A Story Worth Writing

There’s nothing legendary about me.  I’m thirty-three, divorced, and my brother is kind enough to share his kids with me.  I teach high school, work out, and tend a garden.  When I was in high school, I believed I was destined for greatness, that I would somehow change the world.  I’d get discovered and be a famous singer-songwriter/actress.

Legendary denotes the heroic stories of medieval knights and also, more generally, one who is well-known based on his or her acclaim.  That’s the theme for the 2017 Kecoughtan yearbook.  Legendary.  Black bonded leather with our school logo morphed into a golden crest with green accents celebrating the epic journey of our everyday heroes on scholarly quests toward greatness.  It’s inspiring.  I get excited just summing it up.

Some of my young bloggers were less than enthused with the original theme suggestion of a fairy tale book; the concept was quite brilliant, but the girls had developed a Disney princess-esque theme that would better suit a middle school.  When a medieval kingdom like Game of Thrones twist emerged, I had a vision.  It was brief, but it seized me.  I suggested the word, “Legacy” as a title.  I could see the kids hadn’t caught it yet, that they were still rejecting the initial Disney idea.

So I went on my own after class and met my yearbook rep from Herff Jones at Marker 20 in downtown Hampton during the middle of the school day on my planning block.  We were doing a Google search for the word “Legacy”, and another word struck me.  Legendary.  That’s a story worth telling.  That’s our theme.  I worked up a proposal from that unifying concept, and my students seemed to jump on the bandwagon.

There’s nothing legendary about me, but if that belief that I would one day change the world had been absent in my adolescence, I’m not sure I would have ever left Syracuse suburbia. I sensed an inherent responsibility, at times perhaps even misconstrued as a divine calling, to positively impact society.  I had an Angelfire website I wrote using HTML tags where I would publish little sermons.  Looking back, I may have been the only one to ever see them, but I didn’t care.  In my fourteen-year-old Converse, I was a published writer.

I felt the same way at fifteen after paying that $5 entry fee to a poetry website and seeing my poems published online some months later.  And at sixteen, I felt the same way performing in Grease at Turning Stone Casino.  At seventeen, it was making it to State qualifiers in the 100 meter dash.  At eighteen, it was hearing a song I wrote and recorded played through the sound system at our graduation ceremony.

High school was like a wedding cake tasting.  I’d sampled a little bit of success in different combinations of batter and frosting, and some tasted sweeter while others were richer.  I want my students to believe, like I did, that they are leading characters in stories worth writing.  They should believe, like I did, that they will be legendary, and if by shooting for the moon, they land among the stars, they will be satisfied.

I am satisfied.  I tasted acclaim and renown in a fish tank in Syracuse suburbia.  Then I moved to Nashville.  A lesser known fact is that my first summer there, I recorded a demo with five songs I had written or co-written with my friend Bob Cowherd.  It was the product of lots of late night jam sessions on breaks home from college.  By the time the demo was finished, I was fully into my first semester as a transfer student to Belmont University, and I did try to get it in the door on Music Row… and I sent a lot of packages in the mail… but nothing ever came of it.

So maybe I wasn’t supposed to change the world as a singer-songwriter.  Maybe it was modeling and acting.  I leaned out, got new head shots, and resumed a childhood hobby with a new agency.  I did some magazine ads, commercials, and music videos, but the side work fizzled out after a couple of years.  When I married my husband, I truly believed that our union would be the platform for that future of significance.

He was a songwriter, singer, and rapper.  He could bring me to tears in one worship chorus.  So maybe I was meant to be a part of that legendary story, that I would be his support system.  I stopped writing, and I threw my support to his late night studio sessions instead.   He was the one that was meant to be legendary, and everything leading up to that point was to prepare me for the role of his wife.

Only he stopped pursuing that dream shortly after we were married, likely drained by the monotony of a nine-to-five he’d taken on to try and gain my father’s approval and prove he could support me financially.  My efforts then went to grad school and the conception of my educational training company, Building Perception.  LegalZoom was my companion in that venture… a venture that ended when I left Nashville and my husband.

When it comes to my divorce, I am most grateful for one thing.  That senseless striving to pursue and achieve and attain renown – that self-compelled instinct to elevate myself – it died with my pride back in my high school bedroom in the spring of 2013 under a white lace canopy.  I no longer longed to be legendary.  I was too fragile to dare to hope for a reason to get out of that bed.  I was camping out in my parent’s house after more than a decade abroad, trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Starting over was cathartic, and in some ways I’m still rebuilding my life three and a half years later.  I see a clear path that came to a clear end, a journey on which one dream or pursuit or longing was quickly replaced by another.  I see junctions where I attained a small measure of the stuff that “legendary” is made of and ultimately found no true fulfillment in it.  I sought the next great thing, and once achieved, it still was not sufficient.  Our goals change like the songs at a wedding reception; they reflect the current mood and atmosphere we’re trying to achieve.

Before Charming entered my story, I was on a quest for love.  Now, I’m fixated on family.  This weekend, I took him down to the boardwalk in Virginia Beach.  We walked for miles, enjoying an art festival and scattered live concerts.  Charming’s favorite statue was of Neptune, the ancient Roman’s God of the Sea, palming a turtle in his giant stone hand.  He’s a product of mythology that gained such renown that he’s worth building a statue to honor him.

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Legendary.  Pursuits change.  We complete one quest only to encounter another.  Epic stories are the ones with subjects worth writing about, and I choose to write about cruising the Virginia Beach boardwalk on a bicycle built for two with Charming.  If we marry and have children, what new desire will emerge that’s as unquenchable as this one is now?

When I first conceived the theme for our high school yearbook last week, I was thinking, “Legacy.”  For me, it’s what ultimately replaced my own high school predecessor’s desire to be legendary.  Legendary fits my students.  That’s the theme that will drive them to achieve and accomplish more than they ever could have if they didn’t believe, deep down, that they were meant for greatness.

And this, what I have, is a great life.  There’s nothing legendary about me, and I don’t want there to be.  I want to leave a legacy, though.  Fulfillment won’t come in my next quest or adventure, either.  Not this side of heaven.  As long as my feet touch the ground, God’s going to keep writing a story with my life.  Like my little website at fourteen, maybe no one will ever read it.

But it’s mine.  It’s the life I’ve been given.  For the better that He meant it or for the worse that I let it become.  To the God that created me, I was someone worth writing about.   I don’t need a statue of stone.  If I never find a way to leave a legacy, then I trust as author, His plot curve will simply develop a different theme out of my life’s myriad quests.

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