A Belated Birthday Wish

I know I can get a little out of hand with the passion and fire. I get it. But today, (I’m so sorry I’m a day late!) I wanted to stop and remind myself of a person to whom I owe so much more than just a portion of my education.¬†Along the way of my compulsory education, I was led gracefully by several wonderful teachers, many of whom I hold in my “If I ever get rich, you’ll be seeing my face once more” pile. But the one person who will always stand out to me had a birthday yesterday and I want to acknowledge her.

It was middle school, the time of unruly changes, temper tantrums and the occasional moment of utterly chaotic nonsense. I’d loved reading and writing since I was in kindergarten and I’d heard the most wonderful things about my future reading teacher. I’d heard she was the sweetest, most caring person on the face of the planet and that she was the kind of teacher who never got angry and smiled all the time. But I hadn’t seen her in person, so I had no idea who to look out for.

I went to a football game once during middle school and it just so happened that I saw a woman in the stands who appeared to me to be glowing, almost-like holy glowing, halos and just in general an aura of light. Her hair was radiant like the sun, she had a huge smile on her face and I knew in an instant that she was an absolute, real life, bona fide angel. I had no idea why, of course, that an angel would be sitting in the stands, freezing at a football game in the middle of nowhere, but I had never been more sure of anything in my life.

Imagine my surprise when the first day of reading the following year she was my teacher!

I remember watching her teach, being completely and utterly swept away by the grace that she embodied. Her heart seemed to overflow with the kind of beauty that can only come from love and it became like a spring of safety for me. I would wait each day to have her for class, knowing that no matter how bad the day had been thus far, it would get better as soon as I stepped foot into her classroom. It would be so without fail all year.

A lot of people seemed to take her for granted, and I never understood that. She’d make sure she went out of her way for you, and you didn’t have to do anything more than just try your hardest. She had a look that was far from angry, but it made everyone pay attention. And there was something about her laugh that settled my soul, as though it were another sign from the heavens that she was in fact an angelic force come to heal all the cracks.

She gave me a book to read outside of class once. I remember being so moved by the words inside the covers that I wrote some dumb middle school letter trying to tell her that I knew I was just one kid but she’d changed my life forever. She was one of the first teachers I shared the things I wrote with, she was one of the first people who saw the darkest, most desperately broken pieces of me and instead of running away, she opened her heart and reached out. Thinking back to that moment, it brings a mist to my eyes.

This woman, who didn’t know me past class, did the exact opposite of everyone else who knew-she offered me love and acceptance at a time when I thought I had absolutely no worth and no value. In short, I credit her, in part, for saving my life and thusly for giving me the opportunity to become the passion driven spitfire I am today.

It’s been a couple years, but these things stand out to me. I had the utmost delight of having her husband teach my government class and my heart grew to be eternally fond of the most jovial, sincere couple in all of history. The way they hold themselves, with dignity and grace, wrapped up in the most perfect forms of selfless love, compassion and hope I’ve ever seen are something I am reminded of and in truth, seek to live up to. I know that in my entire time alive, I’d be hard pressed to find someone I’ve known who better defines what it is to be a human being. I am beyond blessed to have known them, and to have had the opportunity to learn from them.

I’m still convinced she’s an angel. And I think I may always believe so. I’ve had the delight of seeing her a few times since I graduated and each time my heart recaptures that aura of peace and love. Women like her could change the world. And if I’m lucky enough, if I carry her and her husband in my heart forever, then maybe just maybe, I might have that impact on some young kid too.

So happy belated birthday, Mrs. Reid. I hope it was pleasant, that you smiled plenty and that you have many, many more. I wish you much happiness and many happy returns of the love you so freely give.

With love and thanks,

Michelle

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting