This front porch is peace in the midst of hurricane. Not for a conflict against Mother Nature like Irma and Maria, but for my universally thematic struggles against environment, nevertheless. The warm ocean air of a beach proposal rose, replaced by a cold front when school doors opened, then quickly warmed again by all the possibilities within the responsibilities. This current cyclone has me spinning.
This is the first time I’ve sat still since I woke in bed to double-check that the alarm was actually forcing me to face the day. There is an undercurrent of joy that keeps me on track, moving forward despite opposing winds and competing priorities. It’s classic man vs. environment conflict, where a person is at odds with forces beyond his or her control. Like my English 10 students were discussing only hours ago, conflict is essential to a plot, and writers choose themes and conflicts familiar to readers to deepen the entertainment value by peer identification.
Because you’ve had a morning, maybe even recently, where staying in bed was much preferred to braving that particular day’s storm, or potentially intersection of storms. Granted, you still got up, and that’s the hardest part. I’ve had a lot of these mornings recently, restricted to weekdays where Charming and I aren’t seizing the day together. I’m marrying the man of my dreams… I should be walking on that warm beach air, high in the clouds above my September hurricane.
Two years ago, Charming and I had our first date during an impending hurricane. We’ve been driving back and forth ever since. Heading to DC two weekends in a row at the start of school has taxed my weekdays, but it afforded us enough time to enjoy ourselves amidst making initial wedding plans while balancing ring sizings, family gatherings, and engagement parties. Over dinner in Old Town Friday night, we picked a date. On Saturday afternoon, we confirmed that date with our families. By Saturday night, his Bible Study group’s celebration of our engagement evolved into full fledged dreams for an epic wedding affair.
I’ve read that you sleep better if you surround yourself with imagined worlds – books, movies… anything where you are no longer the protagonist, where your thoughts and feelings are no longer of consequence to the story, where engagement in conflict is restricted to the safe distance of observer, and the resolution (if still awake by that time) results in a cathartic release which could, on a chemical level, alter the production and release of various neurotransmitters that are no longer required.
Writing a good story requires significantly more time and effort than reading the final product. On weekends with Charming, I’m almost living in that dream world. At that party, embraced by his lifelong friends, it occurred to me that I’m marrying into a dream life as well. This rich community, united in faith, bonds spanning three generations in Silver Spring, gave me a princess welcome into their inner circle. In the hours before with Charming’s family, all boundaries gone, I couldn’t help but sit back as my future Mom and Dad rose to the occasion to help make our non-traditional dream wedding a reality.
Back in Hampton on weekdays, I’m not glowing because I don’t have the freedom to get to dream about marrying the love of my life. Homecoming came a month early this year, its Wizard of Oz theme now a cyclone engulfing Kecoughtan with Spirit week activities and Thursday’s Pep Rally and football game. The excitement is palpable. If it weren’t battling with so many other winds, pulled in myriad directions, stretched so thin… what other idiom can accurately depict the state I’m in?
Yearbook is a strain. Losing one class block this year has taken a toll, and Homecoming’s twister of Oz’s unusually early arrival landed it right in the midst of our competition for staff positions. Usually, the photo editor arranges photographers to take pictures during various blocks and ensure those participating in Spirit Week can be featured in the annual. We don’t have a photo editor yet, so I’ve been skipping down the halls every chance I remember that all the jobs are mine right now.
All that’s spiraling in my atmosphere in addition to rolling out our yearbook campaign, buying and arranging decorations for the Yearbook hall’s participation in Homecoming, preparing for and delivering a department meeting with my English team, grading and entering assignments, finishing the supplement from last year, incorporating new students, prepping for our building leadership team that’s right before our Yearbook sponsored skit’s final rehearsal for the pep rally… and I’m still not sleeping much.
In spare moments, I’ve been making announcements for yearbooks and opening the application process for the National English Honor Society, handling questions about Senior Pictures that I haven’t made it to the top of a priority list on any given day such that they’re not readily available, in writing, posted on the yearbook board and the website and in fliers I’ll send home. I have to get it all ready before selling at the Homecoming game, though. This is my reality for the next nine months. The balancing act is real, and on a day like today, I simply saw that I can be stretched thin, accomplish what needs to be done, and decide that other things can wait.
During the week, the wedding plans are on hold. I see Kecoughtan differently now. Today was the last time I’m going to teach this lesson on elements of a short story to a group of Hampton Roads tenth graders. It was my best yet. I felt it. This is my last Homecoming. I wrote a five-minute faculty play in the midst of everything else that can’t be shifted down on the priority list because I want to leave it all on the field.
Or in this case, the gym floor. The winds of change are here again, and I think I’ll find myself out of the line of the hurricane if I balance my worlds, compartmentalizing my spheres into teacher by weekday and fiancé by weekend. The peace I find here on my writing perch is echoed in Charming’s embrace, so when I say goodbye to the sweetness of the white house with its red door, I know he’ll give me a front porch swing for the rest of my Tuesday nights.
Taking pictures at the football game last week had me a bit emotional when my principal understood that the congratulations on my engagement also carried the realization this would be my last year serving with him. Our seniors were freshman when we came in together, and it seems right that I should graduate with them. At the pep rally on Thursday, I’m going to give all our students a part of me I’ve been selfish with over the last three years. I’m going to give them a full production, all the old theater girl rising from the ashes because they want to connect with its conflict, its theme, and its outcome.
This writer’s perch welcomes me, much like Charming’s friends, because after a couple of hours, I can write my way through a hurricane. My internal setting matches my surroundings. I’m calm and clear, not even a breeze. After my divorce, I started over here, and Kecoughtan became my home beyond this front porch. I love my job. Charming proposed, and soon he will be my home, and I love him.
I’ve got two worlds, and really they are both realities. During the week in Hampton for the next nine months, I’ll continue to invest in our KHS community, focusing on producing a quality yearbook, increasing writing scores, encouraging teacher retention, teaching character alongside curriculum, and passing on the reigns of my leadership positions for smooth transitions next year.
And on the weekends, I’ll get to invest in the people, choices, and responsibilities who will consume the rest of my years. It’s not a split focus. It’s a gift. I’ll have a chance to do what I never got to do when I left Nashville; this time, I’m not running away, and I’m not starting over. Charming and I will transition to married life together. Chapters will close, and new chapters will be written.
September storms are seasons. Without conflict, there would be no plot. A day like today is a short story with a happy ending like I prefer. The rain stopped, so the tone shifts. That undercurrent of joy carries me toward all the unwritten stories… at Kecoughtan and with Charming.