some of my achievements are small but each serves as a building block to the next. Some of my achievements are simply obstacles I’ve overcome. I was a shy, twitchy, weird little kid but I survived a childhood where we moved all of the time and managed to collect friends along the way. I graduated from high school in Bakersfield in the 70’s, transferred to UC Berkeley and graduated. Didn’t die. I worked on my own, paid my own way for six years, and didn’t starve. I married and I am still very happily married thirty-seven years later. (really 40 because we dated for 3 years before we married) I had three kids, five pregnancies, and although I planned a homebirth, had cesareans every time. I kept trying to have that homebirth until my last was born and I was just glad to take the baby and run.
I never had to rush any of them to the emergency department. My first born was the only one who broke a bone but we handled it in Urgent Care. Proud. All of my kids were successfully toilet trained, blow their own noses and have learned to read. They have all graduated from college. We got through the 90’s raising three kids mostly unscathed.
I earned my teaching credential and taught successfully for twenty years. I taught writing to over one thousand kids. I’ve had kids come back years after having graduated, and tell me I was their favorite, they loved my room, felt safe in it, and looked forward to going to it. I had one girl tell me in her journal that she was glad I was her teacher the year a family member died because she was able to write about her grief in her journal and trust that I would write back. I’ve had two students share that they were gay in their journals. One asked me how to tell his parents. I learned what to say back. Very proud of that. I had one student see his father shot to death. During a class, I found him seated on the floor in front of my desk crying and sat next to him and talked while the class ran itself. It was like they knew now was not the time to disrupt. I suggested he go for counseling during my class and I would limit his class work to journaling. The counselor called me and said, “He doesn’t want to miss your class. He’s going during PE.” I thanked her, hung up the phone and cried. As much as this was gratifying, I didn’t feel up to the task. But I did it. He was a beautiful writer. I hope he’s still okay. Teaching’s a hard job. I’ve had kids throw things at me, imitate me, and call me names. I didn’t quit. That’s an achievement. I’ve also had students come back to visit and thank me. As I moved through a Fourth of July celebration, previous students stopped me several times and our friend observed, “Being a teacher kind of makes you a rock star.”
While teaching full time, over ten years, I wrote, revised and edited a novel. I wanted to give up writing but I didn’t. I put that book out there for the pros to review and many found my writing authentic and fast paced. They also said critical things, but it didn’t kill me to read them. I didn’t quit writing. I listened and became a better writer. I had a dream book launch with more people than chairs. I’ve had strangers stop me in the grocery store and ask when the next book’s coming out. (Next June, God Willing) I still love writing. It brings purpose to my day. It’s allowed me to surround myself with smart, hard working people who can tell me when I am making mistakes. I love them for it.
I got sober ten years ago. Sobriety is an achievement that makes other achievements possible. I would never have published my novel if I hadn’t been sober.
Ironically, my greatest achievement is giving up on alcohol and not giving up on love, teaching, or writing.