When I was a senior in high school, I was sitting in Mrs. W's classroom after school. She was helping me edit an essay for a scholarship contest. I was writing about, of all things, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.
I've learned a few things since then. Namely, that being adamantly, defiantly selfish is not always the best way to go through life. Sorry, Ayn Rand. (Actually, she wouldn't be concerned about my thoughts at all, because she values her individual self above all else, blah blah blah...)
Anyway, Mrs. W was helping me edit my words (something about decrying the collectivist hordes), and she put down her pen and said, "Nancy, you're a really good writer. Maybe you'll be published in The New Yorker someday."
Those words have carried me along, almost twenty years later. I wrap myself in her words like a baby cocooned in a sling. I listen to the heartbeat of these words, and I am content.
For all I know, Mrs. W said this to lots of students. Who cares? She saw a future in me.
I haven't been published in The New Yorker. I taught public school, had a few babies, and the most writing I do these days is right in front of you. But, I still have a future, and I still have those words.
When I was teaching, I took a page from Mrs. W and always tried to link genuine talent to a future: "You're really interested in drama. Maybe I'll see you on Broadway someday." "You're so good at fixing things. Maybe you'll own a business someday." "Your photography is awesome. Maybe I'll see your work in a magazine someday."
I find myself doing this with the boys: "Owen, maybe you'll be a plumber someday." "Joel, maybe you'll work in the circus someday." "Boys, maybe you will be a tag-team wrestling duo someday."
So, as I opened my New Yorker magazine yesterday, I looked at the letters to the editor section. There was a letter advocating health care reform from an economic perspective. The author was a former student---an amazingly gifted young man. I was his sixth grade English teacher; he is now a senior in high school.
And he, that student, has in fact been published in The New Yorker. His "someday" is today.
I imagine many encouraging statement drifted into his brain, fragrant and everlasting, over the years. What a gift!
What a reminder to make those encouraging statements every day....and to trust the wisdom behind the words.
So, I remember Mrs. W's words, and I smile. Someday, her words will be true.
(PS--This is my 400th post. This is significant somehow.)