Journey Draft 4 New – Edited

Journey Draft 4 New - Edited

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MY JOURNEY

 

What led me to the place I’m currently at in my personal journey of life? I freeze at trying to remember a specific moment that led me to where I am today. I guess it all developed quite… organically, perhaps linearly, in a sense.

Conceivably, it is possible that our journeys are predetermined. Our life paths are unwaveringly static until we begin developing a sense of self and put everything into motion. I may have begun to tread the waters of my life’s path, and presumably recognized this, at the age of 6. Sitting in a Kindergarten “reading tub” (to which caution was taken for its entity was filled with pillows) I found myself being scolded:

“Alexandra! Get out of the reading tub. You know you need to know how to read before you are permitted inside with the other children,” she said. She was a wrinkly, bitter older woman whose sense of perception was undoubtedly off. You see, several other students were also in the tub; they, too, were reading; yet their books were upside down. However controversial this might seem, my right-side-up book and I were escorted from the reading tub, banned to Siberia for all of eternity.

I had a predisposed love for literature. I was in constant need of holding books, turning their pages, and making sense of the world inevitably created within them. I remember playing teacher as a child and handing out books to all of my students: 20 stuffed animals, the perfect audience. (If only my current classes of 31 young, hormonal, adolescent, preteens projected the same demeanor as Mr. Tickles, Fuzzy Jr., and Pinky).

I remember disliking high school, the rigid structure of the entire orthodox-established confinement, but falling in love with Mr. Bonk’s delivery of Steinbeck and Sophocles. Intoxicated with the encasings of books and the crispness of pages, I longed to define the scent I can only image is what the air of the 1800s smelled of. If falling in love with literature were a crime, than I was to be charged guilty and found hiding in the last aisle of the Classics section in room L40.

In college, I continued to allow my affair with literature to guide me through courses in British Literature, American Literature, African American Literature, Shakespearian tragedies and comedies, and English satires.

Half way through my education, I got tired of reading everyone else’s work and started to record my own findings and thoughts. I decided to write a novel. And, with one spontaneous decision comes another: I boarded a plane for Italy in my junior year, took a hiatus for half a semester, and enrolled part-time in an affiliated university based in the outskirts of Rome. I wound up having a European affair, with the continent itself, and found myself writing for 7 months, filling up journal after journal on planes, trains, trams and in automobiles. My journals were filled with tales of heartbreak, exploration, new beginnings, maturation, and self-discovery. When I returned to college in the winter, I began transposing everything from paper to scree. I thought to myself, “Maybe education isn’t the right field for me after all. Maybe I should start over and solely focus on writing.” But reality hit: breaking into the publishing world wasn’t easy, and a diet consistent of Ramen noodles isn’t the least bit appetizing.

 

Returning to the states, and my parents not entirely happy with my extended Eurotrip, I redirected my focus to University. The same pattern started again: I was enrolled in multiple English and Education classes, lose in a multitude of genres and a mass of “you must graduate, you must read this, you must write that”. My final spring semester, I found myself in a Senior Seminar with Dr. Cross. I’d heard rumors about her intense classes, her persistence in perfection, and the rigorous course load that would keep me from starting my weekend on Thursday evenings. Dr. Cross’ laundry list of “To Reads” for class was nothing short of a rigmarole, and I found myself at a crossroads when it came time to publish my senior thesis. Finally, I decided to tackle something outside my comfort zone and read Lord Byron’s Don Juan. George Gordon “Lord” Byron was a foreign English poet to me; I’d sporadically seen his work splattered throughout the library, but never once picked up his work until March of 2013.

When I decided on Don Juan, I’d given myself parameters: I would read 5 of the 17 cantos and create my thesis from there. But Byron was heroin. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I found myself, by choice, locking myself in quiet nooks of the library. I was addicted to the transportation from reality to the world of Don Juan and his scandalous, sexual, poetic, yet tragic adventures.

 

CONTINUE PARALLEL BETWEEN DON AND SELF

 

I felt a connection with Don Juan, and not so much in the sexual scandals he constantly found himself in, but rather the emotional roller coaster to which he was a full time participant. I’d recently broken up with an older, long-term boyfriend, and I found that in some parallel universe, Don Juan and myself were partners on this ride. Juan’s betrayal from Julia was my betrayal; his voyage from Candiz to the Aegean was my European, escapist adventure. When Don Juan fought passionate battles in the namesake of his lover against family I, too, felt the struggle between family and choices I’d made in love. When Juan was defeated, I, too tasted the bitter tang of resentment; yet, when Juan triumphed, we both became entrapped in the abstract ideologies that intoxicate our notions of passion.

 

While Don Juan and I continued our thesis, I simultaneously had had a friend put me into contact with someone fluent in freelance, and while the suggestion seemed a bit bohemian, I figured, “Why not?” I was a month shy of college graduation. The gig was feasible with my college schedule: one article a week with a pay out of $40. One article in particular always stood out to me, as they’d ask me to write a piece of 21st century relationships. I was still battling the break up and found it near impossible to meet someone. The college crowd was attracting a culture of phone-dependent people who were unable to communicate organically. I’d go out with guys who were too busy checking their phones or who could only be truly comfortable talking once the face-to-face was over and they had the security of a screen to do the talking. I was left second-guessing myself and where I’d gone wrong in my last relationship. And, naturally, I produced a piece overnight with the raw emotion pulsing through my veins:

 

Some come to NY to chase dreams, others to find them, and even some to escape previous endeavors in hopes of starting over. And while it is a city of the perpetually moving, a city of ubiquitous energy, it’s often the biggest challenge to find a companion.  The common misconception that I hear is, “It’s NEW YORK! Anything, and therefore anyone, is a possibility!” While you never know who you’ll run into on Perry St. or East of 59th & Madison, this city can quickly become a very lonely place.

It’s easy to get caught up here.  Between the vortex of complexity that innately drives our every fiber and the constant pursuit of complacency, anxiety is something that can weigh through.  HOW do I meet someone amidst the 1 million populous? WHERE do I bump into my soul mate? Is it at the Pig and Whistle on line to the bathroom? Or when I accidentally drop my keys outside the MET? Or, worst of all, is it OUTSIDE of this city?

The Itchy Theory has taken over. As far an I know, I’m coining this after the horrendous array of engagements I’ve had this month. The minute a conversation reaches a lull, or halt, we immediately “itch”.  Perhaps that itch is a subconscious effort to fill a void of security, or perhaps it is driven by a tendency to constantly “do-do-do”.  Our debauched, riotous society is propelled forward so much, that we’re already thinking five steps ahead before the first step is halfway over.  We grab our phones to check updates, emails, or messages, simultaneously breeding an OCD group if individuals that has forgotten the sheer essence of communication.  At best of all, we automatically place the blame on the other person, telling ourselves things like “Well he/she did not keep me interested”.  How do we intend to find a partner or companion if our commutative skills are rapidly and intricately diminishing?

                                                                                          [excerpt: “On City Relationships” May 2014]

I used the freelance work to propel my Senior Thesis, and it seemed that everything in my life began to mesh perfectly. I was reading a tale of chaotic romance while caught up in my own personal fiasco. In trying to discover the root of my thesis, I began to rediscover who I was, who I had become, and developed a clearer sense of who I wanted to be. I knew that if I was able to make these huge connections between what I read and what I wrote, that there was hope for others. Literature once again had proven its capacity to love me, teach me, and inspire me. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could really teach English to my students. I could teach students to solve their problems through a thematic approach to life, to use the writing process as a tool for organization and delineation of their thought processes, and perhaps even to give them hope.

 

When I graduated college, I’d been given an offer to work in a Charter school. But with a 5-month lag, minimal funds, and a Manhattan rent, I found a job in the West Village best suited my fiscal responsibilities. The quaint restaurant was chic and local, catering to some elite celebrities, as well as neighborhood locals.

I remember it perfectly: It was a humid July summer’s eve, and a table for two walked in. “Alexandra, Mario is swamped. Take the deuce.” Setting aside the bottle of 2009 Viognier Chenin Blanc, I took the table. However swamped I was, I knew that it was worth ranking in $500 plus per evening. Making a B-line for the table, I began examining the men seated in front of me. The man to my left (an older, greyer gentleman with a distinguished face) looked oddly familiar; but, I figured that living and working in Manhattan has a tendency to blur facial imagining and recognition.   The man’s dining cohabitant to my right appeared to be half the other man’s age and quite a bit more apprehensive. Were they friends? Lovers? There was minimal resemblance, if any at all, so “father and son” was out. The evening progressed and as my other tables cleared house, I continued to observe the dynamic between the men. When I had a sufficient moment to breathe from the chaos, the elder man took an opportunity to question me about my own life: Where was I from? Did I do anything besides waitress in the Village? What was I passionate about?

I explained to him that the waitress routine was a mere summer job, enjoyable nonetheless. I was a soon-to-be English teacher and, better yet, a writer! “Ah”, he breathed, “and what do you write about?” I told him: Fiction, roman-a-clefs… and before I knew it, the soundbite for my novel was rolling off the tip of my tongue. I was becoming almost as nervous as the man’s acquaintance to my right, and immediately caught myself, thus clearing off the table and handing them the dessert menu.

It appeared as though the theme of the evening revolved in talking about myself, and the slight narcissism inside me was partially relishing in this. I made my way back to my last table, a pair of couples in their mid-60s. Again, my aspirations as a writer became the topic of conversation. It never ceased to fascinate me that whilst waiting on diners, they could be so interested in your personal life.

“So, what’s next for you, kid?” the eldest gentleman and ringleader of the group asked.

“Well, I’m not sure,” I said while balancing several wine glasses and semi-finished plates of flan and crème brule, a task I mentally commended myself for. “I’m going to start teaching at a Charter school this fall, but I don’t know if I’ll teach forever. I figured having the summers off allows me the time to pursue my novel.”

“Really? What’s the novel about?”

I sighed, nervous to engage again in the word vomit I’d just spewed to the previous gentleman.

With caution, I proceeded, “It’s about a girl. And her struggles, her triumphs… in life… with men, with herself. It’s loosely based off of, well, myself. Definitely fiction, though.”

The man analyzed me up and down, his lips not wavering and his face not breaking the serious look hidden behind the depth of his eyes. He asked me if I had any luck with publishers, to which I replied, “Somewhat. You see, I’m working with a consultant at a self-publishing firm. They’re a sector of Writer’s Digest called Abbott Press.”

He broke our stare and reached into his pocket. “You know,” he began, “the self-publishing world isn’t always the best route. Take my card. Send me your manuscript when you’re ready.”

He handed me a business card, which was somewhat worn as I read the publishing firm in disbelief: St. Thomas Press.

Before I could even speak, he interjected, “It’s quite funny the way life unravels, isn’t it?”

Intentionally prohibiting me with an opportunity to respond, he continued, “Do you see those two men on the near left side of the restaurant?” I glanced in the direction his index finger pointed, immediately realizing it was the table of two men I had be serving all evening.

“That,” he said, “is the first man I’ve ever published. Stephen King. What are the chances, right? Small world.”

I was in disbelief trying to process all that had just happened. Part of me wanted to run out of the restaurant screaming from the top of my lungs that I’d hit my big break. This was it: waiting on a publisher AND Stephen King in the same evening, in the same restaurant, in the most chaotic city in the world? The stars, as cliché as it may be, had aligned.

Upon returning to my table of two, I hesitated before acting upon my newfound information. I waited until he had handed me his credit card to pay the bill and confirmed it was in fact, Stephen King himself. Being as discrete as possible (and knowing in the back of my mind I’d only read and watched Pet Sematary) I apologized for not knowing who he was earlier, and for making a fool of myself by rambling about what must seem like a foolish novel, compared to the work of a best-selling author.

“You’ve got charisma,” he winked at me.

 

**************************************************

When the fall arrived, I found myself in my first classroom with a group of 7th graders. Since my Stephen King-St. Thomas encounter, the novel hadn’t completely progressed. I didn’t feel comfortable enough with the manuscript to call it a “done deal”, and I felt like there a large entity missing from its’ totality. Countless times, I’d recall sitting in front of my computer with an email opened addressed to the publisher, document attached, unable to click the send button. I’d call my family for advice, to which my dad would say, “When you’re ready, you’ll know. Take life as it comes.” Mother knows best.

I did exactly as she said and began diving into a new job. I woke up every day, excited to get to work, feeling compelled that I was making a change in the world with each day that passed. The art of teaching began to enamor me almost as much as the art of writing. And slowly but surely, teaching began to overpower writing. Weeknights that were usually set aside as writing blocks was replaced with planning lessons. Weekends that were set aside for writing were now occupied with teaching Saturday academy to my middle-schoolers. My writing began to dwindle, but it didn’t anger or sadden me. Instead, I began repeating my father’s words: Take life as it comes.

            With the death of something comes the birth of something new. This is not to imply that my love of writing, nor my pursuit of writing, was dead. But, my horse-blinder focus for this art was. It wasn’t a realistic short-term goal anymore. Writing in college in one thing. Making it a profession is an entirely other element, and a more difficult, cutthroat one at that. I had found that teaching novels, reading literature with my students, was not as fulfilling as writing, but it was fulfilling in another way. A new emotion and outlook had been born within me, and I began to focus my heart and soul into helping my students read to learn.

My first year, we studied Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck. While my delivery was not as fluid or unique as Mr. Bonks, it was my own. In fact, it was our own: our classroom, my students and myself. Our discussions were raw, and questions began propelling our collaboration into directions that a lesson plan could never dictate. I’d spend hours writing out a list of essential questions that I wanted my students to tackle and answer by the end of the week. But, once we started reading novels and engaging in discussions, we’d have veered off into an entirely new area of dialogue or debate.

I began to see future philosophers in my room, future writers, future English teachers. Of course, there were students who excelled more so in the fields of mathematics and sciences, but I knew that even those students had begun to develop a lens in which they could think critically about readings and the opinion of others.

 

CONTINUE ^^^^^^^

CONCLUSION __ NEEDS EDITING

I remember my mother telling me, “When you graduate from University, you must be able to complete the sentence ‘I AM A ______________’”.   Today, I am a teacher.  I am pursuing my master’s degree.  I am still on the same journey and path that was laid out for me, before getting lost in Fitzgerald, before summonsing my 20 stuffed animals who had no choice in the matter.  The only difference between now and then is that the ideas that once illustrated my mindset have now become tangible realities: a degree, a job, a paycheck, a desire, a life-long goal, a plan, a journey.